My New Blog 4 Worship Leaders

It’s official: I’ve started a new website just for worship leaders: www.forworshipleaders.com. It’s a simple site that provides thought-provoking blog entries on leadership and theology, incredible resources (from gear to websites to conference recommendations), and links to some other things that I’m up to these days. If you are in any way involved in worship leadership, I’d love for you to visit, subscribe, and join the conversation that has already started! Blessings to you today…

Yours,
Steven

Letting of (False) Control

You ever have one of those moments where you feel like you get a revelation from God in a split-second? I think I had one of those today…

I found myself anxious and angry for a short time today. The reason was that I’m not able to eat the things I want to. Then the revelation came.

I get anxious about fasting because I feel like I’m giving up (too much) control. Hear me out. Sometimes I feel like there is so much in my life that is out of my control. As a result, I realized today that I cling to whatever vestiges of control I actually have. Eating is a BIG one.

Like I said in an earlier post, typically if I feel the desire to go out for pizza, I’m going out for pizza! Eating is sort of the one area of my life that I don’t skimp on. PF Chang’s craving? Cool, let’s go. It’s a sense of control for me. I want, I take.

Control isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But in that moment of revelation something else showed up: I fear letting go of control because somewhere deep down, I feel like letting go of the few areas I actually have authority over will mean that I’ll lose my mind. Kind of weird logic isn’t it?

If you’ve ever seen the music video for 1000 Generations’ song “Fail Us Not,” you know that a struggle for me is anxiety. It’s awful and at times it feels out of control. Somehow over the years, I’ve tied my “sanity” to my sense of (false) control. Again, it doesn’t matter that it’s food; it’s simply control. Odd, but true.

So here I sit with this revelation. My next step is to simply bring this before my Father and repent. I’m ready to be free of all that tries to hold me down.

How about you? Are there any areas of control that give you a sense of (false) authority? I know that’s a deep one, but I’m just curious if you struggle with something weird and illogical like this to?

With love,
Steven

What Is Lent?

-From BibleGateway.com

What is Lent? Is it an official Christian holiday? Was it instituted in the Bible? What does it mean to observe Lent, and are Christians “required” to do so? For the interested, we’ll try to answer those questions here.

Lent is the span of time in the church calendar that starts with Ash Wednesday and ends with Easter Sunday. Ash Wednesday commemorates the beginning of Jesus’ 40-day fasting and temptation in the desert, and Easter Sunday commemorates Jesus’ resurrection from the grave after his crucifixion.

Lent, then, is generally observed as a time for Christians to reflect, repent, and pray as a way of preparing their hearts for Easter. It is commonly observed by many Christian denominations—Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran, and others—although not every Christian church or denomination does so. Because Lent is not officially instituted in Scripture, observing it isn’t in any way a “requirement” of Christianity. However, Christians from many different theological persuasions choose to observe it as a way of focusing their thoughts on Jesus Christ during the Easter season.

How does one observe Lent? It differs from person to person and church to church, but some of the things Christians opt to do to observe Lent include:

  • On the first day of Lent (Ash Wednesday), some Christians mark their foreheads with ash as a symbol of sorrow and mourning over their sin. (See Job 42 for an example of ash used as a symbol of repentance.)
  • Special worship services, or additions to regular worship services, that focus in various ways on man’s need for repentance. This often takes the form of extra Scripture readings and prayer.
  • Some Christians choose to give up a habit or behavior during Lent as an exercise in prayerful self-denial. This might range from something as simple as not drinking soda during Lent to a full-blown program of fasting.
  • Some Christians commit to a special devotional activity during Lent—for example, daily Scripture reading, regular prayer for a specific person or topic throughout Lent, or volunteer work in their community.

The choice to observe Lent is a personal one—the whole point is to focus your heart and mind on Jesus during the journey to Easter. There’s no requirement to observe it, nor should you feel guilted into participating. However, millions of Christians around the world do observe Lent each year; if you’ve never done so, why not give it a try? Whether you observe Lent in a small or major way, you’ll be amazed at what happens when you devote a part of each day to reflecting on Jesus Christ and God’s Word.

We invite you to consider other ways that you can deepen your relationship with Jesus over the coming weeks. Whether you call it “Lent observance” or “daily devotions” or anything else, time spent reflecting on Jesus Christ is time well spent!

Overcoming…

My brother just came out of something really painful. What’s weird about it is that I pretty much went through the exact same thing several years before he did. What’s weirder still is that as we talked about his situation, he had no clue that I had been through a similar event. You see, I had never told him.

It wasn’t because I didn’t want him to know. Sure, I was feeling bad about it, but it wasn’t that I didn’t want him to know. It wasn’t even that he wasn’t around, as we lived in the same house at the time!! I had just done a bad job of being transparent and sharing my life. I wasn’t telling my stories.

Revelation 12:11 says, “And they (being us, as believers) overcame him (the devil and his wiles) by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death.” This Scripture says that we overcome by 2 things: the blood of Christ, and the word of our testimony. Read: we overcome partly by SHARING OUR STORY.

This is fascinating. We will have victory in our lives not by pretending to have it all together or by living in cloistered closets, but by sharing the good and the bad of our lives with others. The ups and the downs; the highs and lows; the hills and valleys. Everything that is our story.

As a worship leader, I hear from folks often who really think that I have it all together. I guess they just assume that since I’m elevated off the ground by 12-24″ and have a microphone with a cord going into some speakers that I’m somehow different! When I hear stuff like this I wonder if I’m doing a bad job of being real. Truly, I believe that it is by being transparent and sharing our stories (both the testimonies of God’s faithfulness and the disappointments of life in a fallen world) helps people OVERCOME.

Jesus cried in front of His disciples. Sure, there were plenty of stories to share about God’s faithfulness, but there were moments of tears too. He wasn’t afraid to show His sorrows as well as His joys.

The truth is, if I hadn’t gone through that painful season of my life, I would not have the countless blessings that I now have. I’m on the other side now! It was great sharing from this side, but I learned a bit today that I need to share “the word of my testimony” at all times, in all seasons. And because I went through that season of life, I’m able to give encouragement and comfort to someone who feels a bit disillusioned. I’m able to help someone overcome.

Steven

Me & My Big Mouth

Hello friend. Recently I gave a talk at my home church, the Vineyard Community Church in Indianapolis.

How often do we flippantly say things that, if taken seriously, could really do some damage (either to ourselves or others). James 3 says that there is great power in the tongue. “Out of the same mouth comes blessing and cursing.” The Gospels declare that “out of the mouth, the heart speaks.” Proverbs 18:21 tells us that “the power of life and death is in the tongue.” I think that most of the time, we just don’t realize how powerful our words truly are.

I wanted to share this talk with you and invite you to listen in by clicking here.

Be encouraged,
Steven

Playing At the Indy State Fair Memorial Service…

On Saturday, August 13th, 2011, the main stage at the Indiana State Fair collapsed. With it, 5 people lost their lives and many more were seriously injured. Most of us at home sat  in front of our TVs just in shock. It was awful to watch as they played the same video clips over and over again. How could this have happened?

Here’s something you may not have seen in the news reports though: without even a second’s thought, dozens and dozens of concertgoers rushed not to the exit, but straight to the stage to lend a hand. You see, many of the people in the front rows were trapped underneath the rubble. No one knew exactly what to do, but these heroes that rushed forward knew they had to do something. Suddenly, someone yelled out “lift on three!” “1, 2, 3!!” All of a sudden, the crowd was pulling people out, getting them to medical personnel, and sticking it out to make sure no one was left behind. It was amazing to see.

It truly left me with a sense of awe. Wow, what would I have done? Would I have run to the exit, or to the stage? I felt so proud to be a Hoosier that night, and I still do today. That is true heroism.

The next day, Sunday, the news reports had confirmed that 5 folks had lost their lives in the incident and that there would a memorial service held in their honor. Shortly after, we were contacted by a friend to see if we would be willing to play during this service. Both Amanda and I felt honored to be asked to apart of such a service and of course said “yes.”

We decided early on that “Fail Us Not” would be the most fitting song. This song does not deny the existence of tragedy, but doesn’t end the story with it either. It boldly declares that God is above all things, and faithful throughout. Dr. William Enright’s words at the memorial seemed to echo the sentiment perfectly. I thought what he had to say was beautiful and powerful (you can view his message at the service by clicking here). 8:59pm on Saturday was horrible for sure, but it shall not be the last word.

I don’t get nervous often when we play, but I was incredibly nervous at the memorial. Honestly, I didn’t even know that the service was going to be televised nor did I know that it would be covered by so many news sources. I wasn’t nervous because of that. I was nervous because as I looked out at the crowd and saw people’s faces, I wanted to say something meaningful and hopeful to them. I wanted “Fail Us Not” to bring God’s peace in the midst of their grief and despair. I wanted them to have hope.

It is always tough when you are playing a song and you see people crying. You’re not sure if you’re helping or hurting. In the midst of these times, I am always aware that it’s not about me, but that God is in our midst and He is active. He is moving and touching. Honestly, I don’t know if “Fail Us Not” was helpful or not, but I know that the God that we sing of is an “ever-present help in times of trouble.” To be sure, Psalm 46 speaks beautifully…

 1 God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
   and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
   and the mountains quake with their surging.
7 The LORD Almighty is with us;

   the God of Jacob is our fortress.

The service was closed out by all of us singing “Amazing Grace:”

When we’ve been there (heaven) 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun,
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we first begun…

Our tragedies are real and they can be awful. But they are not the last word. Praise God that He reserves that right and that He will make all things new, and set everything aright.

Peace be to you,
Steven

Don’t Become Too Likely

A great read from Pastor Steven Furtick:

If you look throughout the Bible, you’ll notice a striking trend:
God has an affinity for the overlooked and unlikely.

He likes to take somebody that no one else has noticed and raise them up. He likes to take somebody who’s felt a little underwhelmed by their own personality and appearance and overwhelm the world with how great He can make them by His glory and for His glory.

Noah.
Abraham.
Moses.
David.
The disciples.
Paul.

Fewer people were ever more unlikely to be used by God powerfully. And few people have ever been used by God more powerfully.

But then you have people like Uzziah. An incredibly able and successful king in Israel who enjoyed the favor of God for a season. He won countless battles. Built numerous buildings. But then in one of the most haunting and terrifying verses in the Bible, everything turned:
His fame spread far and wide, for he was greatly helped until he became powerful. But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall (2 Chronicles 26:15-16).

It seems like the more human resources of human power you accumulate, the less likely you are to see the miracle power and potential of God in your life. And that’s because the likelier you become, the more unlikely it will be that God will get the glory due Him.

Now that’s only bad news if you’re perfect. But if you feel under resourced to do what you know God’s called you to do through your life, that’s good. If you feel like you don’t have the education you should have, that’s good. If you feel like the town you’re from would make Nazareth look like a booming metropolis, that’s good.

You are at the top of His list as a kingdom candidate for kingdom usefulness.

When all the smoke clears and the dust settles in your life, if you’re overlooked and unlikely, then everybody has to blame God. Everybody has to blame Jesus. Everybody has to look to Him because it only could have been Him. And that’s a good place to be.

Don’t become too likely. Jesus likes using the unlikely.

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