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.
Over the weekend I started a little kitchen renovation project (my fourth one in 8 years of marriage – am I sensing a pattern here?). This renovation required me to move my fridge, but not disconnect it. A few hours after said fridge move, our ice was green! For fear our house might have gone nuclear, we dumped the ice and went to google – where all great minds take important questions. I found out that the green ice was no big deal and perfectly normal. The water line to our ice-maker is made of copper, and over time the acidity of tap water can cause cuprous oxide (copper rust) inside the line. For the most part, if left undisturbed the cuprous oxide will never make it into your ice. But if you disturb the water line (like when you move your fridge), the cuprous oxide loosens, falls into the water, and turns your ice radioactive. You could actually keep the cuprous oxidized ice if you wanted to – its not harmful for consumption. However, it is a bad sign for your copper water line. Over time it will break down the copper, and you end up with hundreds of tiny leaks sprouting all through your water line. The only solution is a total water line replacement, which I will soon be completing in my kitchen.
This whole process got me thinking. Inside the water line is this terrible build up that over time is going to totally destroy the copper, and no one is ever aware of it until the water line is disturbed and shaken or until the whole thing just falls apart. What a parallel of sin! How many times have I been cruising through life, working for the Lord, serving others, appearing totally normal and holy on the outside. Then out of nowhere I get shaken. My life gets disturbed. What’s going to come out?
I bang my thumb with a hammer…
A stranger offends me…
My son blatantly disobeys me…
My wife disagrees with me…
A coworker tells an inappropriate joke…
My car breaks down unexpectedly…
I lose my job…
I can “do” all the holy things I want. I can “produce” clean ice. As long as everything is in place and life is as it should be and people act as they should, I can be clean. But when life gets shaken and my world is disturbed, the inside is going to come out. As Jesus said, “Whatever is hidden, will be revealed (Mark 4).” So on one hand, according to the cuprous oxide principle of sin, we must be aware of what is happening inside of us because when we are disturbed it is guaranteed to come out. They say what you do in secret is who you really are. I would take it one step further and say how you react when life gets disturbed is who you really are. Are you so bold to claim great faith when it costs more than you can bear? As my high school mentor said of Christians who claimed to bear fruit – “The only way you can really test fruit is to squeeze it and see what comes out.” And so it goes with faith: We will only know what kind faith we have when we are tested and disturbed.
The second part of the cuprous oxide principle warns us that we need to be aware of what is happening on the inside because it could literally destroy us. Just as the copper rust is going to tear wholes all through the water line, sin will slowly eat away at us if left unattended. As God said to Cain, “Sin is crouching at your door and it desires to have you (Genesis 4).” There are infinite examples of lives destroyed because they did not pay attention to the sin slowly eating away in their hearts. We justify at professional levels, don’t we?
Its no big deal…
Its just this once…
God will forgive me…
I’m not hurting anyone…
In the same way I could easily say to myself now that this cuprous oxide is not big deal. My water line is not leaking. But the truth is that my water line is not leaking YET. The damage, though unseen now, is inevitable. Am I willing to let it slide only to pay the ultimate cost in the end? If we don’t deal with the sin inside of us, it will eat us right through. As James says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for each other that you may be HEALED (James 5:16).” We have to be honest with ourselves, and honest with those around us – especially those closest to us. We have to be honest about the cuprous oxide that is inside of us and ask for help in dealing with it. Most of all we have to be honest with God and allow him to replace the damage with something new altogether (II Corinthians 5).
So what’s inside of you? Do you even know? You should find out before your life gets disturbed.
Three steps to getting rid of green ice:
1. Get rid of the bad ice: Just stop whatever is that is causing the bad – habits, relationships, mindsets – get rid of it at the source.
2. Clean the line: As James said, confess your sins to people you can trust, people who will hurt in your struggle and counsel you to healing. Secret sins never go away. Only confessed sins are truly healed.
3. Replace the line: Tap into a positive source – habits, relationships, mindsets – whatever is of God, tap into that. Let God make you into something altogether new.
Now, I’ve got a few water lines to replace myself.
Filed under: God, leadership, people, religion, worship | Tags: christmas, church size, david herndon, hoarding, mega-church, purging
Well, Christmas has come and gone, and what a fun day it was (Even though 3/5 of my family had a nasty stomach bug). The kids were impressed by Santa, and Mom & Dad even had a few surprises they didn’t expect. But there is an ugly side to Christmas when you have children: making room for the new stuff.
Last night the whole family spent most of the evening asking hard questions and making even harder decisions:
“Do you really play with the Lincoln Logs anymore?”
“You have 37 Thomas the Trains… couldn’t you live with just one?”
“If the Lite Brite is so special to you, then why does it have an inch worth of dust on it?”
In the end we had a pretty decent pile of toys that we can donate to someone who will use them and cherish them. It was difficult, but what’s the use of us having more toys than we can possibly play with?
I repeat this same scenario each year with my t-shirt collection. If I haven’t worn it in a year, no matter how special it is, I give it away in order to make room for new shirts. Sometimes this results in a good week of me wearing t-shirts from middle school and college that are a few sizes too small, just so I don’t have to get rid of them. Its a difficult process, but what’s the use of having more shirts than I can possibly wear in a year?
I often have to do this with some of the magazines I subscribe to. I come across certain articles that I intend on coming back to read again or use in some blog/public speaking form. Sometimes I don’t get around to it, and before you know it I have piles of magazines. So every once in a while I have to make the tough decision to give the magazines away to someone who will read them and use them. Its difficult for me, an avid reader, but what’s the use in hanging onto more magazine articles than I can ever read?
This process is called purging. We all do it in some form or fashion. It can lead to great forms of charity, and it can improve your quality of living. In fact, if you don’t purge at some point you will become labeled a hoarder. If I didn’t purge, every corner of my house would be filled with old t-shirts, stacks of magazines, and piles of Happy Meal toys. I might even make it on TV. Depending onwhat you are “hoarding,” you may even be called Greedy -keeping more than you need or more than you could ever use, refusing to share with others.
No one wants to be called a hoarder. No one wants to be called greedy. Certainly not Christians, right?
All of this was on my mind as I flipped channels last night. I came across a telecast of a church that meets in a stadium… like a real, 80,000 seat stadium. There are other churches I know that meet in convention centers and auditoriums, seating 5,000 and 10,000 people per service. There are other churches who strive to seat that many people in their services. I’m glad that many people are hearing the word of God, but at the same time I had to ask the question… does the American church have a habit of hoarding? Can any pastor, can any church effectively serve and disciple 5,000 or 10,000 or even 80,000 people?
I know its a difficult question to ask, but what’s the use of having more people attend your church than you can effectively serve?
I’m not sure I have a solid answer, but I do know this: At no point am I more convicted in my excess of food, than when I see someone who has none. At no point am I more convicted in my excess of clothing, than when I see someone who has none. And at no point am I convicted in my excess of money, than when I see someone who has none.
I see a very small amount of churches thriving today, and I see a very large number of churches struggling and dying. If I have more shirts in my closet than I can wear, then that just means there are clothes that are not being used for what they were made to do. If any church, large or small, has more people than it can effectively serve/disciple/send out, doesn’t the same rule apply?
It was a difficult night with my boys, but through the process of anti-hoarding we rediscovered some toys we had forgotten, we made room for some new toys to really be appreciated, and there are some little boys somewhere else that may be playing with toys for the first time.
Let’s have a discussion… Share your comments…
Filed under: worship | Tags: 3 year olds, christmas tree lighting, david herndon, funnel cake, jekyll island, psalm 37:8, worship
Over the weekend my family attended a Christmas tree lighting on Jekyll Island. I’ve never been to one, and I didn’t know quite what to expect. I couldn’t imagine anything more exciting than Clark Griswold in his front yard when his wife accidentally flips that switch. Light are off. Lights are off. What’s the big deal?
It turns out that “Christmas Tree Lighting” is code for “Block Party.” The most exciting time of the night came much like the angels appearing to the Shepherds to herald the birth of Jesus. Like the messianic star, I could see a light across the grounds gloriously beckoning me. As I moved closer I could smell the aroma of holiness, and finally my heart leapt within as my eyes discovered what my soul already knew…
There was funnel cake at this block party!
My 3 year old son has never had funnel cake. My father in law was kind enough to by two for all of us to share. So I held one plate with half the family around me, and my father in law held the other with the rest of the family. But not the 3 year old. Instead of staying in one place he ran between me and my father in law, therefore maximizing his funnel cake experience.
It inspired me to see his joy in discovery. Never in his life had he dreamed of something so wonderful and delicious as funnel cake. And I thought of the Psalms – “O taste and see that the Lord is good.”
Remember when you first discovered the joy of the Lord? I’m not talking about the first time you heard about God or about salvation. I’m talking about the first time you tasted the Lord – the first time you tasted salvation. Could anything hold you down? Could anything pull you back? Was there anything in this world or anywhere else that could stop you from pursuing God with all of your heart?
As I prepared for worship the next morning I kept the image of my son in my mind. One taste was not enough – he wanted as much as he could get and he would let nothing else pull him away or tempt to satisfy.
If only I could always worship with such tenacity.
May you taste and see that the Lord is good, and may you run after him with all of the joy, innocence, and tenacity of a 3 year old. For His love is better than funnel cake.
Filed under: God, religion, worship | Tags: church, david herndon, genesis 11, matthew 28, the great commission, tower of babel
For the past several years I have been on somewhat of a spiritual search that all starts with the question “How are we suppossed to do church?” I’ve read books. I’ve read blogs. I’ve written blogs. I’ve visited small churches, mega-churches, home churches, traditional churches, contemporary churches, modern churches, post-modern churches, churches for the un-churched, churches that don’t want to be called churches, and everything in between. I’m pretty sure there is even a church out there just for pets and their owners. They all look different. There are pros and cons to all of them. They all have qualities that seem to draw people in and they all have qualities that seem to send people running. Quite honestly, I often feel that we’ll never get it right, which only makes me more obsessed in asking the question, “How are we suppossed to do church?”
Yesterday (during church nonetheless) I realized that for all of these years I have been asking the wrong question. Its not about how we DO Church. The question should be “How do we BE the Church?”
In Genesis 11:1-8 we find the account of the tower of Babel. You know the basics: everyone speaks the same language and they decide to build a massive city and a tall tower. I’ve always been taught that they people were trying to be bigger than God, but the scripture does not say that. It says the people took on this task so that they could stay together and be successful together – not exactly sinful motives. They were just trying to live the good life. I’ve also always been taught that God was punishing the people for their wrongdoing when he confused their language and scattered them throughout the earth.
But was that punishment?
Perhaps God was encouraging them. Perhaps when he says “nothing they plan to do will be impossible,” its not a negative connotation, but a positive…. Maybe he’s saying, “My people are awesome! Look what they did!”
Perhaps God was empowering them. Perhaps when he scatters the people across the earth, it is not a prison sentence as much as spiritual enabling for them to fulfill God’s mission. Perhaps when he confuses their language he’s really just gifting them to accomplish more. Maybe he’s saying, “Go be awesome everywhere… not just here.”
When you read the tower of Babel followed by Matthew 28:16-20, God’s methods start to make sense. Jesus’ great commission for us is to make disciples, and often our primary method is to gather a group of people, erect a building, sing worship songs together, read His word together, and repeat. We often forget that Jesus did not start this command with “come together.” He started the command with “Therefore, GO.”
Not this: Come. Gather. Sit.
But this: Go. Scatter. Move.
The truth is, we can DO Church in an immense number of ways that are acceptable to God. But there is only one way to BE the Church.
Being the Church is far more important than doing Church.
(props to John Stephens for teaching a great sermon on the tower of Babel)
Filed under: God, religion, worship | Tags: bishop king, david herndon, rituals, south georgia united methodist church, worship
Bishop King is the Bishop for the South Georgia United Methodist Church, and he has a pretty good blog. Check out this excerpt and be sure to read more by following the link. Its good stuff…
“We cannot assume that people will automatically know what is appropriate. Going to the movies is one of my favorite getaways. I find it interesting that multiple reminders regarding personal behavior are necessary in a public place. Before the movie begins, the audience is reminded to be quiet and turn off their cell phones so others can enjoy the movie. Now there’s even a reminder to not “tweet” during the movie.
The point is that people have to be taught, and the more important a value, especially to those who are a members of the household of faith, the more intentional we should be about nurturing the essential faith elements that help to keep us centered in God’s plan for us and the world family.”
Filed under: God, religion, worship | Tags: church scandal, craig gross, david herndon, hillsong, porn, pornography, praise and worship, rebuilt records, ron jeremy, xxx, xxxchurch.com
As a Christian and as a musician, I try to stay in tune with Christian music. So you can imagine my sadness when I recently heard of a “scandal” in the praise and worship sector of the industry. I don’t want to use names and point anyone out. As you read this post you may realize you’ve heard of this “scandal” and know exactly who I am talking about. But I don’t want the people involved to be the focus of this blog. This focus is something far more important, as you will see.
It basically goes down like this. A very prominent group in worship music brought on a new worship leader with an amazing new worship song. It is a beautiful song of crying to God for freedom and healing. The new worship leader, the author of said song claimed to have cancer and said this song was written to ask God to heal him of his “disease.” He even performed the song on stage while hooked up to an oxygen tank once or twice. Of course this brought a lot of attention, the song took off and has been part of thousands of worship services since, and everyone was moved by this young man’s story: dying of cancer, yet still praising God.
I heard that the young man eventually confessed that he in fact did not have cancer. That was the last I heard of the “scandal” until last week, when I was able to talk with a friend who was close to the situation. It turns out the young man really did not have cancer, but he was suffering from a disease. His affliction will not be found in any medicine journal, but it is a deadly foe. The song was indeed sincerely written from a heart desperate for healing. The young man’s affliction? Pornography.
This young man had become addicted to pornography, yet he was so ashamed to admit it and he so feared being rejected by his church that he thought it would be better to fake cancer in order to share his song and his struggle. I find the true story even more moving than the cancer story. It makes me appreciate the song even more. Unfortunately the Church (and I mean that on a global scale) sees it as quite the opposite. The Church would rather this young man be really dying of cancer than have to deal with the issue of pornography. And to me, that is the real scandal. I mean, we can’t have some porn addict leading us in worship. Or can we?
Why is the Church so afraid to deal with this issue? Thousands upon thousands of men (and women) struggle with pornography. Many are leaders in the church – from Sunday School teachers all the way up to the Senior Pastors. Yet the Church would rather not deal with it. The minute someone stands up and says, “I have an addiction to pornography,” the Church lights their torches and sharpens their pitchforks. Sure, a pastor may offer some private counseling, but would rather keep it “hush, hush” instead of seeking the help of the entire Body. It is not the most popular idea to hold a bake sale to raise money to get Joe the Porn Addict the treatment he needs for healing. It is much easier to be compassionate for a person who is dying of cancer.
Its no wonder this young man felt compelled to lie. I have no doubt that if he were honest from the beginning and confessed that this amazing song was written by a porn addict, instead of a cancer patient, we would never hear one note of this song. In fact, many churches have pulled this song from their song list now that the truth has come out. Even now, the Church, instead of reaching out with an arm of love and mercy, is throwing this young man to the lions.
There is something fundamentally wrong when the one Organization that should be attacking the issue of Pornography the strongest, runs and hides from it. Is this the way of Christ? What do you think God values more: the young man who is strong enough to confess his sin as shameful as it is, or the Church, who for the sake of “purity,” pretends porn does not exist? Is the Church afraid we might lose some credibility in the world if we admit that Christians watch porn too? I believe the Church would be so much more effective in the world if we would own up to problems like porn instead of trying to hide it in the closet among pediphile priests, thieving ushers, and drunken pastors. We don’t leave much room for the redeeming power of Christ when we try to pretend sin doesn’t exist among us.
It makes me thankful that there are groups like Craig Gross and XXXchurch.com. They hold events like Porn and Pancakes in order to minister to men with porn addictions. They attend porn conventions in order to share the light of Christ with this misguided industry. They raise money for porn actresses so they can escape this slave-like career and start a new life. They hold public debates with porn directors like Ron Jeremy. Even now they are trying to plant the first church ever on the Las Vegas strip – the motherland of porn. And yet so many “Christian” organizations denounce them.
Wake up, Church! Keeping your nose stuck in a bible and quietly wishing this issue will disappear ain’t gonna cut it. If we want anything to change, we’re have to get honest, we have to talk about it, and we have to take action. We should be doing everything we can to help this young man and the thousands of others who have fallen into porn addiction. We should offer refuge in the form of specific counseling and support groups. We should educate in the form of bible studies and small groups. We should speak about it from the pulpit. We should acknowledge the problem and teach what God’s word says about the issue.
Paul teaches us that God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but rather a spirit of power, of love, and of self-discipline. Shame on us when our biggest fear is that we may actually have a sinner in the church. Shame on us when, instead of actually exercising Christ’s character in love and compassion, we would rather just talk about it. A church ruled by fear – now that’s a scandal.