Saturday, May 30, 2009


Based on the gift they have received, everyone should use it to serve others, as good managers of the varied gift of God. 1 Peter 4:10 HCSB

It is not enough to give the customer excellent service. You must subtly make him aware of the great service he is getting. Michael Leboeuf*

There’s a Chick-Fil-A that I love visiting. The building is clean and attractive. I’m greeted at the door. There are plenty of smiling workers offering to take my order. The clerks who are not serving other guests prepare my drinks for the one who is serving me. If my order is not extremely prompt, they offer to carry my tray for me, but even then it is ready before I can pull my straw from its sleeve. The food is delicious, but if it wasn’t, the manager, who stops by twice to refill our drinks and offer us moist towelettes, would remedy the situation. Christian music plays and posters on the wall advertise the WinShape Foundation, a Chick-Fil-A funded organization which sponsors marriage retreats, foster parenting, and camps for underprivileged children.

The church can learn a lot from Chick-Fil-A.

Lord, help us use what you’ve given us to serve others.


Thursday, May 28, 2009


You don’t even know what tomorrow will bring-what your life will be! For you are a bit of smoke that appears for a little while, then vanishes. James 4:14 HCSB

Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it, I say! Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows. Pope Paul VI*

I just learned that one of my cousins passed away. She was only in her forties. The news hit me surprisingly hard and made me think about my own life. What is it that God really wants me to do? Have I been everything that He wants me to be? Have I wasted my life? What would I do right now if I found out that I had six months to live?

The fact is, no matter what our health situation, all of us are dying. We only get one turn in this life. Let’s stop wasting it. Let’s start really living as God intended for us to live.

Lord, help us live life to its fullest.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dwell On These Things

Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable—if there is any moral excellence and if there is any praise—dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8 HCSB

People say I’m extravagant because I want to be surrounded by beauty. But tell me, who wants to be surrounded by garbage? Imelda Marcos*

I moved back into New Orleans three weeks after Hurricane Katrina hit the city. My home was basically untouched by the storm, but my community was drastically changed. Huge piles of garbage lined the streets and a disturbing odor permeated the air. In order to find relief from these unpleasant surroundings, I took regular trips outside of the city where these circumstances did not exist. Pure air, uncluttered paths, and beautiful scenery helped to clear my disgruntled mind.

Even in pristine environments, many of us involved in creative ministry allow ourselves to be distracted by the garbage of the world. However, if we are to be effective worship leaders, we must focus on the pure, uncluttered, beautiful things of God.

Lord, help me to focus today on things that bring You glory.


Sunday, May 24, 2009

Your Gift

Do not neglect the gift that is in you 1 Timothy 5:14 HCSB

Everyone is gifted, but some people never open their package. Anonymous*

Greg played first chair trumpet in high school and college. He loved every part of playing in the band. He loved making music. He loved the community that he shared with his fellow instrumentalists. He loved being a part of something larger than himself. However, since getting married and moving into his career in marketing, he has stopped playing altogether. In fact, he can’t even remember where he stored his horn.

Last year, Greg moved to a new city and joined a church with an orchestra. Nobody there knows that he has a musical background, but every time the instruments play, he squirms in his seat just a little. His wife encourages him to audition for the trumpet section, but he laughs her off. Each week, he sits in silent agony and dreams about introducing himself to the director, but he pushes his thoughts away and tells himself that his trumpet playing is a thing of the past.

Lord, help us not neglect the talents that you have given us.


Saturday, May 23, 2009


But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 HCSB

I think love is the most unbelievable, and critical, thing in civilization. Everything else is very mechanical and predictable, but love, you can’t catch it. Anonymous*

When I was in elementary school in South Carolina, the grade above me did an interesting project. The entire class wrote letters, sealed them in glass bottles, and threw them into the ocean. One of those bottles floated across the Atlantic Ocean to the Azores Islands, off the coast of Portugal. A teenage girl found the bottle, wrote to our school, and we raised enough money to bring her to visit America. It’s an unbelievable story, but it’s true.

What’s even more unbelievable is that God loves people so much that He left the glories of Heaven and lowered Himself to be born as a human being. He lived a perfectly sinless life, then died a horrible death on a cross to pay for the consequences of the sins that mankind had committed and even now continue to commit. That is a simply unbelievable story, but it’s true.

Lord, You are unbelievable!


Friday, May 22, 2009


“For we brought nothing into the world and we can take nothing out. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with these.” 1 Timothy 6:7-8 HCSB

“He that deserves nothing should be content with anything.” Charles H. Spurgeon*

Once, while on vacation, my wife Kathy and I had a severe tire blowout. A few miles down the road, we found a very modest hotel room for the night which was not far from a tire dealership. Since we were stranded, I told Kathy that we would splurge and eat at the nicest restaurant that we could walk to. We stepped out of the hotel and the only establishment we could see was a Waffle House.

“Surely there must be something else down the road,” Kathy said.

I looked down the road and replied, “I only see one other place.”

“What is it?” Kathy asked.

“Another Waffle House,” I answered.

“Waffle House it is!” Kathy said with a laugh.

Even though we had experienced a humbling and modest evening, that meal stands out to me as one of the top dinners we’ve ever shared with each other.

Lord, thank You for what You have given us.


Thursday, May 21, 2009

Nowhere Man

“But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father in heaven.” Matthew 10:33 HCSB

“Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not go to Church, let’s be the Church.” Bridget Willard*

I used to watch a television series called Nowhere Man. The show was about Thomas Veil, a photojournalist, who while dining out with his wife, returned from the restroom to find that his entire life had been erased. His credit cards didn’t work, his best friend had been killed, his mother was in a coma and therefore could not confirm his existence, and his wife didn’t recognize him. He truly was a nowhere man.

Do you think that Jesus ever feels like a nowhere man? His people acknowledge Him in church, sing songs about Him, and read about Him from a book that He wrote, but then they often go out into the world following the worship service and deny that He exists by the lives that they lead.

Lord, help us to be the church no matter where we are.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cognitive Restructuring

“We demolish arguments and every high-minded thing that is raised up against the knowledge of God, taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:4b-5 HCSB

“Be careful of your thoughts, they may become words at any moment.” Ira Gassen*

Wikipedia’s online encyclopedia, defines cognitive restructuring as “the process of learning to refute cognitive distortions, or fundamental faulty thinking, with the goal of replacing one's irrational, counter-factual beliefs with more accurate and beneficial ones.”

Isn’t it interesting how God often takes hypersensitive, artistic, easily offended, self centered, touchy feely people and places them in positions of worship leadership? Others may disagree, but many times it is those same characteristics that actually help the musicians, dramatists, writers, and artists lead people into the presence of God.

When artistic people, even those involved in worship arts, forget their calling and the source of their talent, they can have irrational thoughts about themselves, their responsibilities and their talents. When that happens, they must take captive those negative thoughts and remember that God is the One who gifted and called them to use their talents to serve Him.

Lord, help me daily to focus my thoughts on You.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A Poor Player

A Poor Player

“For I know the plans I have for you” -this is the Lord’s declaration- “plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” Jeremiah 29:11 HCSB

“Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, And then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.” MacBeth*

In Shakespeare’s MacBeth, after hearing of his wife’s death, MacBeth takes a moment to ponder his own existence and future death. To him, death seems to be the concluding act of a very bad play, an idiot's tale full of sound and fury, but without any significant meaning.

God has plans for your life. He knows your part. It may be challenging at times, but it still exists to give you a future and a hope. If you are striving to understand your role for your life, cling to Him and be willing to receive whatever direction He gives you. He’s the Director. You are the player. Follow His direction.

Lord, help me today to follow Your direction.

*MacBeth by William Shakespeare - Act 5, Scene 5

Sunday, May 17, 2009



“So My word that comes from My mouth will not return to Me empty,
but it will accomplish what I please, and will prosper in what I send it to do." Isaiah 55:11 HCSB

“We may be certain that whatever God has made prominent in his word, he intended to be conspicuous in our lives.” Charles Spurgeon*

I had a frightening realization the other day. Sooner or later, everything that I do in my own strength that is not presenting God’s word will return empty and unfruitful. All of the choir songs, dramatic writings, creative sketches, solos, duets, trios, quartets, pageants, instrumental pieces, paintings, sculptures, poems, articles, devotions, musicals, video clips, short skits, funny soliloquies, clip art, powerpoint presentations, fog machines, choir robes, face paint, clown costumes, dramatic props, colorful puppets, Biblical costumes, short stories, karate kicks, pantomimes, casseroles, outlandish games, small group ice breakers, video projectors, lapel microphones, ministry goals, growth strategies, youth retreats, children’s camps, ministry conferences, back drops, flower arrangements, background music, carpet cleaning, piano tuning, flier making, church construction, basketball playing, Mother’s Day giveaways, newspaper marketing, radio spots, babysitting, concerts, tie tying and suit wearing will all eventually turn up empty if they are not centered in God’s Word.

Today, as you pray, ask the Lord to help you stay centered on God’s Word.

*The Quotable Christian

Friday, May 15, 2009


“I will praise You forever for what You have done. In the presence of Your faithful people, I will put my hope in Your name, for it is good.” Psalm 52:9 HCSB

“Gratitude is not only the memory but the homage of the heart rendered to God for His goodness.” Nathaniel Parker Willis*

Most of us spend too much time counting our curses instead of counting our blessings.

Counting our Curses: Man, I was barely able to get up this morning. I paid all the bills and now I don’t have any money left. My house is too small. My boss works me too hard.

Counting our Blessings: Thank You, Lord, that I was able to get up this morning! Thank You for providing for me! All my needs have been met! Thank You for giving me a home. Thank You for giving me a job where I can be productive and be a witness for You.

Whether we realize it or not, what and how we speak shows others what we think and feel. We need to speak gratitude to the Lord for all He has done.

Lord, help us today to put our hope in Your good name.


Thursday, May 14, 2009



“If the foot should say, ‘Because I’m not a hand, I don’t belong to the body,’ in spite of that it still belongs to the body. And if the ear should say, ‘Because I’m not an eye, I don’t belong to the body,’ in spite of this it still belongs to the body.” 1 Corinthians 12:15-16 HCSB

“Enjoy your own life without comparing it with that of another.” Marquis de Condorcet*

When I was in college, I once attended a weeklong camp in North Carolina. One day, an older woman struck up a conversation with me about how I was enjoying the camp. For some reason, I told her that I was disappointed in myself because I hadn’t been selected to sing the solo with the choir for that evening’s worship service.

She looked at me thoughtfully and said, “Do you know why I stopped to talk with you? I wanted to tell you that each night when the choir sings, I watch you. You are unique and loved by God. He doesn’t want you comparing yourself to others. He wants you to rejoice in what He’s given you.”

Lord, thank You for making each of us unique.


Wednesday, May 13, 2009



“But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your heart, don’t brag and lie in defiance of this truth… For where envy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder and every kind of evil.” James 3:14, 16 HCSB

“The jealous are troublesome to others, but a torment to themselves.” William Penn*

The Lord wants our lives and ministries to thrive. He has gifted each of us with talents and spiritual gifts in order to serve Him and enjoy life. Satan wants to destroy our lives and ministries. He knows that if we are jealous of others that we are bound to create disorder in our own lives. He understands that selfish ambition partnered with envy can lead to every type of evil.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to embrace something that is going to lead to every kind of evil. I want to run from it.

God knows what we are thinking. He knows when we are inwardly burning with jealousy. Since we can’t hide it from the Lord, we might as well confess it to Him and ask Him to help us overcome our jealousy.

Lord, help us stay far away from jealousy.


Tuesday, May 12, 2009



“There is an occasion for everything, and a time for every activity under heaven.” Ecclesiastes 3:1 HCSB

“Timing has a lot to do with the outcome of a rain dance.” Cowboy Proverb*

Recently, my wife and I went to the movies to see the latest science fiction film. About an hour into the film, in the middle of a battle scene, the movie stopped, the lights came up, and the movie previews started to play. As the crowd began to grow impatient, one lady said, “This is not a very good setup for a sequel.” As I looked back at the projector, I could see the shadows of the movie technicians working feverishly to remedy the situation. Before long, the movie was up and going again.

Similar situations happen all of the time in worship services. A pastor sets up a video illustration, steps aside so it can play, and nothing happens. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of people, look back at the tech area to show their disapproval and see someone working feverishly to remedy the situation.

Timing is extremely important in worship. Everyone, from the pastor to the a/v technician, must realize its importance.

Lord, help us with our timing.


Friday, May 8, 2009

For Me

For Me

“This I know: God is for me.” Psalm 56:9b HCSB

“Faith is deliberate confidence in the character of God whose ways you may not understand at the time.” Oswald Chambers*

Have you ever had one of those days where everything seemed to go wrong? You get up in the morning and see that you have a flat tire. You change the tire but get grease all over your dress clothes so you rush to change clothes, but everything’s dirty so you have to mix and match from the hamper. You drive fast to work to make up for lost time and you get pulled over for speeding. After that, you get stuck in traffic with a very slow driver in front of you and someone who loves his horn behind you. Then, when you finally get to work late, your boss looks at his watch and then yells at you for something he did wrong.

During these times, it’s important to remember that God is for us. He loves us. He wants good things to happen in our lives and ministries.

Lord, I know that You are for me. When life is hurting me, I will put my trust in You.


Thursday, May 7, 2009


“The inexperienced believe anything, but the sensible watch their steps.” Proverbs 14:15

“Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character and self control to be understanding and forgiving.” Dale Carnegie*

The following is a message I received on my voicemail:

“Hello, John. Uh, this is Ronald. I just thought you should know that today when you led that song that everybody seemed to like, uh, well, they were just being nice. It really sounded like you were singing through your nose. I just thought you should know.”

Throughout my ministry, one thing I have found to be true is that everyone has an opinion regarding the music of the church. Everyone is certainly entitled to have an opinion, but sometimes people share those opinions in tactless, thoughtless ways. When this happens to those of us who are artists, it is important that we look past the attitude of the critic to see if there is any validity to what they are saying. The criticism may not have been given in love, but if we use discernment, we can learn from what is true and forget the rest.

Lord, help me be discerning when I am criticized.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009



“How good and pleasant it is when brothers can live together!” Psalm 133:1 HCSB

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” Henry Ford*

Shelton plays the synthesizer for one of our worship teams. When it is time for a rehearsal to begin, he is always in position ready to go. When we need for someone to play at another campus, Shelton is always willing to drive the extra distance to help out. When Hurricane Katrina destroyed our church sheet music library, Shelton produced a copy of every song that he had ever played with the band. He had saved them for years.

Last week, I noticed a crutch on the floor next to Shelton, so I asked him, “Shelton, is that your crutch?”

“Yes,” he answered. “I’m having severe problems with my knee.”

“Are you o.k. to play?” I asked.

He smiled and said, “Yes, I’ll be fine as long as I’m not walking.”

Later, Dwight, our lead worship leader, asked Shelton again if he was sure that he could play. Shelton, smiling again, replied, “I’m on this team and a team’s a team.”

Lord, help me be like Shelton.


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Golden Apples

Golden Apples

“A word spoken at the right time is like golden apples on a silver tray.” Proverbs 25:11 HCSB

“Good criticism is very rare and always precious.” Ralph Waldo Emerson*

In college, I was required to attend a weekly Performing Arts Class. In this class, music majors were required to perform at least once every semester. When it was my week to sing, I was nervous and everybody knew it. I somehow made it through the song and rejoined my fellow students.

Afterward, I was approached by a senior who said, “John, I’ve never heard that song sung that way before. Are you sure you want to continue in music?”

I turned to walk away when I heard him laugh and say, “You must be so proud.”

I was crushed and walked away to the sound of his laughter. When I rounded the corner, I almost ran into another senior who could tell that I was upset. He smiled and said, “Don’t worry about it. You did fine. Sure, there’s room for improvement, but you did a lot better than I did when I first sang in Performing Arts Class.”

Lord, help us give good criticism.

*Culture, the Conduct of Life

Monday, May 4, 2009

Proclaim With Me

“Proclaim with me the Lord’s greatness; let us exalt His name together.” Psalm 34:3 HCSB

“Not everyone can lead worship.” Michael W. Smith*

The following is a conversation I had while I was in seminary (several years ago):

Bill: Hey, John.

John: Hey, Bill. What’s up?

Bill: I was just thinking about that church where you serve. What is it that you do there again?

John: I’m the worship leader.

Bill: Yeah, that. That’s a strange title. Most churches don’t have worship leaders.

John: You’re absolutely right, Bill.

Things have changed a lot since that time. Now, every week, I meet at least one person who tells me that they want to be a worship leader. What many of them are actually saying is, “I’m really talented and I want to play and sing in front of a large group of people.” There’s nothing wrong with being talented and wanting to perform, but leading worship is something completely different. When someone is the worship leader, it is his responsibility to lead a group of people from where they are into the presence of God.

Lord, help us as we lead others into Your presence.