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    Views and opinions expressed in this blog should not be associated with Hyde Park Baptist Church unless specifically stated. You know the drill...this is just me and my thoughts.
  • Definition of Worship

    "Worship is communion with God in which believers, by grace, center their mind's attention and their heart's affection on the Lord, humby glorifying God in response to His greatness and His Word." ~Dr. Bruce Leafblad
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First Mini-mester as a Doctoral Student

If anyone is bored, needs help falling asleep, or just enjoys reading, or maybe you’ve wondered what doctoral work looks like…this Capstone project was my final paper in the first mini-mester at Liberty.

I spent probably 24 estimated hours total researching and writing this paper. I think it turned out okay. I would love to hear opinions from any of you, especially pastors and teachers I’ve worked with.

The project was “The Story of Worship” – briefly chronicling the story of worship from Genesis to Revelation.

Capstone Project


Who do you love?

When that lawyer came to Jesus and asked what the greatest commandment was, he wanted to know what one thing he needed to do to gain eternal life. Just give me one thing, one action, I’ll do it, whatever it takes.
But Jesus, knowing what’s truly in every man’s heart, knew that he needed to hear something more…and in turn we needed to hear more.
So Jesus responded by saying the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, but the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself.
Many churches use this as their mission statement, “Love God, Love Others.” But we often miss a really important part…I know I have missed this most of my life.
It’s those last two words of Jesus…”As yourself.” Love others just as much as you love yourself…with the implication that you should love yourself, and out of that, love others.
What if you don’t love yourself? I haven’t loved myself for a long time. I’m desparately trying to work through that and it’s symptoms. The one thing I keep having to remind myself over and over again is that God loves me…and that alone makes me worthy.
Who am I to talk such trash to one of God’s beloved (myself)? I don’t know about you, but I’m the biggest bully on my own block. I’m the meanest kid I know. I’ve suffered a lot from others words about and to me…but none of them even hold a candle to how I speak to myself.
We’ve got to stop. I’ve got to stop. My negative words to myself impact every area of my life…how well I love my God, how well I love my wife, how well I love my kids, how well I love others.
As unworthy as I may feel, or as unworthy as you may feel, I keep hearing these words, “Child you are loved.” I am God’s beloved. I am worthy, worth the pain and death of His own Son. I am an heir of the Kingdom of God. I am a sibling by adoption to Jesus Christ…who holds everything together by His own Name.
When we see ourselves the way God sees us, that truth transforms us, renews our minds, and comforts us to no end. It leads us to love God better and, in turn, love others better.
Do you love you? I’m learning to love me…and no lie, I’ve hated myself for so long, I’m battling this everyday…but it’s a battle I must fight. It’s a battle I must win…for the sake of my God, myself, my family, my calling to each of you.
Your fight is the same. Stop putting on the masks, get real with God and yourself, and start loving you.
1 Peter 2:9-10 (TLB), “But you are not like that, for you have been chosen by God himself—you are priests of the King, you are holy and pure, you are God’s very own—all this so that you may show to others how God called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were less than nothing; now you are God’s own. Once you knew very little of God’s kindness; now your very lives have been changed by it.”

My newest adventure…

I have been drawn to teaching for a long time. In high school, as a member of the terribly awesome and widely feared Lawrence County High School Band, music was everything to me. I had planned on pursuing a music degree and becoming a band director but God had other plans for my life and that music degree still came, though delayed a few years, and was in music ministry instead.

But that desire to teach has never left me. I tried to pursue music education while working on my master’s degree but, again, God had other plans and it just simply didn’t work out and I stayed with ministry as a focus.

While serving a church in Texas, I had an opportunity to teach an AP Music Theory class in the local high school. It was an awesome experience with some awesome students and reawakened the teaching bug in me.

But nothing developed. There was one private Christian school in Clearwater, FL that was pretty interested in me at one point, but my wife and I couldn’t take that particular leap of faith simply for the low salary being offered. It was a significant cut from even my ministry position…and we all know how low that pay tends to be.

I also pursued 3 different doctoral degrees. The DMA in Music Education from Boston University (I didn’t have BM or MM degrees in Music Ed so I wasn’t accepted), a DMA in Conducting from the University of Georgia (the conducting chair was leaving and the conducting department wasn’t accepting new students) and a DMin in Worship from Liberty University (accepted but can’t get past the amount of leveling courses needed and the extremely high tuition). Not being accepted or comfortable in any of the three varying degree programs I had pretty much lost hope in any future in the collegiate teaching world.

I had an opportunity to interview for an opening at Anderson University as the Director of the Worship Leadeship program. I was one of three finalists but did not make the cut primarily for not having any experience teaching at the collegiate level.

But then God decided it was time. Seriously, no other possiblity but God saying, “It’s time.” Through a painful departure from one church and a highly stressful unemployment period, God directed me to an unlikely place I probably would not have considered otherwise…Lumberton, NC and Hyde Park Baptist Church. Again, God being faithful like He is, HP has wound up being a perfect fit for me, my strengths, and my vision for ministry.

Having lunch one day with a potential bass player for our worship band, during the small talk stage I found out he was a math/physics instructor at the local community college. I told him the Reader’s Digest version of my desire to teach at some point later in life and we moved on in our conversation to other things. A few weeks later, he sent me a message about a job that had just been posted at the college for an adjunct music appreciation instructor, and that he thought I should apply.

Going through the proper channels at my church with the lead pastor and personnel team, I applied and got the position!

So, beginning next week, I begin my journey of finally teaching music at the collegiate level. I’m still trying to decide if I’m really excited or completely scared!

Nonetheless, I am 100% confident God has orchestrated this particular opportunity and I know He will cover me with all the peace that I need. In that I am confident.

Why are we here?

I was studying a little this morning in Ephesians.

I was trying to reconcile my belief that we were created primarily to worship God. In Isaiah 43:7, God says that He created us for His glory…we were specifically designed to bring Him glory, to worship Him with all of our lives.

This morning, I am challenged by Ephesians 2:10 that says we were “created in Christ Jesus to do good works.”

So why are we here? Is it “to worship” or “do good works”?

Well, the answer is “yes.” First of all, knowing that the bible does not contradict itself, I knew there was a reason for this apparent discrepancy. In thinking through it, praying about it, and digging a little, I believe I am able to definitively say the answer is both, it is one in the same, it is complimentary.

From the The Isaiah passage, God is speaking of “everyone whom I created.” But there’s a little addition to the Ephesians passage you might gloss over without paying attention…that little phrase “in Christ Jesus.”

I believe the Isaiah passage is speaking of our creation from the foundations of the world. But here in Ephesians, I believe this is speaking of our re-creation in Christ Jesus, our new birth, that “new creation” 2 Corinthians 5:17 speaks of. The two work hand in hand when adding in the truth found in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” To this, add James 2:26, “faith without deeds is dead,” and you get to my point:

You were created to bring God glory, to worship Him in every way AND you were re-created in Christ Jesus to do good works. BECAUSE of your re-creation, you do good works. IN your good works, your purpose is to bring God glory. And one scripture that ties it all together, Matthew 5:16, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

So, in your life of worship, you do good works to bring Him glory, and as a result, cause others to glorify God in the process.

You see? It all works together.

The Flood of Sin and Temptation

800_ziwokmeetnpxnhsj4vljpjkbfx9uezzvI was thinking about sin and temptation the other day, specifically related to counseling a friend confronting sexual sin. It was not too long after a debilitating rain fall amount in Greenville. And this analogy came to me:

“Don’t drown, turn around.” Seems like a silly phrase, kind of trite in a way. The intent is that when you’re driving along and you come upon a place where a river or stream has flooded over the road in front of you, turn around. Don’t take the chance. You never know if the water has washed the road out underneath that flood or if the current of the water is too strong for you to make it across. Simple…just turn around. Sadly, two people in this recent storm tried crossing a road covered by water. Their car stalled so they decided to try and get out of the car to make it to safety. As soon as they stepped out of the car, the current was so strong, it swept them away and they drown.

In confronting temptation, more specifically sexual temptations, it’s much like this flood. You may be able to see the other side and think it’s not that far away. You may know the road like the back of your hand and think everything under the current is still solid ground. You may think your vehicle (life) is strong enough to wade through unscathed. You may think that even if the worst happens, you’re still a good swimmer.

But the current of sin, especially sexual sin, is so strong, unbelievably strong. Why take the chance? Why believe “It’s ok, I’ve got this”? Why believe an even sadder, faith-like, “It’s ok, God will protect me”?

As simple and trite as it may seem, just turn around, don’t drown. Assume the water is too deep. Most likely it is. Assume the current is too strong. Trust me, it is. Don’t take the chance. Just turn around.

A rebuttal to fors clavigera

Response to http://forsclavigera.blogspot.com/2012/02/open-letter-to-praise-bands.html

What is “fors clavigera”? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fors_Clavigera

A few thoughts of rebuttal:

In paragraph 4, Smith says, “Let me offer a few brief axioms.” Though I’m sure he may be intending this in a less divisive way, the meaning of axiom is that is it a widely accepted truth. I find it odd that Smith seeks to be an encouragement (paragraph 2 and 9) yet chooses to bring these axioms (widely accepted truths) for which there is no such acceptance, nor are they identifiable truths, merely opinions of his and, I’m sure, a somewhat wide margin of others. An opinion by its very nature is not truth.

As you can tell from my first paragraph, I find very little to agree with in what Smith is saying. That he begins so divisively, I will as well in my rebuttal.

My first point is an overarching theme of the points that follow. It is in this point that I find most of my difficulties in agreeing with Smith in whole. This is also a major point that cannot be denied and I cannot believe a professor of Philosophy at a Christian college would leave this out of his statement of belief as presented in the above blog post. It is this…I find zero references to Scripture in his statement. Scripture is the only truth, the only axiom, from which we can form our opinions. Any other truth is merely preference, and by nature, like an opinion, is not truth (maybe a relative truth, but that’s another sermon).

As a result, in my rebuttal, I hope to respond with Scripture, and Scripture that is interpreted wisely.

In Smith’s points (1, 2, and 3), he takes an “if…then” approach, very popular in the world of philosophy. The goal of “if…then” is, of course, to prove a point; that “if” something is true, “then” something else must also be true. But what happens when your “if” can’t be proved, or quantified? What if your “if” is merely an opinion in itself? If this is the case, your “then” is now flawed as well. The reverse can also be said…if your “then” has any flaw to it, then your “if” has holes too.

I’ll tackle the former points later, but Smith makes three statements of “if” with the same answer, “[then] it’s not worship.” It is from here I begin digging deeper into my disagreement with Smith’s Scripture-less opinions.

In John 4, we have the story of Jesus at the well with the Samaritan woman. It is in this conversation that Jesus first reveals Himself as the Messiah (“The One speaking to you, I AM.” Vs. 26). It is also within this conversation that we get the clearest description of worship (vs. 19-26). Vs. 23 says “the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.” Two major points we find in this passage; 1. God is the seeker – no one else and 2. The object of His divine mission is not merely worship, but worshipers. So, if our worship is a response to God’s seeking and His seeking is of us as worshipers, not the worship (type, form, feel, style, etc.) we bring, then who but God alone can say what is and isn’t worship? For Smith to say, “it isn’t worship” assumes a divine knowledge on his part of what is and isn’t acceptable to God Almighty. By saying “it isn’t worship” he is also, in effect, saying what “is” worship…the opposite of his “if” statements. But I must ask this question, “How can Smith know what is and isn’t worship?” If worship begins with God’s seeking, and His seeking is of us as worshipers, is it not He alone that decides what is acceptable worship and what is not?

Another thought here is that, in Scripture, most words translated as “worship” literally mean “ministry to God”. When we break that down a little further, worship is about the role of the servant to the Master…the inferior to the Superior. That being so, there is no place for arrogance or pride in that ministry to God, in worship. Smith’s words of “it’s not worship” carry way too much prideful arrogance for me to swallow. And, I do admit, that may just be an opinion, though I believe a Scripturally based opinion.

So with those overarching statements, now to the rebuttal of his individual points directly.

  1. “If we, the congregation, can’t hear ourselves, it’s not worship.” By the context of Smith’s paragraph, I understand him to really mean, “if we can’t hear each other’s voices in worship…” After my opening arguments, you may find it odd that I agree with Smith to some extent here. It is very important for a congregation to hear each other sing; brothers and sisters side by side, children learning from their parents, etc. I agree that there is a place for that and to deny that from ever happening in worship is a disservice to the “collective, communal, congregational” practice. The church needs to sing together. However, what Smith is saying is that if it’s too loud and you can’t hear each other, then it is not worship…in effect, it cannot possibly be worship. Based on my earlier response, who says it can’t be worship? What’s wrong with moments of “private, passive” worship at times? Don’t we all need that at some point? Who says because it may be too loud that it becomes passive? Some people are more apt to sing out at the top of their lungs in response to what God has done when they can…because it’s so loud (something they likely would not do with a soft, piano-only “Amazing Grace”). What I’m trying to say is that volume cannot be a determining factor in what is and what is not worship. I doubt the Israelites could hear themselves when the 120 trumpets were blasting away at the same time as all the cymbals, harps, and lyres at the “opening ceremonies” of the Temple in Jerusalem as described in 2 Chronicles 5:12-14. But yet God’s glory came down in such power that the priests were in such awe, they couldn’t even perform their duties. I doubt anyone would argue that wasn’t worship.
  2. “If we, the congregation, can’t sing along, it’s not worship…in Christian worship it just means that we, the congregation, can’t sing along. And so your virtuosity gives rise to our passivity; your creativity simply encourages our silence. And while you may be worshiping with your creativity, the same creativity actually shuts down congregational song.” When Moses led the Israelites into the wilderness, God instructed Moses to find the best of the best artisans to create and sculpt the different elements of the Tent of Meeting/Tabernacle. This was the place God Himself would dwell. God chose the creative to make, per His specifications, all of the elements of early worship. God chose creativity to be used in worship. Just because you can’t paint along with a great artist, does that mean you, therefore, cannot worship God because of the artist’s art? What about some of the great instrumental works of Bach? Just because you didn’t write any of the notes, or you can’t play it yourself, does that mean that you can’t worship God because of it? A little more striking…does this not mean that it is not really worship when you thank God for the beautiful sunset He’s just painted? “Passivity” and “silence” are not automatically outcomes of virtuosity and creativity, nor are they in themselves enemies of worship. That a worship leader’s (or band’s) creativity “actually shuts down congregational song” is more a problem of the congregation’s readiness and willingness to worship (maybe even “in spite” of whatever is happening on stage). As Bonheoffer surmises, we often think of God as the prompter, the worship leaders as the performers, and the congregation as the audience…when in reality it should be the worship leaders as the prompters, the congregation as the performers, and God as the Audience.
  3. “If you, the praise band, are the center of attention, it’s not worship.” Finally, a point I can agree with…oh wait, there’s more. This point has great validity, especially in church culture today. For example, my wife went with her sister to a large, well-known, “mega-church” in Texas. They had the doors closed until 10 minutes before the service. As soon as the doors opened, the band was jamming (very well, I might add) but so loudly, she couldn’t even talk to her sister. They never stopped jamming until the sermon. She said it was a very odd service in which she, a worship pastor’s wife, had a very difficult time engaging in worship herself. Though they had songs she knew, no one else seemed to be singing along, the worship leader never encouraged participation, and it felt too much like a show. All this to say…if the band is the center of attention, it cannot be worship. But who makes them the center of attention? Is it the band’s fault that while they lead worship, even striving to encourage participation, a congregation doesn’t worship? Disregarding my earlier point of God alone deciding what is acceptable worship, can you really blame any worship leader, good or bad, regardless of style of music, for you not worshiping? True…the band/worship leader plays a role in helping you to worship and can certainly distract you from doing so, but can you really place all the weight of that on them? No…it is your responsibility, the responsibility of every congregant, to worship God in spite of whatever is happening on stage. One other small point here, Smith makes the statement that any virtuosity shown from the stage tends to “tempt” the congregant into making the virtuoso the focus of their attention. Psalm 33:3 encourages (commands?) us to play skillfully. Any skillful virtuosity can be looked at like point 2 above…it is more of a congregant’s issue as to whether or not he worships the ultimate Creator or the virtuoso on the stage.

All of this rebuttal, mostly in a negative, opposite viewpoint, and you’ll find me as I plan worship every week considering all three of these points. Is there a place where the congregation can sing for themselves, a softer section? Is there enough for them to sing along with as opposed to the idea of “singing a new song”? How can they be encouraged to participate vs. be a spectator? If there is a spectator moment, can it be worshipful (solos, art, dance, etc.)?

In conclusion, even though I consider these points in my worship planning, I simply cannot agree with Smith on any man deciding or approving what is and what is not true worship.

Worship Songs on Strike (by Tom Kraeuter)

by Tom Kraeuter

Nashville, TN (TR) Reacting to what they say is a lack of enthusiasm and passion for singing them, the Union of All Worship Songs (UAWS) today announced that they are officially on strike. In an unprecedented show of unanimity, songs written as recently as two months ago banded together with songs penned hundreds of years earlier as they walked out side by side.

A UAWS spokesperson said, “We’re tired of it. We were written by people who genuinely loved God and wanted to express that love through song. If you read our words you can sense the original fervor. There was a passion for the Creator/Redeemer that comes through so clearly through the words and even the music. But today so many people just mouth the words. They go through the motions while yawning or looking at their watch, wondering when the service is going to end. It’s really been demoralizing for us. We had such a great beginning… and now this.”

The strike was declared effective immediately, and Christians worldwide were stunned when the songs walked out of churches, homes and media outlets. In some cases the strike came just moments before a Wednesday night service began.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said William Oudle, worship pastor at First Baptist Church in Elba, Mississippi. “We were just settling in, ready to start the music when all of a sudden, all the songs got up and walked out. We were stunned! Next thing we know they’re all marching out there in front of the church carrying little picket signs.”

In some places the songs linked together, stave to stave, daring people—and a few renegade songs—to cross their lines. Radio stations that play “praise and worship” music were suddenly silent. Even video projection systems in churches were abruptly and unexpectedly without lyrics.

One of the strikers, who asked to remain anonymous, said, “I know I speak for a lot of other songs when I say that we’re just plain tired of it. If those people want to sing with no fervor, no zeal, let them sing some secular songs… but not us. Why, they usually sing “Happy Birthday” with more gusto than they usually sing us. It’s simply not right, and we’re not taking it anymore.”

The old hymn, “Holy, Holy, Holy,” was one of the original organizers of the walkout. When asked about the strike, HHH had this to say, “This remindeth me of the words of the prophet Isaiah. ‘Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me…’ This be our contention. We requesteth a turnabout to wholehearted singing. We canst not bear the feeble, desultory attitude. As psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, our main purpose is to inspire the brethren to reverently worship Almighty God. Yet we canst not do that except if the brethren willingly cooperate. If their minds are focused solely on what eating establishment they will patronize when the church service endeth, then we canst not make up for their indifference no matter how well we be written.”

Standing right alongside HHH was “Here I Am to Worship,” one of the other strike organizers. “That’s right. My friend H, here, has stated it, like, really well,” said HIAtW. “We just can’t do the job we were created for unless Christians do the job they were created for: to worship God.”

Reaction in some circles has been immediate. Although a few have suggested that the Church as a whole is better off without the songs, many people have gone to their knees in repentance. This outcry to God has been less for the songs to return than for a genuine change of heart and mind for the pray-ers. Some of the most frequently heard prayers have been right from the Scriptures, including, “Search me, O God, and know my heart… Point out anything in me that offends You…” and “Restore to me the joy of Your salvation.” Christians seem to be catching the point of the strike and responding favorably.

In the midst of such reaction, one song, “Change My Heart, O God,” received special permission to cross the picket lines and make himself available in multiple languages.

In an official communiqué, the UAWS said, “This initial response seems to be on the right track, but we’ll see if it lasts. We are guardedly optimistic at this point.” The songs have promised to remain on strike as long as necessary.

©2010 Training Resources. Reprinted by permission of Training Resources, Inc., 65 Shepherd’s Way, Hillsboro, MO 63050, wwww.training-resources.org