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Thanks

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NIV)

The election is over. Barack Obama is going to be our next President, so remember to pray for him, even if you didn’t vote for him.

Since the election is over, I can devote more time to this blog which took a backseat to the politics for awhile. God didn’t take a back seat to politics (sometimes He did unfortunately), but my writing about it did. So after the hiatus of a month, I’m back and ready to start again. This entry is going to be about giving thanks. It has been a tough 1-2 years for many people. Our economy has been hit hard, especially in the housing market. That in turn, has affected quite a few people in the Palm Coast, Fl community. I have friends amongst those that are struggling and it’s hard to hear because 2-3 years ago, many of them were doing very well in large part because of the housing boom. But market collapse has hit those areas of business – mortgage, real estate and construction – where many people earned their living.

My company has had to lay off people, but I am thankful that my position is one that cannot be eliminated (I could, but the position can’t) and I am thankful that I have been working at the same job for 11 years which has allowed me to build up some job security. I also have a job (IT) that hasn’t been effected in a major way by the economy.

My wife Sylvia needed to find some work and she was praying that she would be able to work at home. God answered those prayers and she babysits in our home for three children during the week. I’m thankful to have such a wonderful wife who babysits all day and still takes care of a home, two kids of her own, her husband many times, and is also the nursery director Parkview Baptist Church. Her plate is full.

I am thankful that I have two wonderful children. Yes, they often drive us crazy and there times when they don’t behave, answer back or are just plain unbearable to be around. But we’ve not had to deal with any disciplinary problems at school in any way. Both of the kids do well in school and their teachers speak highly of both of them.

I am thankful for the friends I have made. One decision Sylvia and I made a couple of years ago was to become Life Group leaders and it was a decision where we have reaped nothing but rewards in the friends that we have made and in the knowledge and wisdom we have gained from the studies we have done and from the eclectic mix of different people we have had in our group. We never wanted to pigeonhole our group to a certain age level or ‘experience’ level and that has worked out so well because different people get to see those differing perspectives and its a blessing to all of us.

Q: “What do you call a guy that hangs around with four musicians?”
A: “A drummer”

There are many musicians that are drummers but there are many drummers that are not musicians. I fall into the latter category. However, God has seen fit to bless me with a sense of rhythm and as such, I thank Him for giving me the ability to take to the church stage once every other week with people far more talented than I am and play worship music for God and for our congregation. The worship ministry is one of the most demanding at our church. With rehearsals and services, worship team members give anywhere from 8-10 hours of their time in ministry service for the week. It’s demanding, but it is also very rewarding. I have made good friends there. It’s interesting to see how things have changed at Parkview since May, 2005 when I first played a weekend service. Aside from Denise Peters, the Pastors wife and one of our keyboardists, I am the only worship band member from that time. We’ve seen band members come and go, but the best thing is, the worship has never been better and I am thankful that God sent Derek Overton to our church. He’s been there for around 18 months and has simply taken the worship at Parkview to a whole new level.

Finally (in this blog entry anyway), I am thankful to my Pastor, Greg Peters. When he asks, “How are you doing?” he really wants to know. He’ll joke about his wonderful wife, Denise but he’s never shy about expressing his love for her. He speaks with warmth and genuine love about his son Seth. He preaches biblical truth and is never concerned about consequences and never makes apologies for God’s word. When he preaches he does so with an air of transparency, always preaching to the congregation and not at the congregation.

“Love your enemies.”

Man. That’s a tough one isn’t it? The full quote is from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus says in Matthew 5:44:

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

It’s hard enough sometimes loving people that I like, let along loving my enemies. Pray for those that persecute me? Why?

That’s the operative question:

Why must I love my enemies and pray for those who persecute me?

I have several thoughts on this:

1. We will not turn into an enemy. What I mean by this is, as humans, we tend to be vindictive. How many times have we done something to somebody that was retribution for the same thing they did to us?

2. Our enemy does not have victory over us. In fact, our love of them, could bring about change in their own lives. Look at the profound effect Jesus had on people who would be considered enemies.

3. We’re able to draw closer to God the Father. Think about it. If we disobey the very commandment His Son’s laid upon us to love our enemies, aren’t we then making ourselves an enemy of God and pushing him away instead of drawing close?

4. Very simple: It’s what Jesus would do. That’s where the WWJD bracelets come into play for a practical purpose instead of a fashionable purpose.

Worship & Music

Man, I have been such a slacker! It’s been quite awhile since I’ve updated this blog. Truth is, I have been neglecting it due to politics where I’ve been writing up a storm. But a few people have actually said, “Hey, you haven’t written anything in awhile” so I know at least 2-3 people are reading!

I’ll probably get into a little trouble with this entry, but I’m really glad that I live in the time that I do. I enjoy music immensely. I enjoy playing music…well, playing the drums anyway. Drummers are often the punch-line for jokes. “What do you call that guy who hangs around with four musicians? A drummer!” Har har. I really enjoy the times when I get to help lead worship at our church. What does any of that have to do with the time I live in? Well, Christian music has changed quite a bit over the last 20 years or so. For the better. When I was younger, I had a record player and I listened to my parents records. So there was a lot of things like The Beatles, Elton John, Billy Joel, The Eagles, The Rolling Stones, etc. The 80’s saw more transitions in popular music styles than I can remember. It started out with punk, then went on to new wave. Then bands like Genesis and Huey Lewis and The News dominated. Rap got really big and then the hair band wave rode out the rest of the 80’s into the 90’s when grunge and a new form of hip-hop music took over. With my kids getting older, I listen to music that I otherwise loathe, just to keep up with the times. It also allows me to discuss with them, the music they enjoy intelligently.

Unfortunately, there are many Christians who believe that anything heavier or faster than “When The Roll Is Called Up Yonder” is not Christ-like and there’s been a lot of controversy over the years about what constitutes ‘real’ Christian music. Let’s look at something. Read the lyrics below:

I’m just another person, I’m just another man.
I was the one that hurt Him, I finally understand.
Now I know that for certain I caused the nails to land,
That left Him dead and murdered, pierced in feet and hands.

Please go here to listen to the song those lyrics are from.

Now read these lyrics:

This need is real in my soul I feel the love You shared that’s why I can’t say no again
My thoughts are confused for my sins You’re abused
My heart it screams, to open up and let You in

Please go here and listen to the song those lyrics are from.

It’s possible you may not like either style in the above examples. But are either one of those songs “un-Christian.” Not to me. Both are very bold in their witness of Jesus Christ. That is what’s key. Christians get far to hung up on what is the “right” kind of music, but let’s be honest here. How many teenage kids out there want to listen to Twila Paris or Michael W. Smith? We live in a technological age, where access to music is insanely easy to come by and it’s become more than something to pass the time for many of them. It’s part of their lives every day. If we steer kids away from rock bands like Kutless, hip-hop acts like KJ-52 and even more extreme bands like Demon Hunter (serious metal) we’re going to lose more of them to the likes of The Pussycat Dolls and Kanye West.

Here is what the lead singer of Demon Hunter had to say about their music:

Music becomes a lifestyle for teens. It’s more than a hobby to them, which is something that could probably be better understood by teachers, parents, and preachers. Music is a very important tool in youths’ lives. It can determine the standard by which they establish their lifestyle, dress, belief system, respect. What we do in our music is very much about understanding culture and youth. This is not watering down the message of Christ. We bring young people truth through a biblical Christ-centered outlook and worldview in a way that they can be excited about.

That is so true. Read the rest of the interview here. It’s fascinating because chances are, most people, if they saw these guys walking towards them:

they’d probably run away. But these guys are fire for the Lord. That’s what matters. I’m not a fan of Demon Hunter as that music is a little more hardcore than I am used to. But if my kids wanted to listen to it, I’d say, “Go right ahead.”

Taming The Tongue

I’ve been fortunate over the last few weeks to reading the book of James to prepare for a small group study on that book and also to have the Pastor at our church doing a series on the same book.

My wife and I have been struggling for some time now with our son Michael who is 11 years old. His mouth has gotten him into all sorts of trouble lately and despite our best efforts at discipline and lectures, he still wasn’t “getting it.” He’d lose television privileges and video game privileges. He wasn’t allowed to have a friend stay over this weekend because of he was punished. On Saturday morning, his mouth got him into trouble again and he lost a bike ride he was looking forward to. That really upset him and I finally decided that it was time for me to have a talk with him from a biblical perspective.

I read to the third chapter of James to him from the NIV bible and then broke it down for him. He especially understood the point about the bit in the horses mouth and the rudder on a ship. I explained in detail that with just the tone of his voice that his tongue was getting him into trouble. He wasn’t clear on the issue so I told him that when he yells out “What?” in a particular way when we call him, that while he is saying “What” his tone is saying, “Dad, why are you bothering me?” That seemed to surprise him as if he didn’t know. And I probably realized that I had never communicated it that way to him othe than to say, “Don’t say ‘What’ to me like that!”

I prayed with him and asked God to give him the strength to control his tongue and on Sunday he was much better. I had to remind him several times of our conversation. We’ll see how it goes as the days go by, but it was a good start and it reminded me that he can now more easily understand biblical principles and I need to share that with him more and more.

A Question To Ponder

We know Christ is always with us. He always right there with us. But here’s a question:

Would you do some of the things you do if you could see Him standing there next to you?

God Completes

Probably one of the more famous movie lines in cinema history comes from the movie Jerry Maguire where Jerry (Tom Cruise) says to Dorothy (Renee Zellweger), “You complete me.”

Completion is also part of what God has for us. God has never and will never start anything that is not going to be finished. That’s great news for a believer.

As I have promised to God that I will start to commit my life more fully to him, I was hit with pangs of doubt about my own salvation not more than a week ago. I couldn’t remember that exact moment – that exact date and time when I stepped across the line of faith and accepted Christ as my Savior as so many other people profess. They tell those stories and suddenly, I realized I didn’t have that story to tell. And that scared me. These doubts started to fill my mind.

Thankfully, I have people around me that know more than I do and these people were able to counsel me in a way that helped me to feel more confident about my own faith. I know I am saved and I know that salvation won’t be taken away. There have been some things I have read and listened to that I know have been brought before me so that I can have that confidence. The first was a podcast by James MacDonald, of which I wrote about previously. He was continuing to talk about worldliness vs. holiness. And he said:

“Either you love the Father, or you love the world. Now I’m not saying that as a follower of Christ that I don’t feel the world snapping at my heels. I’m not saying that sometimes I don’t struggle or even fail in worldly temptations. But now I’m asking you. Look at the landscape of your life. Do you love the Lord? Or do you love the world? Because if you love the world, you’re not saved. You can say, ‘But I prayed a prayer. I was in Awana. I was nine years old and I said these words. Someone wrote them on a card and…..’ – Big deal. “I walked forward at a service and …’ – So what? Jesus didn’t say, “If they have a story, I know them.” Jesus said by their…..fruits…Matthew 7….you will know them.”

Emphasis mine. Something else I read was in book, “What Was I Thinking” by Steve Brown. He talked about completion and said it was written in Philippians 1:6

being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

He went on to explain:

What this means is: what God begins, he always completes; so just the fact that of its beginning is the absolute promise of its completion.

Wow. That’s all I could say. That’s all I can still say.

War Within Me

My Life Group has done two studies by James MacDonald. The first was ‘Gripped by The Greatness of God’ and the second was (and still is!) ‘Downpour.’ MacDonald is a powerful speaker and preacher and his teaching comes straight from the Bible. I’ve been listening to his daily podcast lately. You can find it at his website. They are less than 20 minutes long and well worth the listen.

The one I listened to most recently had to do with worldly things and how Christians had to avoid getting caught up in worldly things to the detriment of our faith. He read from 1 John 2:15-17:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

He said a better translation of ‘lust’ is ‘desire’ as lust often has a sexual connotation to it. He then went on to specifically say it wasn’t the ‘world’ itself we should be concerned about, but the things in it. What are some of the things in the world that Christians struggle not to love?

1. Money
2. Travel
3. Hobbies
4. Sports
5. Entertainment (Movies, Television, Internet)
6. Substances (Food, Tobacco, Alcohol, Drugs)
7. Exercise (Fitness, Body beautiful)
8. My home, possessions, stuff
9. My career
10. My position

He pointed out the above is not action sin but attitude sin. Things that aren’t inherently bad, except they often crowd out better things.

We have to decide. Do we love the Lord? Or do we love the world?