December 13, 2010

Christmas Program Review

Over the last two evenings, Edgewood hosted our annual Christmas program.  This year, we performed "KEBC's Christmas Radio Show."  Our "radio station" was hosting its 50th Christmas show by having callers phone in sharing stories of God's faithfulness.  While the interaction with the radio host and the show was obviously made up for the program, the stories were actually true stories from members of our congregation.  These callers were sharing real stories of God's faithfulness.  I believe it turned out to be a very powerful time to hear how God has worked through the people in our church and how He is still working today.

By the time you count all the members of the drama, choir, orchestra, media, ushers, reception, and childcare, there were around 100 people involved in this program.  I always think this is a great example of the Body of Christ.  There is no way things like this can be accomplished successfully without the variety of gifts and talents from a great collection of people.  What a team!

Kim completely led the drama team this year.  She has a strong gifting for drama and did a great job preparing the team for the program.  The drama was particularly challenging this year since they had to put their feet in somebody else's shoes.  I think it's one thing when the stories are made up, but a completely different thing when the stories are true.  They all did a good job with this, but I was particularly impressed with Lori and her heart and passion to connect with her story.  That was very moving.
This was my fourth Christmas program at Edgewood and I think this is the most confident I've ever heard the choir.  They did a great job at jumping on this music early on in the process and being faithful in their attendance to rehearsals.  Thanks to Jim, Carol, and Lanette, we were able to have many nights of sectionals which was a huge help.  The earlier we can learn those parts, the better we can make the songs....not to mention how much less stress we'll have the last few weeks before the program.  We had 33 singing this year, with a solid group in each section.  We even did an acappella piece this year and it was outstanding!  It was also nice to add Jeanette into the program this year.  She did a great job with her solo.  Having a soloist with just the band helped add more variety to the musical presentation.  That is something I would like to do more of in future programs.

The orchestra had their hands full this year, that's for sure.  We have a very talented group of instrumentalists at Edgewood.  With the radio show, we had quite a variety of music.  Everything from Southern Gospel (a rare thing to hear in Seattle!), to Little Drummer Boy, to praise and worship, to a song that I was told sounds like something from Aladdin =), to a very challenging piece in 7/8.  They managed to pull off each style and did a great job.

I hope all those involved enjoyed being a part of this year's program.  I definitely appreciated having each of you!  And to all those who attended, I hope it was a great encouragement to keep your faith and trust in God during this time of year.  We celebrate the baby Jesus...the "baby who changes everything."  Let's continue to celebrate Him this Christmas season and throughout the new year.

Merry Christmas!

November 29, 2010

Today's Idols

Another great session that I attended at the worship conference was led by Andy Park.  He is the writer of many worship songs and is probably best known for writing "In the Secret."  His session was about the importance of worshipping God all week long...not just on Sundays.  Sundays are great days where we can gather together to worship as one body.  But, sometimes when we get back to work the next day, it seems as if we're in a different world.  Just as this applies to teachers, engineers, computer guys, and definitely applies to pastors in the church as well.  We all let a variety of things become our "idols" and instead of worshipping God, we're worshipping these idols.  Andy Park shared five points about these idols.
  1. Idolatry is a perversion of the good
  2. Our identity is determined by the idol
  3. Idols demand sacrifice
  4. We justify our idols
  5. Our idols finally kill us
He was mainly hitting on our jobs.  Many other things can also become our idols, but I can see how easy it is to make our jobs our idols.  Work was created by God and is a very good thing.  And, wherever He has placed us, we need to be the best that we can be.  One of my life verses is Colossians 3:23..."Work at everything as if you're doing it for the Lord, not for man."  Whatever gifts God has given us, we must take those and work for Him with everything we've got.  So...where do you draw the line?

"Idolatry is a perversion of the good"....if our job calls us to work 40 hours a week, we're not doing anyone any favors by working 50 or 60 hours instead.  This is a tough one for me.  I feel like if I could practice a little longer, or make a few more phone calls, or schedule another event, I could be more effective.  When in reality, that means I'm neglecting my own family who is waiting for me at home.  "Idols require sacrifice"....when I do that, I'm sacrificing my family time and making my work become my idol.  "We justify our idols"...believe me, ministry is an easy thing to justify because everything we're doing seems worthwhile.

Are there things in your life that are demanding more sacrifice and distracting you from what God is calling you to be?  Life's not supposed to be frantic.  If things are getting in your way, maybe you need to let them go.  Or, maybe you need to find a way to better control them so they don't keep getting worse.

I want to be used by God for the rest of my life.  I pray that I can be an effective worship pastor without allowing my position to become my idol.  It's 5:00...I'm heading home to be with my wife =).

Creativity in Worship

It was interesting to see several classes at the CMS conference about "Creativity in Worship."  At Edgewood, we've been praying about ways to make our services more effective and more attractive to a broader audience.  We want to find creative ways to help people connect. attention was definitely caught when I saw these classes.  Overall, the classes were all about creativity...but all about keeping the focus on the Lord first and the creativity second.  They were very encouraging.  Here are a collection of thoughts that I gathered.

  1. In the church, creativity is not something we do; it's the way we do something.
  2. Creativity is not the goal, God is.  We want to glorify Him.
  3. God intended music to show our unity, not to divide us.
  4. What you win people with, that's what you win them to...If they're excited about the change and not the Lord, we've missed the point.
  5. Make sure creativity helps us remember God, not confuse us.
  6. The power is in the gospel..not our creativity.
  7. Know and treasure God's Word more than creativity.
  8. Trust the power of the Gospel.
  9. Expose yourself to creative communities...see what others are doing.
  10. Never stop asking questions of your church body...what's working and what's not.
  11. You want to leave a service saying, "What a great God" not "What great creativity".
  12. The church used to lead the way creatively (think about Michaelangelo and Bach), but now it seems like we're just copying everyone else's slogans/logos/songs/etc.
  13. We MUST think outside the box.
  14. God has blessed us with a strong mind and a strong heart...we need to USE them and follow His direction.
  15. We must figure out what passions God has placed in our hearts...and then follow them!  Be bold!
  16. God made us with a specific plan in mind.  It's revolutionary when we find ourselves.
  17. We can't worry about what people will like and not like...we must worry about what God will like and not like.
  18. We must spend time alone with Him.
There you go!  Plenty of thoughts!  It's a lot to swallow, but I hope some of these jump out to you.  The ones that stick out to me the strongest are the ones about finding out who God has made me to be.  I need to be bold to follow those passions.  When I do that, I'm using God's creativity in me to bring glory to Him.

November 16, 2010 it a gift or a god?

Over this last weekend, I had the privilege to attend the Christian Musician's Summit in Redmond.  Wow!  It was quite an encouraging time to join with hundreds of other church musicians to grow musically and spiritually.  As I sift through all my notes from the weekend, I'll probably add more posts about the conference.  But, I wanted to share some notes from our opening session.  Bob Kauflin, from Sovereign Grace Ministries, asked us the question..."Is music a gift or a god?"

Music is a huge part of our lives...especially in the lives of anyone attending a Christian Musician's Summit.  But, if we're not careful, we can let the music become our focus instead of keeping God as our focus.  Bob shared 5 ways of how we'll know if we're making music a god.

1. When we choose to attend a church based on the music more than the preaching of God's Word.
2. When we can't worship apart from a particular song, style, or leader.
3. When we think music leads us into God's presence.
4. When poor musical performance leads us to sin against our band members.
5. When a love for music has replaced a love for God.

As far as the first two, we must always remember that we gather around Jesus Christ, NOT music.  I'm not a big fan of a church offering services with different worship styles for this exact reason.  If Christians can't even sing songs together, what does that say to the world around us?? 

People say #3 all the time without really thinking about what they're saying.  Yes, music can create a great mood and atmosphere and give us an opportunity to worship.  But it can't manipulate God.  Hebrews 10:19 says that we only enter into God's presence by the blood of Jesus.  #4 is for the worship leaders...a tricky one during a stressful rehearsal, that's for sure!  Yes, we must strive for excellence...but we're all going to make mistakes and we must extend grace when that happens.  Our hearts are more important to God than a "perfect" musical performance.

Lastly, #5 is a great reminder to keep our focus on God, not the music.  If we truly did this, we would be thrilled at every worship service regardless of if it was a full choir and orchestra leading the music, a praise band, or just an acappella singing time.  It shouldn't matter if it's songs that are 500 years old, or 5 minutes old.  We need to be in love with God and take advantage of every minute He gives us to worship Him.

Bob closed saying "Let's love music, for God's sake."

I liked his message and it was a great reminder to keep our focus in the right place.  I love music and am constantly listening to it, singing it, or practicing it for something.  But, I want to do it all for His sake...not for the sake of music.  I hope you can join with me in that goal to use music to bring glory to God and God alone.

November 8, 2010

"Special" Music

From time to time we like to have a soloist, ensemble, or choir share "special music" during our service.  What I want to hear from you this week is how has God used those songs to minister to you...or is He?

This is something I'm currently we need to do more of these, or less?

Scripture talks about the importance of congregational singing, so there is no debate about the importance there.  But, what about when one person or one group of people is singing and the rest of the congregation is just watching and listening?  I've been in churches where we felt like we "had" to have special music every week or something terrible was going to happen.  I've also heard of many churches who don't want any special music AT ALL.  I don't think it has to be all or nothing on this one, but here are a few of my thoughts.

Things I don't like about special music....
1. It doesn't directly involve the entire congregation
2. I typically notice many who have "tuned out" and turn to reading their bulletin or writing notes
3. It takes time away from the congregational singing portion of the service
4. Sometimes it can seem very "perfomance-oriented" instead of "worship-oriented"

Things I DO like about special music....
1. It is a great way to introduce a new congregational worship song (I do this particularly with the choir)
2. Sometimes a message set to music can speak stronger than just the words by a strong message within a song can really stick with people throughout the whole week.
3. It's another great way for musicians to use their talents for the Lord

These are just a few thoughts to get us started...but what do you guys think?  Has God used special music to speak to you?  Would more special music enhance our worship services?  Or, should we do less?  I'd prefer for you to sign your name to the comments so I can see who I'm listening to...but if you'd rather go "anonymous" for any reason, that is totally fine as well.  I'd love to hear from many of you on this one!

November 3, 2010

It's a girl!

We found out yesterday that we're going to have a baby girl!  Seeing the ultrasound of our baby's tiny little arms and legs and body was absolutely amazing.  That was an experience we will never forget!  She was having a good ole' time moving all over the place =).

We've decided to name her Madelyn Joy and we know she is going to bring MUCH joy to our lives.

Psalm 139:13-14 has never been so real to me as it is now.
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."
Seeing the details of God's handiwork right before my own  Little Madelyn is fearfully and wonderfully made and we praise Him for that!

However young or old you are reading this today, I pray that you too can be encouraged by this verse.  Remember that God created YOU and knit YOU together as part of His perfect plan.  He doesn't make mistakes =).  Praise Him today because YOU are fearfully and wonderfully made.

November 1, 2010

Don't be anxious...easier said than done.

What things cause you to be anxious, or to worry?  For me, even though I do it every week, it's talking in front of our congregation!  You that attend Edgewood know that I don't say much more than I need to and I like to let the songs speak for themselves.  We could sing 20 minutes worth of music and talk for 30 seconds and I'd be more nervous about that 30 seconds than the rest of the service!  However, every once in awhile a short song introduction or reminder of why we're singing what we're singing can really help keep our focus on track.  So, I think it's an important thing to do. 

Just being in front of people isn't really the problem.  It's more of the fact that if there is something I feel God is leading me to say, I want to make sure I say it right and clearly for everyone to understand.  I tend to stumble over my words a lot and not be too clear with my speech.  Sometimes I'll even be in the middle of a sentence and forget what I was talking about.  Sheesh. 

The story of God calling Moses has been a strong encouragement to me through this struggle.  We all know the amazing things that God did through Moses, but do you remember the struggles he had getting started?  First of all, God sent Him a burning bush...wouldn't that be a pretty clear message right there that you need to listen and do what God is asking??  But, Moses asks (Exodus 3:11) "But who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?"  God replied, "I will be with you."  But, apparently that wasn't enough either.  In 4:10 Moses said to the Lord, "O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant.  I am slow of speech and tongue."  I'm right there with ya' Moses!

But listen to God's reply...

"Who gave man his mouth?  Who makes him deaf or mute?  Who gives him sight or makes him blind?  Is it not I, the Lord?  Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."

Wow.  God gave me this mouth and I worry that it's not good enough??  I need to speak with boldness, without fear, knowing that God will help me speak and teach me what to say.  God worked through Moses' life to accomplish impressive things...I need to allow God to work through my life in powerful ways as well.

Two other great verses that encourage me are...
2 Timothy 1:7  "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline."
Phil 4:6-7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, in thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Is there something that's holding you back from serving God fully this week?  Something that makes you nervous that you need to let go to God?  Present those to God, let Him take control and see what He wants to do through your life!

- I'd always love to hear comments on this blog about how these posts encourage you, or maybe you have further examples or questions.  I'd love to hear from you.  Just click on "comments" underneath each post. -

October 26, 2010

Old Testament Worship

One of my favorite stories of worship requires looking into the Old Testament.  Exodus 25:8 shows us that the Lord instructed them to build a tabernacle where He would dwell among them.  The tabernacle was in simliar design to this picture and each part had a very specific purpose.

Outer Court
All of the Israelites were allowed to enter this area.  The Bible teaches us that without the sacrifice of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin.  So, when the Israelites came into the tabernacle, they had to place an animal on the altar to redeem their sins.  Then, once their sins were forgiven, they continued into the rest of the outer court to worship God. It was in the outer court that the Israelites gathered and celebrated the forgiveness of sins.

Holy Place
Only the priests, the spiritual leaders, were able to enter the Holy Place.  The priests worshipped and carried out there ministry here.

Holy of Holies
This is where God dwelt among the people and if they wanted to communicate with God, they had to come into this room.  However, ONLY the high priest could enter this room….and even he was only allowed to enter ONCE a year!  The high priest had to offer a sacrifice for his sins and for the sins of the entire nation before he could enter the Holy of Holies.

The Veil
There was a huge veil (or curtain), that separated the Holy Place from the Holy of Holies.  This veil was going from the top of these posts, about 15' high, all the way to the ground.  And, this veil was 4" thick.  Think about that...your curtains at home are probably less than 1/8" thick...and this was 4"!  That would take 32 sets of your curtains to get the same thicknesss.

SO...if an Israelite wanted to communicate with God, he would have to bring his request to the priest and the priest would have to bring the request to the high priest and then ONCE a YEAR after performing all the requirements, the high priest would communicate with God. 

THEN, we turn all the way over to Mark 15.  This is in the New Testament where Jesus is hanging on the cross suffering and He’s about to die.  Verses 37 and 38 say, “With a loud cry, Jesus breathed His last.  The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”

I think of this story every time we sing "Jesus Messiah".  The second verse says, "His body the bread, His blood the wine, broken and poured out all for love.  The whole earth trembled and the veil was torn!  Love so amazing, Love so amazing!"

That 15' tall, 4" thick curtain of the temple was torn in two...just like that!  While that is an amazing feat, sure, what's even more amazing is what that means to us today.  Because Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross, we NO LONGER need a blood sacrifice to enter the Holy of Holies.  We NO LONGER have to go through a priest to get to God.  Through Jesus, we can now directly enter God's presence!

Next time you pray, think about how AMAZING it is than you can stop wherever you are and talk directly to the creator of the universe!  No more sacrifices needed, no going through mediators...just you and God. 

Next time you're at a worship service, think about how AMAZING it is that you can sing directly to the almighty, all-powerful God.  You're not singing to the worship leader, the pastor, or anyone around you...but directly to God.  Make a joyful noise until the Lord!

October 25, 2010

Definition of Worship

As we begin this blog to focus on matters of worship, what better way to start than with a definition.  Many people think of worship as the singing time during the Sunday morning service.  That should be a great time of worship, yes, but it's not all about the's ALL about our Lord. 

Here is my favorite definition....

"Worship is honoring God by putting our mind’s attention and our heart’s affection on Him."

It's possible to sit in a service and sing every word and not worship for a second.  If our minds are wandering with a million things going through our head, we're not focusing our attention on Him.  And, we could come to church because we love to see our friends, catch up on the week's activities, do our weekly "church duty", enjoy some cookies after the service, and go home without worshipping our God.  We need to come because we are in love with Jesus Christ and we want to grow closer to Him!

I believe if we spent the entire service with our mind's attention 100% on Him and our heart's affection solely on Him, our services would never be the same.  Wow...just imagine!