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Bored with Divine Geography, Part 1: Discontent with God’s Sovereignty

Is it possible for a human to be bored with the divine?

For those who know me (know I am a Christian), don’t worry I’m not bored with God.  I am constantly amazed at God, both what I know about Him and what I am newly discovering.  But sometimes I wonder if when we humans get discontent we are really just getting bored.  Let’s face it, in this consumer, fast-paced, gotta-have-it-now, “is there an app for that” economy it’s nearly impossible to enjoy anything for more than a few days.

We all go through seasons and times in our lives where we bounce from one hobby or like to the next.  This month it’s all McDonalds.  Next month it’s all Burger King.  Today it’s Starbucks.  Tomorrow it’s Dunkin Donuts.  This year it’s playing tennis.  Next year it’s all golf.  It doesn’t matter what it is, if it can be bought and consumed we can grow tired of it quickly.  The new wears off almost as fast as we obtain it.  It makes me wonder if this is one overlooked reason as to why so many marriages today are failing and ending in divorce.  Because the spouse/s got so bored and discontent with a lifestyle of routine, familiarity and sameness that they didn’t know how to compute the unchanging nature any more and had to move on to the next “greatest” thing.

Unfortunately, it’s this Western American “grass is greener on the other side” mentality that is crippling us.  It’s a self-inflicted wound too.  We did this to ourselves.  And like most American trends of culture and lifestyle, this wound has affected the religious world too.  The church, more specifically followers of Jesus Christ have seen their fair share of this too.

When I look at my own Christian life of following Jesus, I see a messy pattern of contentment and discontentment.  Discontentment is really just a big word for boredom.  And boredom stems from laziness, idleness, selfishness, and discouragement.  I find that when I get discouraged and focus on my discouragement, I’m being pretty darn selfish.  When I get to focusing on my self, I get immobile for some reason.  And the more I sit and wallow in my own “poor ole me” pit, the more lazy I get.  The more lazy I get the more bored I get.  And then I get discontent all over again and the deadly cycle repeats itself.

As this cultural habit continues to pound the church of Christians, it affects the mission our God has called us on too.  And this mission God has called us on places us in certain places around the globe.  I firmly believe that God has mysteriously, sovereignly and personally called each Christian to a certain location on earth to fulfill His mission there at that time.  So God specifically calls a specific person to a specific place for a specific reason among a specific people in a specific way.  I think God is very purposeful.  Acts 17 in the Bible proves this as Paul tells the Athenians that God has ordained the very dwelling places of man in such a way that he will desire to find Him.

But as this Christian begins to understand this strange geographical ordination of God’s mission, he should grow to become more fond of it.  On the contrary I have found recently through conversations with some of my closest friends and dear brothers in Christ a sort of groping and longing to fulfill God’s mission somewhere else.

Since I am a natural skeptic I easily chalk it up to simple discontentment.  However as I begin to understand that God is mysterious in His sovereignty, there is a strange balance between accepting God’s geographical ordination with contentment and on the other hand desiring the fullness of that contentment even if it means moving closer to His more perfect location for us at a given time.  That’s a mouth full.  In a nutshell what I am saying is that we can be both happy with where God has us while desiring a more complete perfection of His will for our location.  A paradoxical happy with the present yet longing for a better future.

The challenge in all of this is discerning our hearts in the matter; mainly by asking tough questions:

  • Why am I discontent?  Is it because I can’t accept God’s location for my life here or because I’m not really where He wants me?
  • Am I really just bored?
  • Am I too hard to please?
  • Are my expectations unrealistic or too high?
  • Am I extremely fickle and indecisive?
  • What am I really searching for?
  • Are my goals selfish?
  • Am I truly longing for where God wants me, no matter how desirable or undesirable the location may be?
  • Am I giving in to the culture’s tendency towards “the grass is greener on the other side”?

These are tough questions that deserve honest answers.  I think finding the answer to most of these will reveal a lot about a person’s heart and motives.

So to answer my first question about whether it’s possible or okay for a human to be bored with divine geography:  I think it’s possible and depends on the heart of the person.  As a Christian truly seeks God’s will for his life, he will naturally want what God wants.  This will lead to a good discontentment that pushes the Christian to want more of God’s goodness for him.  But if this Christian is giving in too much to the microwave, have-it-your-way, “I’m an artist and need to express my individuals’ artist integrity” mentality then it may not be good to be bored with God’s divine geography.  It may be a test of their heart to reveal what they really desire:  God’s will or their will.

I’ll explain where I’m taking all of this in part 2.

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My Top Ten Questions of Leading Worship with No Instrument

  1. What do I do with my hands? I can’t just let ’em dangle.
  2. Can I touch my mic?  If so, how and how often?
  3. Do I look at the audience, my music, the screen or all three back and forth?
  4. Eyes, open or closed or squinting?
  5. Shoes, socks or bare feet? (cause everyone knows that bare feet is more holy, no matter how cheesy)
  6. Is the pastor signing me?
  7. Oops, hope no one just heard that?
  8. Are they watching me?  Feels like they are looking into my soul.
  9. Why doesn’t that guy ever sing?
  10. Bridge? Chorus? Back to verse 1? Repeat the last line? Ooh, acapella chorus.  Decisions, decisions, decisions!

Okay so this is my top ten silly list.  Enjoy.

A Worship Leader who plays the vocal chords

Sometimes I feel like the loneliest, most ill-equipped leader around.  I have been leading the worship music at my church for nearly a year and a half now.  And I’ve done so playing no instrument, except the vocal chords.  Leading a worship band with no instrument may not sound all that difficult; kind of like the latest secular band whose leader only sings.  In fact, probably half or more big name bands have a leader that primarily sings and plays no instrument.

What makes it difficult for me is that on top of leading with no instrument (compared to most worship leaders who lead with guitar or piano), I also haven’t had formal music training in nearly 15 years.  That’s a decade and a half since I’ve had to read music, learn musical theory, play from memory and know my scales forwards and backwards.  This can prove for a very difficult time of leading on Sunday mornings for services but also during rehearsals.

Thankfully, God has humbled me and taught me a great deal of lessons in this adventure.  Especially as He has surrounded me with an extremely talented team of musicians.  My acoustic lead guitarist is incredible.  He can pick up a new song on a dime and plays rhythms that should place him in night clubs.  My pianist is extremely talented.  She is very flexible, quick and can play some amazingly smooth transitions.  My female vocalist is naturally talented, creates some original harmonies and does a great lead.  My bass player can dig some great riffs and plays powerfully and fast.   You can imagine with little musical training and rusty hinges, it’s pretty intimidating and surreal leading a team like this from week to week.

I never thought leading without an instrument could be done.  I am challenged constantly from knowing chord progressions, how each instrument sounds, to tuning, rhythms, strum patterns, beats and temp to crescendos, acapella and transposing.  I always thought that unless I had an acoustic guitar or piano in front of me, I had no ability or business leading.  God proved me wrong on that and fast.  Somehow through my rustiness and lack of confidence I was able to lead my team fairly well.  Of course, I couldn’t do it without the team.  The team plays an integral part in helping me lead and be who I am.  They pour into me confidence, strength, encouragement and trust like I’ve never seen.

Sometimes I feel like the CEO who is just too young to be such.  The board of trustees and advisors is made up of experienced, well-seasoned chickens.  This new young buck CEO has to prove himself to them even though he’s now the head honcho around town.  Only my board of trustees totally trusts me, believes in me and enjoys my leadership.  That’s empowering and freeing.

So to all the worship leaders who feel inadequate, lame or awkward leading with no instrument, don’t.  God doesn’t need a piece of equipment that makes noise in order for you to lead your team.  He just needs you and your faith in Him to equip and empower you as you lead.

As a result I’ve learned more about music, worship and my own leadership than I could have ever imagined.  I look forward to the future until God leads me to an instrument.  Until then, I’ll stick to mastering the vocal chords.

My Top Reasons for Pursuing Biblical Unity

Here are my top reasons for pursuing biblical unity in all that I believe and live in my Christian life: (in no particular order)

  1. I am a child of a triune, fully unified God
  2. I love Jesus Christ and His Good News
  3. I love the church, the universal, catholic church
  4. I love the Holy Spirit
  5. Jesus’ prayer in John 17 – His glory and fame is on the line!
  6. I love people
  7. I love the mission to make disciples
  8. I love my wife
  9. I love my daughter
  10. I love theology
  11. I love the Word
  12. Sin is real, dangerous and hopeless
  13. I love creation
  14. I hate the Fall and all of its effects and fruit
  15. Division in the Church is real, unfruitful and counterproductive
  16. Infighting prevents outreach
  17. “Unity” today has been lost in translation, especially in Christian circles
  18. Time must be redeemed because the days are still evil
  19. Jesus is coming back soon!
  20. I’m still breathing…

I list these primarily to be stated, not debated.

World War of Words, Part 1

the-power-of-words

I’ve always been a stickler for words.

Even though my mouth seems to run like a gushing fire hydrant. Much to my dismay, language is typically my greatest strength AND my greatest weakness. So I’ve learned the hard way to choose my words wisely. To say things carefully. To think before I speak, not speak before I think.

Words matter. They bring life, they bring destruction. They influence people and situations.

Today some of the most popular ways to greet somebody and meet somebody are by asking first “How are you?” and then “What do you do?”. These questions seem harmless and normal at the surface. But at the root, they are philosophically aiming the focus of the meeting to less significant things and more transient things.

I believe that because of the day in age we live in, all people struggle with one primary issue: selfishness exhibited through self-indulgence, self-preservation, self-exaltation, self-help, self-seeking, and so on and so on. And the world we live in puts the focus on a person’s condition and feelings and a person’s career path.

This is evidenced by the two above questions:

  1. How are you? – the focus is on the well being of the person, specifically the feelings of that person at that moment in time. For example, “How are you doing?”.
  2. What do you do? – the focus is on what the person does for a living, their career path or choice of success and income. For example, “What do you do for a living?”.

The reason I think these two questions are significant is because they lead the meeting down a certain path.  A path that tends towards temporary and unimportant matters. Surely these questions are not evil by any means. And there are many times when asking these questions is not only perfectly fine but appropriate. However they point the asker and the askee towards a typical worldly focus of conversing and living. That of feelings and work.

Simply put, I think the more appropriate and eternal question would be to ask “Who are You?”. Why, you ask? Because the question in this life is not How much do You make?, What is your career?, How much do you own?, What are your accomplishments?.

The question in this life that will matter in the next life is “Who are You?”. Or better yet, “Whose are You?”. This refocuses and aims the question towards the target of greatest significance: identity and nature! Feelings don’t matter. Work or career are not that crucial. Rather who a person is matters most. This is what is eternally important.

This is not a “become a better you” or “find your true self within” type of identity revelation. It’s not a self-revelation. It’s a self-realization. Who you are at your core is what defines you. Your nature is who you are by, well nature. Finding your true self can only be realized once it is revealed. And it is not a self-realization. It must be an “other-revelation”. It must be a divine-revelation from God almighty. He shows you who you are. Then He reveals to you Whose you are.

So maybe we should stop asking people all the time “How are you?” or “What do you do?” but rather “Who are you?” or “Whose are you?” or even “Who are you becoming?”. Strange looks will come. But they always do with new words, trends, and terms.

Why not start a language revolution? Be a word rebel. Fight to redeem the language for the sake of God and for people. It just may change a life. It just may change a person, forever.

I simply want the Gospel to not just inform but guide and drive my words. When the Gospel, or Good News about God’s goodness in His Son Jesus Christ, changes a person, it does so by proclaiming to them words of power, truth and grace! So a Christian who embraces the Gospel now has a new heart and a new language; a new vocabulary.

So, “Who are you?”.

Free Resources for Worship Leaders

I am the worship leader at church in the ‘Boro in southern Georgia. It’s been quite a journey of faith and fire. Through it all, God’s been more than faithful. I just pray I’ve been fruitful.

I have had many people pour into me as worship leader here for the past 9 months. I’ve also had to figure many things out on my own; often the hard way. So I want to help out worship leaders, song directors, and music directors because I needed help and still need help.

Here are some excellent key resources to help you in your efforts to not only lead your worship team but in leading the congregation (with your pastor) to exalt in the worship of God through singing!

Media

  • Pandora – one of the best ways to fill your heart and mind with song ideas is to setup a free account here at the internet’s #1 free, custom radio station. It’s also an excellent tool to help you find a varied style that is not only honed into your personal preference, it’ll stretch your abilities and talents.
  • YouTube or GodTube (now called Tangle) – you’re way behind if you haven’t discovered YouTube yet. This is a great way to not only hear song ideas but to see them performed. Also an excellent tool to watch and learn to play different songs and instruments. Just create a Free account, save your videos and you’ll always have them. Good way to integrate sermon excerpts and inspirational worship media too.

Song Databases and Search Engines

  • I Will Worship – a simple, FREE and wonderful resource for a huge variety of songs from a variety of artists: from rock to alternative to worship to praise to hymns to contemporary to classic to underground to mainstream.
  • Guitar Hymns – excellent resource for hymns played on guitar

Favorite Artists and Ministries – who offer free resources

  • Sovereign Grace Music – countless free mp3s, chords, lyrics, piano, guitar and lead sheet music. Just click on “Store”.
  • Lead Worship – Free songbooks, lyrics, and songs from Paul Baloche
  • Tenth Avenue North – great new band who is very scripturally sound and fresh. They have very convicting and encouraging journals online and free lyrics and behind the song stories.

For the Worship Leader’s Heart and Leading

  • Worship Matters – Bob Kauflin’s personal blog. One of the best and most comprehensive blogs on how to be a godly worship leader, lead a team, and the ins and outs of worship team all through our worship of God.
  • Desiring God blog – personal blog of John Piper and Desiring God ministries

Not Free Resources

That’s it for now. I hope these help. I hope they assist you in leading your local church in worship by singing praise and ascribing goodness to God.

The Functionality of the Gospel – An Intro

“One of the greatest challenges, yet one of the most important tasks of the pastor is to help people actually see the connections between the gospel and the thinking and behavior that make up their everyday lives. We know well the centrality of the gospel message but in order for it to have a functional centrality it must be clearly and carefully connected to the real issues – issues of thought and conduct-of people’s lives…”(Mike Bullmore, The Functional Centrality of the Gospel in the life of the local Church).

The Gospel must become “functionally central to the individual Christian and the local church” (Mike Bullmore). Okay, so you know the Gospel must be kept at center stage, but how then does it become functional at center stage? How does this truth leap off the stage and into my life and invade my heart? This question and the tireless search for its answer has been at the forefront of my mind for the last 2 years. I want to share with you why, in my opinion, this question is one of THE most important questions a Christian could answer. Because answering it will effect your entire Christian walk, specifically the manner in which you act, react, think, and feel about everything.

I want to begin before I make my case with some legitimate reactions in response to this plea for a functioning and practical Gospel: (both are extremes to fit the way my mind typically works)

1. Extreme Skepticism – “Make the Gospel practical? no way! The last thing we need is a watered-down, simplistic, dumbed down, child-like, easy-to-believe Gospel. The Gospel is challenging, powerful, lofty, theological and divine!”

This would be an understandable reaction. However, this person misses the point and goes to the extreme in their perception of the words “functioning and practical”. They fear this would make the Gospel basic and everydayish in concept and application, thereby causing the Gospel to be stripped of its divine power to save. But what they don’t understand is that God’s Gospel was not designed primarily to benefit us in the beginning by our faith, but is to function daily throughout our walk with Christ. The skeptics’ “hard-to-reach only-for-mature-deep-thinking-Christians” Gospel should not be simplified or made ‘user-friendly’. So he can only view an attempt to functionalize the Gospel as hostile to its very nature. These skeptics may be trusting in a “Jesus + Gospel”, works based righteousness, or their own rigid, pragmatic, and stuck-in-a-book Gospel. To them, the Gospel is indeed the “power of God to salvation”, however it never functions in any other aspect other than adhering to a list of facts or dutifully reciting some creed.

2. Extreme Acceptance – “Yes, yes, yes. This is what I’ve been talking about. The Gospel is so simple and basic. We need to be making it practical and easy for all to understand and accept. The Gospel is not for intelligent, high-minded, intellectuals obsessed with theology and reading, but is for the down-and-out, the prostitute, the tax-evader, the murderer, the rapist, and the child molester. These people need simplistic answers. They need a simple formula. A basic truth. A little nugget of Christ, just enough to chew on and enjoy the taste. Yes, the Gospel must be practical and functional in the most simplist way”.

This would also be an understandable reaction to my argument for a “functioning” Gospel. However, this hypothetical person also misses my point and therefore takes their interpretation to the extreme. He believes the Gospel is simple. He is correct. Simple in that one does not have to study, and study, and study, and study to become a brainiac to be saved or to understand it. This Simpleton person rightly sees the danger of overintellectualizing (I think I made that up) and overcomplicating the Gospel and therefore understandably reacts as they do. He knows that God is not a God of confusion and that the devil is the Father of all lies. So he deducts from those truths a line of reasoning that says that God would not complicate His message so it must be easy. He also believes that God is pleased to reveal this to babes and to conceal it from the wise (Matt 11:25; Lk 10:21). And he would be right. He is also right in that the Gospel is not just for smart men. Most of us would be in trouble if it was; it is for the down-and-out too. Its simple in that the humble, lowly, poor in spirit and those thirsting for truth will receive it. The high-minded and prideful, those trusting in their righteousness won’t. He is confused about what I mean by a “functioning” Gospel. Functioning doesn’t imply dumbing it down. It doesn’t imply making it so base that a brick can comprehend it.

Functioning means the Gospel must be living and active in the life of the believer. But we cannot make the Gospel simple or acceptable for man to understand. No amount of our simplifying it for the lost man will do much good if we strip it of its power, the content, namely the work, person, and words of Jesus Christ. But the Gospel is not simple as far as responding to it. It is impossible for man to heed the commands of the Gospel, namely to repent and believe, in order to be saved without the regnerating work of the Holy Spirit. Our part as Christians is to faithfully present the Gospel as it truly is, foolishness to those who are perishing, and God will give the growth as He sees fit. Its simple because we plant or water the seed, but God gives the increase. Yet the Simpleton must understand that to the unregenerate man, this Gospel is utter foolishness (1 Cor 1:18, 21). So it is complicated and illogical to the lost man. And to the saved man, it makes perfect sense. Despite the saved man’s limitations in fully understanding the whole counsel of God, for him the Gospel is simple in belief and to believe.

Isn’t there a midpoint or a compromise between these two extreme reactions to desire a functioning Gospel? What’s the appropriate response to understanding “the Gospel must be fully functional”? I am going to argue liberally and hopefully charitably that the proper understanding of a “functioning” Gospel is one that is…

  • Theologically Deep
  • Purposefully Practical
  • Powerfully Performing
  • Faithfully Fruitful
  • Heart transforming
  • Truth Revealing
  • Christ Conforming
  • Church Reforming
  • Culture Reshaping
  • Community Reviving

The Gospel is so perfect in its design because its designer, God, is so perfect. It functions for what it was designed to function for: bring people to God to know and enjoy Him forever. So, the question is how does this Good News, the Gospel, function to do this in every aspect of the life of the believer?

Tune in next time and see.