Category Archives: Ministry

In Defense of Martha

First of all, for those who have followed my blog in the past, I know, it has been a long time in between posts. There are many reasons I could name, but I won’t bore you with all of that. But I would like to thank those of you who encouraged me to get back at it again. It is appreciated. Now, to this week’s post.

Over the years, I have heard and read many messages about Mary and Martha. The passage that is usually referenced is Luke 10:38-42. The basic message of the teachings that I have heard usually ends up being pretty much the same. Mary is hailed as the one who chose what is best by sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to him teach. Martha, on the other hand, is portrayed as the one who misses what is most important, being too busy working and serving to spend time with Jesus. However, in many ways, I think Martha has gotten a bad rap.

Don’t get me wrong. I think there definitely is a message here for the Martha’s among us. When Martha complains to Jesus, inferring that He does not care that her sister has left her with all of work, Jesus gently rebukes her. Jesus tells Martha that He will not deny Mary from pursuing what she desired. Let’s take a look at why I think Jesus rebukes Martha.

Jesus was not rebuking Martha for serving. Jesus tells her that she is “anxious and troubled about many things.” In other places in the New Testament, Jesus had told His disciples to not be anxious.  It might have been about when they would face tribulation or about what they would eat, wear, or how they would live. There are many other examples. In most, or all of these situations, Jesus is referring to the state of being worried or weighed down with the concerns of life rather than in trusting God. In a sense, this is what Martha is doing in this passage. She has become burdened and weighed down with her service to the point that it was distracting her from everything else, including taking the time to sit at the feet of Jesus. When our service pulls us away from our relationship with God, then it is time to pull back and evaluate. The problem is, like Martha, we usually don’t see it. We need someone else to help us make the connection.

However, I think many people take this one instance in Scripture and turn it into a model for bashing the Martha servants among us. This is the only recorded time that Jesus rebukes Martha. In fact, it was Martha, not Mary, who first welcomed Jesus into her home. In John 11:5, it says that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” It is interesting that Martha is listed first, almost as a place of prominence. When her brother, Lazarus died, Martha was the one who first went out to meet Jesus. In John 11:21-22, she is recorded as saying, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Martha believed that Jesus had the power to heal her brother. She also seems to indicate that even now, Jesus could still do something about the situation. Finally, sometime after Lazarus is raised from the dead, they gave a dinner for Jesus. At the beginning of John 12:2, it simply says, “Martha served.” No explanation. No rebuke from Jesus. She was simply serving Jesus.

As far as I know, this is the last we hear of Martha in the Bible. If we take into account all of the passages where she is mentioned, I think we come up with a different picture than is often portrayed. We have a person with a servant’s heart, who welcomed the Lord, believed in Who He claimed to be, and faithfully served in the way that God had created her to be. Yes, she was rebuked by the Lord, but if discount all those who were rebuked by God in the Bible, and remembered them only for their failures, we would have no one left. So, I think it is good to see Martha as a whole, and not based on one incident.

I think there are some in the church that might use the Mary and Martha comparison to justify their lack of service or involvement. They are content to “sit at the feet of Jesus.” Unfortunately, they never get off their backsides and do anything to serve the Lord or the church. They may attend a church week after week, but never do anything to serve others. They come in, get what they want from the service, and then leave. And, if they don’t like the service, then they go somewhere else and sponge off of another church for a while, until that becomes old, and so on.

There is an old saying that, in the church, 20% of the people do 80% of the work and 80% of the people do 20% of the work. In so many ways, that is true, but very unfortunate because both parties miss out. The 20% misses the benefit of the gifts and talents of those who don’t serve. And, quite frankly, they eventually can become exhausted and burned out. The 80% miss the joy and reward of being used by God to serve others. There are times and seasons in everyone’s life, so don’t misunderstand this as a broad-brushed attack on everyone who doesn’t currently serve in an active way. But, if we are honest with ourselves, we all err towards being one or the other, or maybe even both at times.

So, my take from the story of Martha is two-fold. Don’t become so burdened and weighed down with service that you forsake your relationship with the Lord. And on the other hand, don’t spend so much time “sitting” that you cripple the church with your lack of service and miss the joy of letting the Lord use you to glorify Him and bless others. May we pursue God with lives of worship, both in word and deed.

Together for His glory…

Write About Jesus

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to be a part of the annual Write About Jesus (WAJ) conference which is held in St. Louis. I had heard about the conference a few years ago, but had never gotten around to attending. As I drove into the parking lot, I was not sure what to expect. I knew absolutely no one that was attending. Since I tend to be more of an introvert, this is not exactly the type of situation I look forward to being in.

I sat in my car for a few moments and then decided to go in. As I walked in, there were already many people there. Pockets of excited people, where reunions were taking place, were scattered around the room. In other places, individuals sat quietly, by themselves, looking through their workshop book. I walked up to the registration counter and my journey began.

Everyone I met was extremely helpful. You could tell immediately that this is something they love being a part of. This is a weekend that they had been looking forward to with anticipation. At each registration stop, they made sure that I had the information I needed to get me started on a successful workshop experience.

I am not going to detail my entire journey through the weekend, but I want to give you glimpses of what I experienced. Because what I saw was of great encouragement to me. Yes, I saw many songwriters who were, and are, successful in the music world. I saw a lot of people who were excited about writing and performing. However, more than that, I saw people who loved Jesus.

As I sat in sessions and talked over meals, I listened to others talk about the ministry in their churches and other venues. They expressed desire to see God work in the hearts and lives of others. They talked of new opportunities that God was opening for them and in their ministries. Experienced and successful writers, novice writers, and all of those in between sat and talked together. There was no air of superiority on the part of those who had been doing this successfully for years. They sat down with strangers and newcomers and talked, listened and encouraged. It was truly a picture of the body of Christ in action.

The weekend was also very challenging. I had the opportunity to have a couple of my songs critiqued by more experienced songwriters. It was both a humbling and encouraging experience. They noted things that we had done well, as well as offered insights and suggestions for improvement. The various seminars were both practically and spiritually focused, refreshing and challenging.

I met a wide variety of people over the weekend. I met veteran writers, who have written songs we sing at our church and songs I have heard on the radio. I met young people, full of excitement and ability, who are beginning their ministry journey with Jesus. There were those that seemed to know exactly where God was taking them. There were others who were seeking for God’s wisdom and direction, and the future was not so clear.

It took me a while to get my bearings because a conference like this can be like trying to drink out of an uncapped fire hydrant. But I am thankful that God allowed me to attend Write About Jesus. I came away with a renewed sense of wanting to be used by God, however He wants to accomplish that. God has given me the privilege of being a part of His church and the opportunity to love and serve His people. I have the opportunity to stand up each week and declare the wonders of our God and the glory of His salvation through Jesus Christ. Through the gift of music, I get to lead others in declaring the truth of the Word of God and declaring their devotion to Him. How great is that? What a great honor.

So, my prayer today is that God will help me to grow in my knowledge of His truth. I want to grow in my devotion to Christ, finding in Him my true joy and satisfaction. I want to grow in my relationship with those God has placed in my life. I pray that God will take the gifts He has given me and help me grow in my effectiveness in life and ministry. I want to be used for His glory and to serve others, helping them to know Christ more deeply. This is really the call that God gives to all of us, regardless of what we do or what are gifts are. It is the journey of the life of worship – to love God and to love others. Together, we make up the body of Christ. And we have the greatest message in the world because we get to tell about Jesus and what He has done for us.

Together for His glory…

To Be or Not To Be: The End of PuddleJoy

Well, not really. Maybe I should say that it is the end of PuddleJoy as it currently functions. Either way, I want to take this opportunity to share some upcoming changes which I am very excited about.

Over a year ago, after much consideration, I decided to launch an independent music and worship ministry through PuddleJoy Music. This venture was intended to be a means of expanding my current ministry at Christ Community Church (CCC) and provide music and ministry resources to other Christians and churches. It was never intended to replace or compete with what I believe God has called me to do at CCC. Before launching the website, I consulted with CCC leadership. I requested their oversight and feedback as I put the pieces in place. I had their full support, which was a blessing and encouragement.

There was a lot of work that went into this process, which included registering copyrights, registering as a publisher with CCLI, creating and maintaining a website, putting together worship ministry resources for the site, starting a weekly blog, and preparing to promote an upcoming CD release. There also came, along with these, a lot of business related activities. Although it was taking a lot of time and focus, I felt I was able to keep a balance between PuddleJoy and CCC.

However, over the past several months, I have become steadily more restless and knew something was not right in my life. I really thought it was caused by a growing conflict between trying to manage two careers – one in the secular work force and the other in ministry related activities. I prayed that God would give me direction. I discussed my situation with my wife. I sought counsel and shared my uneasiness with those I had asked to oversee my ministry. Things did not get better. My situation actually became worse. I was becoming more miserable by the day.

I could go into a lot of details about how I came to this decision and how the light finally came on, but it would end up making this correspondence a lot longer than it will already be (as you have probably figured out, I do not come in the abbreviated version). Needless to say, I believe God provided me with insight and direction. I was able to see and hear more clearly what God would have me to do. When I discussed it with my wife, she completely agreed that it was the right thing to do. However, when I spoke with those in my oversight group, there was not necessarily complete agreement. There were some concerns raised within the group.

One of their primary concerns was that I was giving up some things that they did not think I needed to give up. This included possible opportunities and financial support that may have been available through PuddleJoy. Another concern was that I was changing directions from what I had originally envisioned for PuddleJoy. In the end, though, as we discussed these things, they supported my decision and the direction in which I want to move. And, in my heart and mind, it is where I feel God is leading me.

Even though I had been diligent to keep my activities with PuddleJoy from interfering with my ministry at CCC, in the end, I was not successful. The technical, financial, legal compliance and business aspects were becoming very distracting. More importantly, I was being pulled in two different directions in my ministry focus. Even though I had intended for PuddleJoy to be an extension of my CCC ministry, that is not how it was turning out. So, it was time to make a change.

Therefore, PuddleJoy, is going to fade into the background as a result of this decision. It will still be the publishing name I use for songs that I write, but, for the most part, it will not have a visible presence. The current PuddleJoy website and resources will be transitioned to become resources of Christ Community Worship (CCW), the worship and music ministry of CCC. All activities and resources will be tied to CCC and will, therefore, fall under the authority and oversight of the leadership of CCC. Over the past twenty years, our worship ministry at CCC has developed and grown in purpose and direction. I believe God has put in place something that is very special. My goal is to continue building on what is in place and see what God will continue to do through us.

The primary focus of CCW will be, as it is now, to minister to the congregation of CCC and build the worship and music ministry of CCC. However, as God leads, we will also seek to impact individuals and churches outside of our local congregation. We will offer music and resources for worship to assist other leaders, ministries, and churches that may benefit from them. I would like to share with you what God has placed on my heart regarding the direction of the ministry of Christ Community Worship. I have summarized what I envision below:

  • Diligently committed to the pursuit of Christ-centered and Biblically-based worship.
  • Writing, performing, and producing songs that are doctrinally sound and impact through the truth of the Word of God.
  • Worship and music that is grounded in our historic faith, but also seeks to be relevant to the culture we are called to reach.
  • Accountability of personnel and ministry to the leadership of Christ Community Church.
  • Commitment to building and supporting the ministry of Christ Community Church.
  • Building a ministry which trains musicians and leaders for music and worship related ministry.
  • Developing training and teaching materials to assist worship leaders and musicians in the music and worship leading ministry of the church.
  • Through our leaders and team members, expand the scope and reach of CCW beyond the walls of the church through outreach events and efforts, music and worship resources, recording projects, and other opportunities, as God leads.

We will continue to develop and evaluate this as we go, but I am excited about the opportunities that God has given to us. In addition, it will allow me to focus on what I believe God has called me to do. I will not feel like I am being pulled in two different directions for ministry. Also, any expansion or growth in the ministry beyond the walls of CCC can now be a cooperative outreach and ministry, with many others involved in addition to myself.

So, PuddleJoy Music will no longer have a visible presence, as it will be replaced with the CCW website and ministry focus. As I think back, this is probably how it should have been set up from the beginning. However, I think that God was able to teach me some things along the way because of the process that I went through. It reminded me where my heart for ministry is. Even though I had not intended to be pulled away, it had happened anyway. Because of that, I feel like I ended up neglecting those whom I am called to serve first. That is probably why I was so unsettled. It just took me a while to figure it all out.

Now, as my ministry energies will be fully focused on serving the CCC worship ministry team and the congregation, I look forward to what God will do in and through us. This blog will continue as part of that ministry. It will just be located at a different address. I will provide that information when the change occurs.

For CCW, we are anticipating our first CD release, which should hopefully be completed soon, although we do not have an official timeframe. It is still being edited, mixed, and mastered by the studio. However, when it is completed and released, I look forward to hearing how God uses this project in the lives of others. As we continue to move forward, pray that God will use us for the glory of His Name and the spreading of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Thank you for your prayers and support.

Together for His glory…

Recording Project Update – God is Faithful

As of Monday evening, we have completed the recording portion of the CD project at Christ Community Church. It took much longer than what we originally anticipated, but, quite frankly, I am not sure most of us knew exactly what to expect when we got into this. I know I didn’t. In the end, God has shown His faithfulness throughout the process. Please pray that He continues to work to accomplish His purposes for this project. Pray that Jesus Christ would be glorified through this project and music.

I am so thankful for the worship team at our church.  This includes everyone, not just those who ended up in the studio. We have continued to work on this project while still managing to practice and perform for Sunday mornings. Schedules have often been changed on short notice. There have been times that we did not have much time to prepare the music for Sunday morning. However, both the music and tech teams were flexible and worked diligently and served faithfully throughout the process. They are a blessing to me and to our church body.

Today is exactly nine months from the day we had our first practice for this project. As mentioned, it took us longer to get to this point than I anticipated. At first, we had planned a few practices to firm everything up before going to the studio. Twenty practices later, we finally went to the studio. We were originally set up for 24 hours in the studio. In the end, we were in the studio about 80 hours.

As we progressed through each stage, it became more apparent that it was going to take longer to complete the project the way we wanted. Travis King, the chief audio engineer from 12 Bar Productions, has been excellent throughout the process. We would discuss the progress as we took each step and he provided us with the options available to us. He and the studio have been very generous towards us. Travis challenged and encouraged us along the way. His work and input have been a blessing. Now, he has the task of editing, mixing, and mastering the work we have done. Pray that God will bless and guide him throughout this process.

In the beginning, this project was proposed as an outreach tool for the ministry of Christ Community Church. The church graciously raised the funds to get the project launched. In addition, the church leadership offered me the opportunity to use the completed project for additional ministry purposes beyond the scope of our church. I did not ask for this – they insisted that this would be the case. It is just another example of how the leadership and people of CCC have supported and encouraged me throughout my ministry here. They have challenged and supported me as I seek direction in my ministry.

As it turns out, the project will end up being jointly funded between CCC and PuddleJoy Music. When the decision was made to put in the extra recording time, I let the studio know that we expected to be billed for the extra studio time. That, in addition to the CD production costs, caused the final cost to be quite a bit more than what was originally raised. However, once again, God has shown His faithfulness in this process. Before the situation even arose, He had provided me with the funds to cover the additional cost. We had set aside money for an anticipated expense, which did not materialize. So, the money was provided for the additional project costs.

I am actually grateful to share the burden of the cost, since it will be a tool that I can use beyond the scope of my ministry at CCC. In the end, I am glad it worked out this way. When the project is complete, there will be two versions of the CD. The CCC version will be utilized by the church for ministry and outreach purposes. I will offer a separate version on my website and will also have the individual songs available for listening and download. I am excited to see how it all turns out.

God is faithful. I cannot ever say this enough. Throughout this process, there have been some struggles and I have questioned God, myself, and my abilities frequently. At each stage, though, God showed His hand. When I thought things looked bleak, He would shine a beam of light into my gloom. God frequently used my wife to remind me why I am doing what I do. She continues to be a gift from God, in more ways than I could ever count.

I don’t know how God will use the end product, but I pray it will be a continuation of how He uses small things to accomplish His great purposes (1 Corinthians 1:26-31). When I hear that children are singing the songs during the week; when I see someone place their hands over their heart while they sing one of these songs; when I hear that the songs are meaningful to others – I am so grateful that God would use someone like me for His purposes.

How gracious and merciful is our God, that we, hopeless sinners, could be granted the privilege of being His children and working and living for the gospel of Jesus Christ. What words could I say that could ever express the magnitude of such a gift? Thanks be to our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory forever.

Together for His glory…

The Self-Centered God: God-Centered Worship, Part 4

First, I want to apologize for last week’s issues with the email titles. I don’t know if it was confusing to you, but it sure was to me. In the end, I never did get it right. So, thanks for your patience.

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36) In the past couple of weeks, I have addressed what it means that all things are from God and through God. Today, I will attempt to unpack what it means that all things are to Him.

In my years of being in worship ministry, I have heard numerous descriptions and analogies of what takes place in the worship of God: giving to God; offering ourselves to God; reflecting His glory; we are fulfilling the command to worship; we are performing for the audience of One; bringing glory to God. And there are many more. These can be helpful as we think through how we should worship God.

When we think of something being “to” someone, we often think of giving or offering something to them, whether it is a gift or something that we owe to them. However, when we try to apply this to God, we need to be cautious because there are aspects related to bringing or giving that may apply to us as humans, but cannot apply to God. The earlier verses in Romans 11:33-35 make it clear that we cannot give counsel or gifts to God that either increase His knowledge or possessions. All wisdom and knowledge are His. The earth and the universe are His. He lacks nothing. So, our worship does not add anything to God. Anything we bring to God is already His.

So, what is the purpose of our worship? Scripture is full of commands to worship the Lord, bring offerings, and even offer ourselves as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2). There has to be a reason, other than just requiring us to do this act out of obedience. And there is.

God’s purpose for worship, and all of life, is His glory. Everything, including our lives, exists for the purpose of bringing glory to God. All things are to Him. When creates, it is for His glory. When He reveals Himself to us, it is for His glory. When He provides for us, it is for His glory. When He saves, it is for His glory. When He judges, it is for His glory. When he raises up or brings down individuals, groups, or nations, it is for His glory. When Christ came, suffered, and bore the penalty for all sin, it was for His glory. When Christ rose, it was for His glory. When Christ returns, it will be for His glory. All things exist to bring glory to the Almighty God. And He will not give or share His glory with anyone or anything (Isaiah 48:9-11).

All things are to Him. All things are for Him. All things were created and intended by God to bring glory to God. For many of us, this is hard to swallow. This seems highly self-centered. That is because it is. For us, it would be sin. For God, it is perfectly acceptable. In fact, it is the most loving thing He can do for His creation.

Where is the highest joy found? Our highest joy is found in God through Christ. Any other person, possession, or aspiration will fall short of bringing the joy that can be found in Christ. Therefore, the greatest thing that God can do for us is to glorify Himself and the work He has done. As we see the indescribable wonders of Who He is and heights and depths to which He has gone to purchase our salvation, what greater joy could be found in anything else in life?

God is jealous for His glory. He is also jealous for His people. He knows that anything less than His glory is robbing us of our greatest joy. Therefore, as we come to God in worship and as we conduct our times of worship together, we should give serious consideration to where we place our focus. Worship is for the purpose of glorifying God. When the focus shifts from God and His works to the abilities, performances, or preferences of the leaders or those in attendance, we are seeking to share or steal God’s glory, whether that is our specific intent or not. We should always be mindful of why we are doing something – are we seeking to glorify God or are we just serving and glorifying ourselves?

When my focus becomes being noticed or recognized for something I am doing in the worship service or the ministry of the church, I am stealing God’s glory. When I am pressing hard on some issue, I need to seriously ask myself whether this glorifies God or am I just trying to get my own way. Pride and selfishness can be deadly in relationships. It has destroyed many families and churches. God abhors it when it comes to His glory, His church, and His people. As I look back over the years, distant and recent, I wonder how many times I have glorified myself instead of my glorious Savior. As we live our lives and work together in the church, it is important to keep the glory of God before us at all times.

Thankfully, God is gracious. He is forgiving. His mercies are new every morning. He holds His glory up as a wonderful aspiration. As followers of Christ, we have the awesome privilege of declaring the glory of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We testify to what God has done in our lives through Christ. We get to make God look great! That is what it means to glorify someone. It does not mean that we make Him look bigger than He is. It does not mean that we have anything to add to Who He is or what He has done. We just get to reflect His wonderful work in our lives, as He transforms us into the image of Christ.

We glorify God when we find our greatest joy and treasure in Him. It is why we were created. God knows there is nothing else in life that can bring us this kind of satisfaction. That is why He glorifies Himself. Everything else is a cheap substitute and robs us of the peace and joy of God. It can be ours throughout life’s journeys, joys, and trials. Though we will stumble and fall, He will pick us up and sustain us. As we draw near and glorify Him, He will feed and serve us, providing for our every need. He will teach and strengthen us, giving us a deeper understanding of Who is. And we, in turn, will glorify Him. And so it continues, as God continues to show us that He is our all in all, and that there can be no greater joy than knowing Him in Christ.

Together for His glory…