Filed under: life | Tags: blogging, david herndon, love, mercy, new years resolution, philippians, purpose, thessalonians, wrath
Don’t feel like reading for more than 15 seconds? Click here for the short version.
So I haven’t been blogging for a while now. That’s pretty evident to all three of my readers. Usually, when I haven’t been blogging its because I’ve been busy or I haven’t had anything I felt is worth sharing. This time is not the case, though. I have time to blog. I have plenty of thoughts and opinions and questions I could write and share with the interweb. But lately I’ve felt much more challenged in the purpose of my blogging. It kind of happened like this:
Step One: No Authority
Over the past few months I’ve actually written several posts, only to not publish them or even delete them in the end. I just couldn’t hit that “post” button because a little voice inside of me was asking, “What makes you the authority on this subject?” I couldn’t argue with that voice, so I didn’t post.
Step Two: No Purpose
As I said, I’ve had plenty to say. However, if I’m honest a lot of what I wanted to say was mostly my own opinion, which when paired with the whole “no authority” thing, doesn’t make good reading. Also, a lot of what I wanted to share probably wasn’t helpful or encouraging for others. Some posts would have even come at the expense of another person. So that tiny voice asked me “What’s the purpose in posting that? Self-gratification? More like self-glorification.” I couldn’t argue with that either.
The truth is, I’ve gone back and read most of my posts. Some of them I’m proud of. Some of them have helped others. Some of them are based on God’s word and are very inspiring. But not all of them.
Some of them are very critical of others. Some of them are very critical of other churches and The Church. Some of them do not reflect or resemble God’s word in any way. Some of them, ashamed as I am to say, have been a desperate attempt on my part to be witty, cool, edgy, or even authoritative. Many of the posts on this blog have not served a very useful purpose at all.
After reading all 200 posts, I was pretty sick of myself. I don’t want to be associated with a blog that makes me sick. More importantly, if I was judged solely on one or two of these posts, I don’t think I would like that kind of person.
Step Three: Delete the Blog
About 3 times a week I would decide to delete the blog. I’ll just quit blogging altogether. The other 4 days I would decide to delete just the “negative” posts. Leave all the “good” stuff up and start posting more positive things again. I couldn’t ever decide what to do so I just didn’t do anything.
So now here I am… writing. The truth is, just 10 minutes ago I sat down to delete the blog. Then I went through and almost deleted all of the “bad” posts. Finally, the small voice spoke again and said, “You can’t delete this stuff. Its part of who you are. But you can write new stuff.”
What kind of message would I send if I just quit telling my story? God speaks to me and I feel the need to write it down so you 3 readers can… well… read it. What kind of message would I be sending if I just deleted all of the “bad” stuff? That’s not how life works. You can’t just make up a fake, polished identity on the interweb. Well, you can, but you shouldn’t. If I want to change the message and the purpose of this blog, then I can. But that doesn’t mean I just get rid of everything that came before.
Step Four: Try Again
So here we are – a new year and a fresh start. I Thessalonians says, “For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”
That verse hits me hard as it reminds me that my God-given purpose is to be an object of God’s love, grace, and encouragement to others – not an object of wrath. Too many times I’ve used this platform as an object of wrath, reigning down my judgement, criticism, and distaste for all to read. In the new year, my goal is for this blog to be an object of grace, love, mercy, and hope.
Philippians 2 teaches that God is at work in us… if we will let him out of the cage! And His desire is to work through us (in this case, through me) to do things that bring Him pleasure and glory and honor. Furthermore, when we do not operate in His image, we send the wrong message to the rest of the world (i.e. grumbling, complaining). I’ve grumbled and complained on here a good bit, and in the new year I plan not to. It isn’t very becoming – for me or for God.
So, without editing my life, I’m starting over. The blog has a new purpose: to inspire others to grow closer to Christ. That’s it. Plain and simple. Every post. And if you ever read a post that doesn’t serve that purpose, just let me know and I’ll take it down.
The truth is, if it doesn’t lead others to Christ, then its just not worth saying.
Filed under: leadership, people, relationships | Tags: contemporary worship, david herndon, tables, worship leading
In my church I’m responsible for one of three worship services that take place each Sunday morning. Our service is a little more relaxed and casual than most, and for a very long time our chairs were in row form. This summer we had a few different things happening that caused the need to have tables set up, which is a little different for a worship service on Sunday morning. Now, I’m sure that there are churches all over the world who use tables during their worship service, but for me this was a little different.
My main job during worship is music. I like music. I like prayer and studying God’s word and fellowshipping with others, but music is my main connection to God. Honestly, a part of me could not wait for the summer to be over so that we could go back to normal – ditch the tables and go back to sitting in rows. My main motivation here is that I assume it feels awkward to stand at a table while you sing songs. I make this assumption because for me, it would be awkward to stand at a table while I sing songs. Surely everyone is as uncomfortable as I would be, right?
At the end of the summer several people started asking me, “Are we keeping the tables?” And several times I said, “No, we’re going back to rows.” I assume they asked because, like me, the didn’t want the tables anymore. Finally, one member spoke up a little more after my response – “Don’t get rid of the tables. I like the tables.” This almost baffled me because it went against everything I assumed. You like the tables? Why?
I listened as he shared, and then I went back to others who had asked about the tables before. I discovered they were asking because they too liked the tables. I discovered that when they sit at tables our members feel more connected to each other, which ultimately enhances their overall worship experience. Not to mention they have somewhere to rest their coffee cups. ”Isn’t it awkward when we stand up to sing?” I asked. ”Not really,” they replied, “after all, that’s only a small part of the service.”
And there was the rub. I was only viewing things from my perspective and my preference. And in my blindness I almost committed a huge disservice to the people I am called to minister to.
So the tables remain, only now they don’t feel so awkward to me. I don’t dislike the tables anymore. I embrace the tables. And each Sunday as I look out on the crowd as we sing songs to God, I can’t help but be overjoyed to know that people feel connected to Him and to each other and it has absolutely nothing to do with me.
Who knew a table could be so powerful?
Try to see things from other peoples’ perspectives today. It could change everything.
Filed under: God, leadership, life, marriage, parenting, people, relationships
Recently under the influence of one of my students, I’ve been hooked on an iPhone app called “Eden.” Its basically a building-block game in which you can create your own world, from mountains to canyons to seas and even trampolines, water slides, and houses! For the creative types like myself it can be pretty exciting and highly addictive… especially in the beginning. There is such a thrill in creating. Or maybe the rush is in having full control of my own little world.
One day, I did not feel the thrill or the excitement. That’s pretty normal when you play iPhone games. The usual entertainment factor wears off after a few days. Remember when everyone used to play Words with Friends? This was different though. There I was – creating, building, doing what ever I wanted to in my own little world – and a strange though popped into my head:
“I wish I could create people. I wish I had someone to share this with.”
This world is so cool and fun, yet I have no one to share it with. I had created a whole world that no one could really live in or enjoy or benefit from in anyway. While it may seem a little ridiculous considering I’m talking about a video game, another thought popped into my head. This one is much deeper and much more challenging:
“Life is not meant to be alone.”
I can’t help but think of Genesis 1 when I play this little game, and I think I am beginning to understand a little more of God’s logic in creation. The existence of the world, in all of its wonder and intricacies, is more than enough to glorify God’s greatness. Yet, He still chose to create human beings because life is not truly lived until it is lived in relationship with others. God is not satisfied and He does not rest until He was someone to enjoy His creation, to benefit from His grace, and to share in His love.
We all spend a great deal of time in “our own little world.” We may not be playing video games or organizing the cosmos, but we do create for ourselves – for our benefit, for our enjoyment, for our pleasure. We look for how others can benefit us. We look for how we can use circumstances to better our situation. We look for how we can make more money, make more time, and get more things for ourselves. Everything and everyone around us becomes nothing more than building blocks we use to construct what WE want out of life with no concern to others. But there will always come a point when we discover we are so unsatisfied and so restless. Could it be that we are living our lives the wrong way because we are living and striving and creating for no one but ourselves?
God is not satisfied and He does not rest until He has someone to enjoy His creation, to benefit from His grace, and to share in His love. We are created in His image, so why should we expect our lives to be any different?
A life is not truly lived until it is lived for others. The question for today is not “what do I need?” The question is “what do they need?” Be God’s provision for someone else today. Create a world that benefits others!
Filed under: God, life, relationships | Tags: adversity, cedar point, chicago, david herndon, indiana, ohio, optimism, perseverance, romans 8:28
Over the summer I’ve had the opportunity to travel a good bit, which is always good fun. One of the best parts of road trips, especially youth group road trips, is getting to meet new people. One one trip I had the pleasure to meet Bobby and Chad, a couple of guys from Indiana. They were curious about life on the Georgia coast and we talked about fishing and kayaking and beach-bumming and golf and the overall multitude of activities that come when someone asks, “So what is there to do down there?” Of course, after I shared I returned the question: “So what is there to do in Indiana.” They both quickly said, “You can go visit Chicago in Illinois or go to Cedar Point Amusement Park in Ohio.” How hilarious? Their answer of what to do in Indiana is to LEAVE!
Its been a very enjoyable season for me the past year. I feel like I’ve had way more highs than lows and a lot more wins than losses. I feel blessed by what God is going in my life, in my family, and in my ministry. Of course its not all roses. There are moments when I think I’d rather be anywhere than where I am right now. There are those times when things go wrong and people are disappointed and somehow I find myself in the crosshairs of it all. There are those times when, despite my best effort, I receive criticism, constructive or just plain whiplash. There are moments when I’m just worn out, weary, and dry. The downside of having a good season is that it makes the less desirable moments a little harder to take.
Another new friend I met over the summer said this, “Any situation in which you are tempted to complain is a situation when God can use you the most.” There is a whole lot of truth in that statement if you take the time to think about it. When I’m at my lowest… When I try my best and things still don’t work out… When I flat out fail… When others let me down… When I have every right to be dissatisfied and to grumble and to be angry and to be bitter and to complain… Those are the moments when God can use me the most. I can rise above the negative. I can respond in a Christ-like way. Even better – I can let Christ respond for me! Life is not really made up from the moments, situations, or even the relationships we live through. Life is made up from how we respond to the moments, situations, and relationship we live through. When you find yourself in a situation and you think, “I’d rather be anywhere but here,” chances are God has you there for a reason! Instead of complaining about it or trying to fix it or trying to escape it, maybe we should find out why we’re there and what God wants us to do.
Romans 8:28 tells us that “God works all things for the good of those who love Him.” It doesn’t say that if we love God, everything will be perfect. It doesn’t say that if we love God, then everything will be easy and enjoyable. In fact it doesn’t say anything about the “things.” But the bible is clear on the outcome of the things. In the end, if we love God and if we trust Him and if we surrender to Him and follow Him in faith – the outcome is GOOD! You might not be where you want to be right now, but if you hang in there and keep trusting God, you might just find yourself somewhere better than you could ever imagine.
So I’ve had a good season with some challenging moments. At first glance I want to credit the “good” times as the blessing. But if I’m totally honest as I look back, its not the “good” times that made it a blessing but rather the growth that came from persevering through the “challenging times. God does work good in all things.
I wasn’t satisfied with the answers Bobby and Chad gave me, so I pressed them a little harder. They started sharing some special moments they had experienced with family and friends. Despite Indiana’s lack of natural entertainment and big cities, these guys had some strong families and strong friendships. God has done some cool things in their lives and continues to work in their lives through those relationships. Maybe Indiana isn’t so bad after all.
So where are you today? What are you going through? Are you thinking, “I’d rather be anywhere than here?” That could be just the beginning of something really special. Find out what it is!
Filed under: God, leadership, life | Tags: david herndon, experience mission, melisa peebles, missions, prayer, summer, wesley united methodist church at frederica, youth ministry
Its been a busy summer for me (i.e. I haven’t posted in a few months), but I’m thankful for the busy-ness and a little sad that things are about to slow down. I’ve had the privilege to do a lot of really fun things with a lot of really fun people in the name of ministry. Not a bad gig at all.
It hasn’t been all fun though. The truth is, I have had to do a good bit of hard work. Our youth group took on two fairly large mission projects this summer. Right here at home we helped repaint two inner city churches. We fought heat, humidity, wildfire smoke, and orange thieves the whole time. Yes – one day someone on the street stole a bag of oranges right out of my hands. His exact words were, “Gimme ‘dem oranges.” I guess vitamin C is a hot commodity on the street. Despite the citrus set back, we were able to do for these churches what they could not afford to do on their own financially or physically.
We also traveled to McDowell County, West Virginia. McDowell, in the height of the coal mining boom, was the richest county in West Virginia. Now it is one of the most impoverished in all of the United States. We repaired a couple of homes, but the real work was hosting a Kids’ Club each day for local children. Our skits were not the most entertaining, our songs were not the prettiest, and our crafts didn’t always look like they should have; but we loved on some kids who seldom feel, see, or hear love.
At the end of both projects I heard something amazing that has forever changed the way I view prayer and Christianity. Pastor Newberry, whose church we repainted, said that he had been praying for 8 years that God would send someone to help him restore his building. Being a Pastor is not his full time job. In fact, it doesn’t pay at all. So repainting the building has never been an option for him. So for almost a decade he has prayed everyday that God would send someone to help. As he told our students, “I had no idea that God would send a bunch of teenagers to help me!” We laughed at that remark and then he made a profound statement:
“Because of you, my faith is stronger.”
In West Virginia we were lead by Experience Mission and our Kids’ Club coordinator, Melisa. Melisa shared that the previous weeks had been a little tough, that the groups didn’t seem to be focused on the kids and that the love just wasn’t there. As a result they had more discipline problems, lack of interest, and lack of participation. Before we arrived she asked her prayer team to pray for a team that would love the kids and be excited about ministry. She shared all of this with our students (who did a very good job) at the end of the week, and let us know that we were the answer to her prayer.
“Because of you, my faith is stronger.”
I’m not sharing all of this to pat myself or my group on the back. In fact, when I hear these kind of statements I am extremely humbled. I even want to run away from it. Me? An answer to prayer? Impossible. I didn’t really do anything. It wasn’t even that hard or that grandiose. How could someone like me be an answer to prayer?
I am learning very quickly, however, that we have the power and ability everyday in every situation to increase or decrease the faith of others. We have the ability to be an answer to prayer. We may have to do things that are uncomfortable and put ourselves in situations that are less than desirable. We may have to look downright foolish. We will definitely have to put our own desires and needs aside and place others above ourselves. But if we are willing to be used, we could be the answer to someone’s prayer.
I’m learning that prayer is answered, not necessarily in earth-shattering miracles or in divine displays of heavenly authority, but in community. Pastor Newberry’s prayer for his building was answered. Melisa’s prayer for a good team was answered. The children of Gary, WV pray for love and they received it. The real kicker is that I asked God to teach me about prayer this summer and He has flat out blown my mind on the subject. It didn’t happen in any other way than by living in community, loving each other and serving each other.
“Because of you, my faith is stronger.”
So look around you. Who are the people around you? What is happening around you? Where can you go into action answering prayers?
That simple conversation I shared with Pastor Newberry and the look of relief and joy on Melisa’s face will always be with me. God used me to answer someone else’s prayer. God could snap His fingers and take care of everything, but yet He chooses to use us to serve each other and love each other. He uses us as miracles and answers in each others’ lives. He uses us to increase one anothers’ faith!
The real joy is that once we realize this truth and live in it, our faith grows exponentially! I hope that you will strive to be the answer to someone’s prayer today, that someone might even say, “Because of you, my faith is stronger.”
I have this thing to do today.
It is not on my “To Do” list. It is not part of my job description. I haven’t been asked to do it. And, if I’m honest, I don’t want to do it.
It is very likely that nothing productive will come from this thing. It is going to require my time… lots of time, time I could use to do other things, productive things, things that are on my “To Do” list and job description. It is going to require my energy. This thing is going to cost me. And after I give my time and energy, I very well may have no “product” to show for it. It is very possible that nothing could come from it… at all.
Nothing that benefits me at least.
There is a small chance, however, that this thing could result in at least one person discovering the love of Christ and coming to the realization that they are worth being loved and being sacrificed for. That small chance could make all the difference in at least one person’s life.
That’s a chance worth taking. Even if it does take up a lot of my time and energy, it is a chance worth taking. Even if I have no product or any measure of usefulness at the end of the day, this is a chance worth taking. Even if this thing is not on my “to do” list or in my job description, this is a chance worth taking. Even though the odds suggest that this won’t work at all, this is a chance worth taking.
To share the love of Christ is always, always, always a chance worth taking. We, as a church and as church leaders, so desperately need to understand this concept.
“Serve one another in love.” - Galatians 5:13-14
Filed under: God, life, worship | Tags: courtney bridges, david herndon, faith in difficulty, hope, jarrett bridges, not forsaken, premature pregnancy, psalm, psalm 9, telepsalm
This post is longer than usual because I have a lot to say. Please take the extra time to read it because it really is important, or just check out the short version. Thank you!
I’ve been studying the Psalms intently for about a year now. I’m constantly blown away by the beauty, the honesty, and the transcendence of the words. When you read a Psalm, you can feel what the author is feeling – pain, joy, frustration, anger, hope. The Psalms are raw and they are real. Perhaps that is why I’m so drawn to them and they minister to me so much.
Its hard to pick a favorite, but Psalm 9 has been sticking with me over the past few weeks. Listen to verse 9 & 10:
“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed,
a stronghold in times of trouble.
Those who know your name trust in you,
for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you.”
These are my favorite verses because they echo a proclamation that is heard throughout the book of Psalms: God’s gonna make this work – He always has and He always will. Many of these Psalms, especially the Psalms of David, were written in times of struggle and darkness and despair and doubt and frustration. David was promised a kingdom, yet he spent much of his life running and hiding like a criminal. No wonder he struggled with doubt. But he was never overcome with it. David had seen God’s faithfulness before, and therefore he knew he would see it again. Though his present situation may be more than undesirable, David knew that his present did not determine God’s future. Maybe we should personalize that statement: Our present does not determine God’s future. God can do all sorts of amazing things through difficulty and challenge… if we let Him. As David says, God has never forsaken those who seek Him.
I love how David ends this Psalm, saying, “Arise, O Lord!” Its like he’s saying, “Okay, God, I don’t really know what you’re up to right now in my life. Honestly, its kind of difficult. But I’ve faced difficulty before and You’ve always been faithful in trying times. So, arise. I dare you. Show me what too-wonderful-for-me-to-comprehend kind of thing You’re going to do.” For David, difficulty was an opportunity to see God move. What a beautiful thing.
My sister-in-law is in the hospital right now trying not to have a baby. Her husband is there with her, using a hospital recliner as his bedroom/dining room/office. The hospital is over an hour away from their home,their jobs, their church, their friends, their family, and their 2 year old daughter. She went into premature labor a few weeks ago (that’s right – she’s been in labor for almost 3 weeks!). Now she is on permanent bed-rest, trying to keep that baby from being born as long as she can so that he can grow and develop as much as possible. They’ve been living in that hospital for several weeks, and even after the baby is born they will most likely spend even longer there.
Its a difficult situation and of course its hard on them. But you wouldn’t know it. They keep smiling and laughing and facebooking and tweeting, shining the light of Christ into the lives of everyone who comes near. They have named the baby (a boy named Breaker) and they continue to live life as normally as they can… getting ready for the next step in their future… preparing for this new life to join their family. Their hope is as inspiring as it is infectious.
So lately, as I read Psalm 9 – this poem of unmerciful hope in the direst of situations, I cannot help but think of Courtney and Jarrett because they are embodying this message more than anyone I know. They have not let their present determine God’s future. Its merely a speed-bump… an opportunity to see God move.
From time to time, here and there, I’ve been known to write a song or two. Throughout my study of the Psalms this year I’ve been trying to write and record songs based on the Psalms that particularly stir my soul. I call the little side-project Telepsalm. I never really intended on sharing these songs with anyone (and I still don’t), as its my own personal form of worship and devotion. But I’ve been so inspired by Courtney and Jarrett that I would like to share my version of Psalm 9 with them and with you.
If you follow the link below you can listen to the song, and, hopefully, if it so inspires you, share it with someone else who needs to claim a little bit of hope in trying times. But I’ll ask you to go one step further and purchase a download of this song. 100% of the proceeds will be donated to March of Dimes in honor of Courtney, Jarrett, and their children. You can pay whatever amount you feel led to give. Let’s give Courtney and Jarrett a little extra help, and lets help them spread their hope to others in similar situations.
Click HERE to listen/download “Not Forsaken” and to donate to March of Dimes. To meet the Bridges and to send them some encouragement, click HERE. To learn more about the March of Dimes, click HERE. Thank you for your time and your support!
God is a refuge and a stronghold for those in trouble. We can trust Him no matter what. He has never forsaken those who seek Him.