Saturday, September 12, 2015

What is worship?

Last Sunday, I preached a message on worship as a part of our Marks of Discipleship at Stetson Baptist. Worship is something I am very passionate about because I truly believe it is the crux of the Christian life. What I mean is that when we get worship right, we get EVERYTHING else right in the Christian life. Discipleship? Who wouldn't want to learn more and grow in their relationship with the object of their worship? Evangelism? Don't you want to spread the good news about the one you're worshiping? Ministry/Service? It's so easy and wonderful to serve the one that you are worshiping. Fellowship? When our worship is focused on the same (and correct) object, our fellowship is most fulfilling. Prayer? Who wouldn't want to spend time talking (and listening) to the one that sits on the throne of their life? Yes, when we get our worship right... everything else falls into place.

However, we need to make a distinction here. When I mention worship, I'm not talking about the music that we sing in church. No... it's MUCH more than that! I made a similar statement in the sermon last Sunday and apparently it wasn't received well. That's the reason for this post  (I don't blog very often!!). Nicki was approached after the service and then I had a church member call earlier this week because he was concerned about a statement that he heard me say in the sermon (by the way... I ALWAYS welcome a direct call or conversation if someone is uncomfortable with something in a sermon. I'd much rather someone talk TO me than talk ABOUT it.). That statement was that "Music is NOT worship." His question was if I had made that statement and if I had meant to. I responded that if I did not make that statement (I hadn't listened to the sermon at this point), then I probably should have because I believe it to be a correct statement. Obviously, I needed to explain... and maybe I need to explain myself to you too.

You see, MUSIC (in and of itself) is NOT worship. However, music definitely CAN be an expression of our worship and it CAN be a tool that ushers us INTO worship. Music is a-moral. Meaning the notes and rhythms do not hold any morality or anti-morality. They are neutral. What makes a song worshipful is either the lyrics associated with the music or our personal response to the music. Worship is OUR response to God. It cannot be contained in a song. Please hear me correctly... I'm not saying that we don't worship when we sing. We very well may. However, I AM saying that just because we're singing doesn't mean we're worshiping.

In the church, we have a tendency to associate worship with music and singing...and I agree, but it is not limited to that. Is the sermon not worship? Is our giving not worship? Is our response during the invitation not worship? Are our prayers not worship? Of course they are... OR they can be. Again, worship is about what happens in your heart. NOT what is happening on the outside.

Let's put it another way and use a common debate in the church. If music IS worship, I have a question... WHICH music is worship? Is there a copyright date limit on what is worship and isn't? Is there a style limit on what is worship and what isn't? Is there a chord structure limit on what is worship and what isn't? (there use to be... do a search on "chord of evil" to find out about a chord that was not allowed to be played in church) By the way... I would answer NO to all of the above. There is not a copyright date, style, or chord structure limit on what is worship. The only limit I would put on worshipful music is the lyric...meaning it must textually exalt God and coincide with the truth of scripture.

To summarize, I stand by the statement that music is not worship. Worship occurs in the heart. Worship is about our response to God for all that He is and all that He has done. However, I would also contend that music is a very strong expression of worship for many Christians. I would also contend that music is a very strong tool that draws Christians into worship. I hope that clears my statement up and gives you something to think about as well.

Monday, May 27, 2013

It's just swimming...

As summer is arriving, the pool at our house is OPEN!!! We are looking forward to a full summer of kids swimming and mom (and dad when he’s home) enjoying the pool with our boys. Jonah has been swimming pretty well for a couple of years. Micah, on the other hand, doesn’t have the hang of it yet. He took a few lessons from the GREAT Sharon Banks last year (our schedule wouldn't let us finish), but still either sticks pretty close to the steps or uses his “puddle jumper.”
SO, being the dad that I am, when we go swimming, I’m always trying to teach him how. Today (Monday) was one of those days. We were having a great time swimming together. Jonah was diving down to the bottom and having a great time. Micah was bobbing along in his puddle jumper. I was just enjoying being the dad of two great kids. However, I wasn’t content to let things just bob along, so I stepped in.
I asked Micah if he wanted to take off his puddle jumper and try swimming. He answered with an EMPHATIC, “YES!!!”
We talked about kicking (kick, kick, kick….) We talked about moving your arms and pushing the water out of the way. We talked about taking a deep breath and holding your breath. Then I put him on the steps, stepped back a few feet and told him to come on. He did!! The first shot was basically a jump to my arms from the steps. Then we started progressing. In several attempts, he was swimming about four or five feet. He was proud of himself. I was proud of him. We had a great time!
Now…there were several things that happened today in the pool that weren’t as “boring” as that story. First, of all, I didn’t tell you about the time that he jumped off the steps toward me then, for some reason, got scared. He turned back to the steps (under water), he turned back toward me (under water), he started doing circles (under water.) Now, all of this happened in about a second. I immediately stepped up and picked him up out of the water
Second thing that happened was he had swam to me several times, then he decided to step up onto the pool deck, traipse down to the deep end and JUMP IN!!! Yes, I watched my son jump into the deep end about 12 feet away from me. Thankfully, I was watching him the whole time and as SOON as he jumped, I immediately got to him. (again…literally seconds)
Now, I think God has shown me something about my own life in this experience. First of all, God is trying to teach me how to live my life for Him. He doesn’t throw me into the deep end and just hope I’ll swim. No, He puts me on the steps (in a safe place), takes a few steps away, holds His arms out, and says, “Come on…” I jump and feel good about myself even though He basically did all of the work. The next time, He steps a few feet further away and then tells us to “Come on” again. With each try, we are doing a bit more, but our Father is ALWAYS right there watching carefully to be sure we don’t falter and drown in our own self-pride. And drown we WOULD if it weren’t for His supervision.
Sometimes we would drown because of our inability, but many times we would drown because of our confusion. Yes, we take that leap of faith, but then we wonder if we should have done that (turn to the Father…turn to the steps…turn to the Father…) Before we know it, we’re doing circles in our own misery and God is still saying, “Come on…” But, like the loving Father that He is, He comes to us in our confusion and says, “It’s ok, I’m so proud of you for trying.”
The other way we drown is because of our pride. Oh yes, we’ve swam a few feet, so now it’s time to try the deep end of the pool. It’s time to go off the high dive. It’s time to jump into uncharted waters. We’ve seen others do this, it’s OUR TURN!!! So, we get out of the safety of our Father’s control and we go hurling ourselves into the deep end of the pool. As soon as we jump, we think, “What in the world have I just done…” but it’s too late. Now we’re in a place that we have no business being!! But again, our Father comes quickly to us and picks us up (all sputtering and gasping for air) and He says, “Wow…you really got yourself into a mess didn’t you? Why don’t we go back down here where it’s a little safer. There will be a time to jump into the deep end, but it’s not today…but I’m really proud of your bravery!!”
So, where am I? Where are you? Well, I’m not content to keep staying in the shallow end, and I’m probably not ready to tread water for hours in the deep end, so I’ll do a little of both. Yep, I enjoy the relaxation of knowing that I only have to swim a couple of strokes to get to my Father’s arms. AND, I enjoy the exhilaration of jumping off into the unknown of the deep end every now and then. After all…isn’t swimming supposed to be FUN?!?!!!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sunday Night Reflections (The Week After...)

It was so good to see a LOT of fresh faces in church this morning... After last week, I kind of wondered if there would be anybody that would come back. Before services, I was able to walk around and greet several people that I didn't recognize. All of them were so positive about coming back to church. That was encouraging!

Something that you may not realize is that the service that we did this morning was the service that was PLANNED for last week. Reggie and I consider that a God thing because we had several conversations about service elements leading up to Back to Church Sunday. We wanted that day to be WAY good. As plans were made, we felt like it was going to be really effective. However, Reggie and I had several conversations about the week AFTER Back to Church Sunday (yesterday) and Reggie wasn't really thrilled with what he had planned.

That's one of those weird things in ministry. You make plans, but you realize that God holds the final say. I talked a little about this this morning. You can't do what we do without planning. Choir, Orchestra, Soloists, Tech just won't come together if there's not a system in place. HOWEVER, we also live in the spiritual side of things where we realize that sometimes our plans don't happen the way we had them planned. To put it simply, we make plans for what's going to happen KNOWING that God may change those plans.

For example, the last two weeks. We made plans for last week. Those plans did NOT include the lights going out!! (God changed OUR plans). We had also made plans for this week (even though we weren't thrilled with them.) God changed OUR plans and we were able to shift our plans for last week (which we were excited about) to this week (which we were not excited about.)

I said before that's one of those weird things in MINISTRY, but it's not just relegated to ministry. NO...this is a truth in life as well. How many times have we had our plans made for God to throw a roadblock in the way and suddenly our plans change? In those moments, we usually shake our fist at God and say, "I can't believe you're not going along with my plans." However, when we look back on our life, we realize that those "changed" plans are what got us to where we need to be today.

I don't think that's an argument for being lazy. I believe that God calls us to plan, but then He requests that we constantly submit those plans to him for HIS WILL to be done.

Proverbs 16:9--In his heart, a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

GREAT advice from the wisdom book! I can be guilty of making plans and then asking God to bless my plans. I don't think that's how it works. I make plans and then submit them to God for review and revision. He has the right to scrap everything I've done. I have the responsibility to follow His plans regardless of my own!!

What about you? Do you struggle with allowing God to be the "determiner of your steps"? When you make plans, do you expect God to just "rubber stamp" your plans because you're so good at planning?

Sunday was a great day...I look forward to what God has in store for next week!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Sunday Night Reflections (September 16, 2012--Back to Church Sunday)

That's how my day started this morning!! "Big boom, we just lost power. No, I'm not kidding!!!" Wow. Our church has been preparing for Back to Church Sunday for a MONTH. We had prayed, taught, inspired, encouraged, and instructed our church about inviting people to church TODAY. And THIS is how our day started.

I had made up in my mind that "Sunday Night Reflections" would be a good blog post. I had decided to start on this day, but as it happened, I couldn't think of a better day to give you my perspective on our services. So...consider this a pastor's perspective of the Sunday when the lights went out at Stetson Baptist Church (insert Reba McIntyre song)

Honestly, when I got the text from Reggie, I figured this would be just another of those momentary hiccups that most church staff members are used to. i can't tell you the times that we've been moments from a service and power goes out, sound system freaks, etc. It's always been a momentary hiccup...until today.

When i got to the church, I walked all the way to the Worship Center FULLY expecting that the power would be on. It was NOT. I found John, our maintenance supervisor. He said that it was going to be about two hours. If you know John, then you know that he is a big prankster. He loves to "mess" with people. I thought he was messing with me. I realized quickly he was very serious. I walked out to the Progress Energy truck. They affirmed John's message. Suddenly, I realized that we would be doing AT LEAST one service without power. OUCH!!!

I walked back through the Worship Center. It was really dark, but people were starting to gather in the room. It was about 8:50. 10 minutes...TEN minutes. What were we supposed to do? Send everyone home? Combine Sunday School classes then try to combine services and hope the power was on? Scrap the whole thing? What do we do??? Reggie and I had a quick staff meeting. I asked him what he thought we should do. "I don't know." He asked me what I thought we should do. "I don't know." This is not the kind of stuff that they teach you in Seminary. Here we have two very sharp minds that have a great deal of ministry experience, but I can tell you that neither of us have ever been HERE!!

Somebody had to make a call. I told Reggie that we would sing a couple of familiar worship songs and then I would preach for a few minutes. I suggested a couple of songs. He took it from there. He went to meet with our pianist, and I went to tell the church our plans.

As I entered the Worship Center again, it seemed even darker. I didn't know how that was possible, but it did seem like the light had gotten even dimmer. I stood before the congregation and told them that we were going to have a service. They seemed genuinely pleased! I told them that we believed that God had a divine reason for everyone that was there and we weren't going to deny that reason. It was time to have church!!

After I got through talking to the church, a well meaning and very intelligent church member came up and told me that he felt the light was inadequate for keeping people in the room. He was RIGHT!! It was too dark to keep that number of people in there safely. What if something happened and we had to exit quickly? It was a bad situation. I asked that church member to give us a few minutes. I was praying for something miraculous to happen. Another church member had gone to get flashlights, but that probably wouldn't be enough.

Suddenly a light came on. Yes...light. I was so hopeful! wasn't light like we were used to, but it was one of our spotlights. Apparently, our sound technician had begun running extension cords from an adjacent building that DID have power. He had found a way to plug in two of our spotlights. THEN, he had the bright idea of plugging in a third and aiming it at the ceiling. That gave us enough light to make the room safe. was time to have church!!!

I opened in prayer and asked people to be understanding. They were more than that. They were encouraged!!! We sang. We prayed. We worshipped. We preached. GOD moved!!! It was a service like I have never been a part of! God blew our socks off!!! I was so glad to be a part of such a wonderful service!

I made a mistake this morning. I said that there was no power in the Worship Center. There WAS POWER in the Worship Center. It just didn't come from Progress Energy. It came from a completely different source!! I'll go out on a limb and say if we could tap into THAT power more often...this world would be a different place!!

Here's a little taste of worship from this morning. It was AWESOME!!!

Oh yeah...AND we got to end the day by announcing Jon Robinson as candidate for the Student Pastor position at Stetson Baptist Church. We are SO excited to have Jon and Jessica joining our team. God has done so many great things through Jon during interim. We know that God has some exciting plans for our Student Ministry under Jon's leadership going forward!! Here's the announcement flyer. I hope you'll take a chance to attend one of these opportunities to get to know Jon and Jessica a little better.
It was a GREAT day. As I said before. Not a day that I'll soon forget. I believe that what happened at Stetson Baptist Church today is what was supposed to happen. I'm glad that I got to be a part of such a special day of worship. I hope that the people that came today will come back next week to see what's in store. One thing I can say for don't want to miss church because you NEVER know what's going to happen!!!

Monday, May 9, 2011


This Mississippi River is rising! You’re probably asking, “What does that have to do with us way down here in Florida?” Well, it doesn’t have anything to do with us directly, but there’s a body of Christ in Vidalia, LA that I care a great deal about. Vidalia is RIGHT on the Misssissippi River. I’m writing to ask you to pray for the people of Vidalia, LA. I’m asking you to pray for people that we called “brother, sister, and friend” for 7 years of our life.

You see, in 1927, the Mississippi River flooded the little river town of Vidalia, LA with up to 30 feet of water. In 1937, the river reached its high water mark. That year, the river crested (reached its maximum height) at 58.04 feet. In 2008, the river crested at 57.03 feet. I remember that time very well. It was pretty scary as the immense river lapped the lip of the Vidalia Riverfront. A couple of teenagers ran out into the river on a dare. Before they knew what had happened, they were being swept down the raging current out of control. If it were not for the heroics of a couple of men that happened to see the whole thing develop, those two boys would have been picked up somewhere around Baton Rouge (about 90 miles downriver.)

The current prediction is that the river will crest at 64 feet on May 21st. Yes, you read that right…SIX FEET above the top level it reached in 1937. Recorded history has never seen river levels as high as they will be this year. Thankfully, after the 1927 flood, the Flood Control Act began developing a system of levees to prevent any such disaster ever happening again, but there is great fear in that little river town right now. Should a levee fail (remember the images from Katrina in New Orleans)…should the river reach greater heights…should the water overtop the levee at any point…any of these scenarios would spell disaster for the people of Vidalia.

It was all put into perspective for me today when I saw a picture of the river reaching the Vidalia Riverfront (a featured development of that little town.) In the background of the picture was a steeple. I know that steeple very well because I placed the cross on top of that steeple as we renovated the sanctuary of FBC Vidalia.  Literally, a mere mile from the Mississippi River lies the center of that congregation that means such a great deal to me. They are scared. They are nervous. And, I ask you to pray for them.

Many of our Louisiana friends are packing up their precious belongings and moving to high ground. Photographs, keepsakes, and memories are all moving to flood-proof locations, but houses can’t be moved. So, I’m asking you to pray for the people of Vidalia.

Now, to make this more personal. Put yourself in the place of the people of the Miss-Lou. If you had to evacuate your home, what would you take with you. Let’s just assume that you’d take your family (including pets). Other than that, what is most important to you? What would you want to save if you knew that everything left in your house would potentially be destroyed? Let’s limit it to ONE thing. What physical thing is MOST important to you? What would you not want to do life without?

I hope that we’ll never be in that situation. I know that some of you HAVE been in that situation before. I also hope that the things that are most important in your life promote your faith and your family (two of the most important things that God gives us.) Thank you for praying for Vidalia and the people of that little town. I know that God has a purpose in all things and, even in this, I’m praying that He will receive the glory!!!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

I'm not back, but I'm trying...

I'm a terrible blogger, but I was inspired by this post from Jon Acuff. So, I'm taking the challenge to write something once a week for the next 90 days. We'll see from there.

This morning, I introduced a concept that is challenging for church people (me included.) That concept is that we shouldn't give to satisfy our need to share the Gospel. We were challenging our church to reach a $13,000 North American Missions goal this morning, and I told the church that if they weren't willing to "go" then they shouldn't "give." That might just hurt our ability to reach our goal because my experience is that giving is much easier than going. But, Jesus didn't send us out by saying, "Give ye therefore into all creation." No...he said "GO into all creation." So, we're supposed to GO into the world and share the message of Salvation in Jesus Christ. Then that going should be a motivation for us to GIVE to others who are doing the same!

We'll see how the offering went later, but for right now, I'm thinking about my own challenging of "going." Who am I "going" to? Who am I trying to reach for the kingdom of God right now? Equal question...who are YOU trying to reach for the kingdom of God right now? We have the message of salvation, forgiveness, eternal life, and a better life...who are you sharing it with???

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Jello Jigglers

If you were in either of our morning worship services today, you heard the illustration about Jonah and the Jello Jigglers. I am linking the blog post from that day. Click HERE to go there.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Friday, August 28, 2009


On Sunday, August 28th, 2005, First Baptist Church had a normal church service. It would be the last normal church service we would have for a while. As a matter of fact, I would say that our church was NEVER the same.

On that night, one of our members was at the church when a couple came to the door of the gym and knocked seeking shelter for their family from traveling. They were from New Orleans, and Hurricane Katrina was making a beeline for that part of the Louisiana coast. The church member called me at home and said that she was going to allow the couple to spend the night in the gym. I went up and met with the couple and told them that we would be happy for them to rest in our facility, but that we weren't equipped as a shelter. You see, there were several Red Cross shelters in our area and LOTS more north of Vidalia in places like Monroe and Shreveport. We were able to secure a couple of air mattresses for the family and some bed linens. We were happy to do our part to make this evacuee family comfortable for the night. But the job was not over...

While we were getting that family situated, another car pulled into the parking lot. Another family got out and wanted a place to stay. I didn't know if we could find another bed, but they were insistent. I remember what they said (in a pretty strong cajun accent)... "We're so tired, we don't need a bed. If you'll just let us lay on the floor and sleep, we'll be SO appreciative." We couldn't do that, so we called around and found another couple of air mattresses for the couple to sleep. They WERE appreciative! Another couple...another car...another family... Before morning, we were housing over 110 people in our gym. To this day, I don't know where they all came from. I don't know how they found our church. All I know is that it was our privilege to serve these hurting people.

Before long, there were about 25 church members at the gym bringing mattresses (like real ones...not the blow-up kind), extra clothes, food, drinks, supplies.... Basically anything that could be needed. I was amazed as I saw FBCV come together in a way that it never had before to help these people. The next morning, as people began to awake, we realized that they needed something to eat. I think that morning, somebody went and got LOTS of donuts to feed people. That would be the worst meal our "friends" would eat in the time they were with us. By lunchtime, we had a FULL-ON SOUTHERN BAPTIST POTLUCK going on! It was amazing! By the looks on their faces, I think some of those people had NEVER seen food like that. (If there's one thing a Baptist church can's throw an "eatin' meetin'.")

For three weeks, it was our privilege to serve those wonderful people. They thought we were doing them a favor, but it was us who received the blessing. They thought we were serving them, but in many ways, they were serving us.

Some stories from that time...

One couple was made up of an un-believing husband, daughter, and son-in-law--and a believing wife and son. The wife told us later that all the way out of St. Bernard Parish, the husband kept asking his wife, "Where's your God now? Why won't some of these churches open their doors and help us? Where's all of those people that you say are so good?" She said that she had come to a point of thinking some of the same questions and looked up to ask God and that's when she saw our church! We saw that son-in-law and daughter make decisions to follow Christ in the time they were here. We also saw the hard exterior of that husband start to crack as we just continued to serve that family (don't know if he ever made a decision for Jesus, but I know he was closer when he left than when he came). They stayed with us for quite some time. We threw a baby shower for the daughter. We ended up putting them in a house right down the road from the street where they stayed until they could return to their home.

One lady was there with her daughter. You could tell by one look at the lady that she had a rough life. A conversation would only confirm that suspicion. She had dabbled in wicca, voodoo, occult, and just about anything else you could imagine. She also had a rough background with drugs and alcohol. She dressed very inappropriately. Her daughter was really messed up. It was a tough situation. I remember something she said after she started attending church services AND Sunday School. She said, "I've never had a group of people treat me like you all have treated me." You see, some of our ladies adopted this young lady. They took her shopping for some appropriate clothes. They tried to help her get a job. Most of all they just prayed for her. I saw her the other day in Wal-Mart. I would love to tell you that she's still in church. I can't say that (she may be, but not in our church,) but what I can say is that the evil that lurked in her eyes is gone! It's been replaced by love because she felt the power of that love in her life.

I remember our first Wednesday night after our shelter opened. We announced to everyone that we were going to have a service and they were welcome to come. We didn't force anyone to come, but we certainly welcomed them. I was kind of disappointed when we started the service and only one of our evacuees was in the Sanctuary. However, about ten minutes later, the doors opened and another couple filed in and sat on the back row. Several minutes later, the doors opened again and an entire family sat on the back row. Before the end of the service, about 15 of our evacuees had joined us for worship and prayer. Compare that to the last Sunday that we had our shelter. Not only were almost ALL of our evacuees in our church, but they weren't sitting on the back row anymore. No, they were sitting among our church members....the ones that they had learned to call their "family."

It was a sad day when we had to close our shelter. We announced on week two that we would be closing on week three. Several of the local Red Cross shelters had emptied out, so there was room for the people in our shelter. Even our evacuees had dwindled by some of them going home and some of them seeking a more permanent solution. I remember telling them that we would not allow them to go unless they had a place to go to. That meant that we had to work with them individually to find either another shelter or (for many of them) a home. One by one, we would pray for each evacuee and then send them off to what would be their more permanent dwelling.

Some would think that the FBCV shelter was for the evacuees. I would disagree. I think our shelter was for us. I think God allowed us to host those wonderful people in our church to show us how to love show us how to reach out show us how much HE loved US!

You see, we were serving those people because they had no one else to serve them. In the same way, Jesus came to serve us because He knew that there was no other way for us to get to Him. He provided us shelter from the storms of this life. (Not that we don't get rained on...but we always have a refuge.) He provided us sustenance for our souls. He provided us rest for our weary backs. He provided for us what we couldn't provide for ourselves. And when there are those times that the world begins to ask us difficult questions about our God and we begin to ask those questions ourselves...let us look up to heaven and see the's the Cross! That's the answer! The simple fact that Jesus came to live on this earth to redeem us from ourselves and our sin...that's the answer. And THAT is worth remembering...

Wednesday, August 26, 2009