Tag Archives: featured

Labor in Vain

Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.
Psalms 127:1 NASB

Every effort, every plan is meaningless unless the Lord is behind it doing the work. If He has other plans, our efforts fail. But He is always working for those He loves, even when they are sleeping.

God takes care of us, builds our lives, gives us children, feeds us, protects us regardless of our efforts.

Our efforts, our plans need to be born of the will of the Lord. And regardless of our actions, plans, or lack thereof, we must remember and trust that God is taking care of us, our churches, our families.

When we forget this truth, we try to do things on our own that we shouldn’t – we become self-sufficient. We don’t trust God to take care of us – we lack faith. We become fatalistic, blind to the fact that the blessings in our lives are the work of God.

But the truth is, we can’t take care of ourselves. We need someone to take care of us. So trust that He will.

Pray this way:

God, please give me faith to trust You in all things, to rely on You to provide for my needs and the needs of my family and my ministry, to give me wisdom and the guidance of Your Holy Spirit (and the faith to trust that wisdom and guidance) in everything that I do. Lord, help me always to seek You and Your kingdom first, so that my work is never in vain, but comes from You.

By His grace, He has provided for our greatest need, and He provides the faith to trust and seek Him for all our endeavors.

Have faith and humility before God. Don’t labor in vain.

Advertisements

The Good of the Church

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your good.
Psalm 122:9

David sought the good of Jerusalem because within it was the tabernacle, the place which the presence of God Himself inhabited.

We should seek the good of the Church because God Himself inhabits her. We should seek the good of our communities because the Church – God’s people and the very vessel of His presence – resides in them.

God cares about peace and unity within His church and within our cities. He expects from His children reverence for the Church because it is the body and bride of Christ. It is the instrument of His redemption and authority in the world.

The Church should be a source of gladness for us because it is the gathering of His people for His glory.

For the sake of God, we must seek the peace, unity, prosperity of the Church. For the sake of the church, we should seek the peace and prosperity of our community and the world.

Sometimes, we struggle to respect and love the Church. We forget, because of her many shortcomings – and because of our many shortcomings – that she is the instrument of God’s work, power, glory, authority, and redemption in this world. She is the vessel in which His presence resides.

She belongs to Christ and should be loved and respected as His body and bride.

We resent the church when we are hurt by her. We lose hope for her when she or a part of her (especially her human leadership) fails. We separate her completely from the world, though she exists in it for its good.
I should remember, too, that as a member and leader in the Church, I have a need for all her members to seek the peace, unity, and prosperity of the Church.

Let’s pray this way:

God renew my love for the universal Church and for my church, because Your presence resides in her. Give me a love for my community because Your church resides in her. Give me a love for the world because You love the world and placed Your Church in it for its good.

Imagine if there were no resentment, anger, hatred toward the Church in your heart or mine ever again. Because she is the body of Christ, we’d work tirelessly for her good and the good of the communities and the world in which our churches reside.

The Light of the Word

Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.
Psalm 119:105

The word of God provides guidance and wisdom in a dark, fallen world.

God’s word is righteous – it teaches righteousness. His word promises revival, renewal when we suffer, and He is faithful to keep that promise. He will teach His law, His word, to those who genuinely seek its wisdom. His word is a source of joy, and it has the power to shape who we are.

The psalmist has committed himself forever to God’s word. He sees it as his heritage, his inheritance, the source of his identity. It is a source of joy for him. He clings to it even when his life is in danger, even when he suffers.

I love God’s word, but I’m not sure that my love for it has such depth. If it did, I’d be more obedient. My heart would be more inclined to the things of God. I would be more like Christ and less like the broken sinner I was without Him.

Perhaps you could say the same.

Cling to God’s word as the psalmist does. Let it – let God – define our identity, shape us. Find our joy in it. Cling to it even in suffering and trial.

We too often trust in our own wisdom. When times are difficult, we don’t even look to God’s word. We look to our own wisdom or we give in to fear. We have no direction morally or spiritually. But the truth is that we need God’s guidance because the world is dark and evil. We need His word to show us where the path of righteousness is. We can’t see it on our own.

We need to rely on God’s word, to cling to it in good times and trials, to find our joy and our identity in it. Teach it to our children. Commit ourselves to obey it. Praise Him, seek Him, and wait for Him to teach us His ways.

If we love God’s word as deeply as the psalmist, we will be more obedient. Our hearts will be more inclined to the things of God. We will be more like Christ and less like the broken sinners we were without Him.

By His grace, all of this is possible.

We Need God’s Discipline

I know, O Lord, that Your judgments are righteous, And that in faithfulness You have afflicted me.
Psalm 119:75

I know, God, that if you cause me suffering, it is because you judge righteously, it is because You are faithful.

God created us. We know He is just, righteous, and faithful. We know He is merciful. We know He is kind to us because He loves us. We know He is compassionate. We know His word is worth delighting in and meditating on. We know He takes away our shame. Understanding of His word comes from Him. We know He comforts us in our suffering. When our suffering is the result of discipline, do we turn to Him or away?

We need to remember what we already know.

You and I, we are His to do with as He pleases because He created us. But He is faithful. Therefore I don’t need to be afraid unless I stray from His word.

Remember what you already know. Even if you suffer because God is disciplining you, He still loves, comforts, shows mercy and compassion, removes shame, and provides community and acceptance among His people when we return to obedience to His word.

When He disciplines us, do we turn back or do we blame Him for our suffering as though He doesn’t have the right? That’s just further rebellion against Him.

Don’t resent God’s discipline. Somehow, we have to get past anger against Him for our suffering and learn to accept it joyfully.

The book of Hebrews tells us “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness.” (Hebrews 12:11 NASB)

Whether the suffering is because of His discipline or because we are His followers in a fallen world, He will use it to make us more like Christ.

We need to delight in, meditate on, be obedient to His word. We need His mercy, love, and compassion, as well as the community and acceptance of His church.

Obedience, understanding, and faith are the direct results of His grace. Discipline is also a result of His grace. Anything that God uses to transform me into the image of Christ is a direct result of the grace of Christ.

We need God’s discipline.

Notes from Boot Camp | Visual Media

To those who attended my breakout session on visual media at the BCMD Worship Team Boot Camp on Feb. 25, thank you so much for attending! I hope the day was as much a blessing for you as it was for me. As promised, here are my notes from the session.

  1. Role of technology/Visual Media in a worship setting
    1. To create an environment
      1. Visual Worship Leaders
      2. What is a worship leader?
        1. A worship leader can’t make people worship, and it’s not our responsibility
        2. Two things we can do:
          1. We can and should respond to God with worship.
          2. We can and should speak, sing, play, create, and use technology in such a way that the people we hope to lead receive every opportunity to respond to God with worship.
      3. What is a Visual Worship Leader?
        1. Oversees, curates, prepares the visuals
        2. In a very real sense you shape the direction of the service
        3. It’s your job to help everyone know where they should be:
          1. Congregation: What words am I supposed to sing right now?
          2. Band: What words am I supposed to sing next?
          3. If you don’t go at the appropriate time, you can cause a bit of chaos
        4. At times, you have a greater influence on the environment of worship than anyone else
        5. Choices you make impact the flow and experience of the service in significant ways
        6. Be vigilant, always listening, always watching, always learning
    1. To serve the Word
      1. Four load-bearing walls of Worship Service (Constance Cherry)
        1. Gathering
        2. Word
        3. Table/Response
        4. Sending
      2. The Word is the focus – everything points to it
        1. Message over media
          1. Don’t do something just because it looks cool – does it serve the message?
          2. Example: structure visuals around the sermon
            1. We create graphics for sermon series
            2. Those inform our visuals throughout
    2. Band and pastor can’t do their job without you
    3. Not a job you can do without preparation
  2. General Pointers
    1. Backgrounds
      1. Not too many colors
      2. Not too much motion
      3. You’ve got to be willing to delete stuff that looks cool
      4. Not too many changes
        1. Every song doesn’t have to have a different background
        2. Same goes for slides in the sermon presentation.
          1. Keep the background and use foreground images
    2. Text
      1. legible
        1. common font and size for songs
        2. slightly smaller font size for message
        3. create a style that you think looks good, stand at the back and make sure you can read it.
      2. comprehensible
        1. how much is too much at one time?
          1. less is more
          2. the great serif debate (serif or sans serif)
            1. sans serif all the way baby! (it’s less cluttered and therefore easier to read in a worship setting)
          3. concise idea onscreen – not multiple ideas – specifically in the worship context
            1. I usually shoot for no more than 2-4 lines per slide in a song
            2. 4-6 lines per slide in a sermon presentation
        2. care for orphans and widows (in text)
        3. Punctuation & Phrasing
          1. relax, it’s just poetry
            1. rules of sentence structure don’t necessarily apply
            2. commas and line breaks dictate phrasing (but you don’t have to SHOW the commas)
            3. I don’t include punctuation at the end of a line except for quotes and questions
      3.  Lighting
        1. Use light to define spaces
          1. Example:
            1. Smaller lit area during preaching
            2. Larger one during music
        2. Be conscious of the emotional impact of color and light
          1. DO NOT USE RED
          2. Think about your house lights
            1. Up or down?
        3. Don’t be afraid to go black
  3.  Resources
    1.  Books
      1. An Hour on Sunday: Creating Moments of Transformation and Wonder by Nancy Beach
      2. The Worship Architect: A Blueprint for Designing Culturally Relevant and Biblically Faithful Services by Constance Cherry
    2.  Websites
      1. visualworshiper.com – blog
      2. http://www.sundaymag.tv/lighting-color-theory/ – great article by Camron Ware about the emotional impact of color
      3. lukemcelroy.com – articles
      4. judkossum.wordpress.com – my blog
      5. Visual Media
        1. shiftworship.com
        2. twotp.com

Well, there you have it! If you have any questions, feel free to comment here.

Cling to His Word

Your statutes are my songs In the house of my pilgrimage.
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭119:54‬ ‭NASB‬‬

God’s Law is a great source of delight and deep joy in this transitory life.

God Himself is the source of hope. His word renews us, gives us life and strength. His word is worth holding on to through trials. His word brings comfort. His word brings delight. In this life, trust in God – obedience to His word – is the one thing we possess that has true value.

Hope, comfort, joy, delight are available to us in the word of God, in obedience to Him, because His word is His revelation of Himself. We must cling to it in suffering and happiness. We must remember Him and His word no matter our circumstance. He will sustain us.

Remember Him. Cling to His word in through good and bad. He will sustain us.

This life is transitory, temporary, and we too often cling to transitory, temporary things rather than the eternal God and His eternal word. We find delight in things that are not worth finding delight in. We look for delight, comfort, hope, renewal, strength in things that just can’t offer it. Instead, we should cling to God, obey and delight in His word.

We need the hope, comfort, renewal, strength, delight, sustenance, stability that only come from God. We need His grace to change our hearts so that we trust in Him, obey His word, find our delight in Him.

If we allow this truth to bloom and live in us, we won’t be so attached to things. We will have more faith, true faith. We will lead our families and ministries, live our lives from a foundation of true, eternal wisdom rather than the transitory wisdom of the world.

What Makes Prayer Powerful

Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the earth for three years and six months.
James 5:17

We must pray because the prayers of righteous people, by the grace of God, have power to accomplish things. Elijah is our example: he was a man like us, and when he prayed that it would not rain, it didn’t rain for 3 and a half years! Then he prayed again, and it rained.

God is the power behind our prayers. Therefore, rightness with Him is a requirement. He wants us to pray. (It is commanded, expected here.) He wants to do things for us – to grant our requests, to heal us, to forgive us, to restore us – in the context of a right relationship with Him.

If we truly seek to follow Christ, our prayers will have power. Righteousness – rightness with God – ensures that when we pray, we are asking for what God wills. Elijah asked for something outrageous and got it because his will – his request – was aligned with God’s will. This is what makes prayer powerful.

God will answer the prayers of those who are right with Him. He will answer prayers in dramatic ways when those prayers – when those praying – are aligned with His will.

He heals. He forgives. He restores.

Have you lacked faith in God’s answering of prayers? Maybe you haven’t always asked in line with His will. Maybe you have not been righteous. Maybe you have not prayed faithfully as we are commanded and expected by God to do.

He does not answer prayers that are prayed from a place of unrighteousness – when we are not right with Him, when our prayers are not aligned with His will.

We need to pray faithfully and expectantly from a place of rightness with Him.

Ask God to make you righteous, to make you one whose prayers hold power like Elijah’s.

It’s by His grace that He answers prayer at all, for none of us is righteous on his or her own, but only by His grace. Therefore, the power of a righteous man’s prayer ultimately comes from God by His grace.

To be a righteous man, to be a man whose prayers hold power, I need Christ’s grace.