Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee

What an amazing time we have been having in the presence of the Lord!  This last Sunday (July 12th) was full of truth, breakthrough and victory for so many!  The word that keeps coming to me is "JOY".

One thing that has stuck with me since yesterday morning is that "the battle has already been won."  I've said this for years but really started thinking about this in the here and now.  I have begun to realize that my perspective had been that we WILL win in the end.  We fight daily a simulation of a battle or battles that have already been won...crazy right?  I recognize there is no battle for ME to fight only a race to run.  A race in which the goal is simply to finish.  The "Worship Warfare" I talk about has been adjusted in me and it's still unfolding in my heart but I am so grateful that HE is who fought the battle and emerged victorious at the resurrection.

I wanted to post this song so you could all be prepared to join with us and lift your voices this Sunday as we proclaim our Joy from the Lord over all the earth!  Blessings! - J.

Ten Reasons I Traded Long Hair For Buzz Cut

By Jeremy Griffin

1-Time Saver - This one is obvious.  Drying time is nonexistent and style is done before I am even fully dressed.  With long hair I had to use hairspray and ponytail holders and on “wash days” I still had no hope for the end result of my hair to be presentable.

2-Wash Cycles Suck - Speaking of “Wash Days”… My scalp is naturally dry and with my OCD needing to wash my hair every day I did not stand a chance to have a presentable hair day.  I started a wash cycle and changed shampoos and eventually found something workable but I nearly had to calendar my wash days to make sure timing fell right for public events.

3-Car Windows - I love riding in a car with the windows down especially in the Spring and Fall but with long hair it went from peaceful to perturbing.  Being whiplashed by your own hair is not a pleasant way to live.

4-Sleeping - Sleeping with long hair can be dangerous and if you toss and turn too much can incite some pretty crazy dreams!  You roll your head to feel a pull and simultaneously choke on the hair in your face.  If you sleep with a fan you are constantly being “tickled” by the little hairs on the top of your head that seem lighter and specifically designed for this kind of torture.  Sleeping with a ponytails is alright but if you sleep on your back its like sleeping with a golf ball behind your head.

5-Product - I’m a dude who likes guns and four wheel drive.  Referring to hair spray as “product” has nearly lost me my man card on a number of occasions.  I have a bit of a reaction to daily use hair products and my already dry scalp drys out even more.

6-Fly Aways - These are the hairs that will NEVER make it in to the pony tails and THEY SUCK!!!!

7-Mistaken Spiders - My wife’s long red hair is found through out our home in the form of balled up little tangly things.  Her hair is red and easily identified, mine is brown and is far too often mistaken for a spider especially in the morning when I have yet to don my glasses.

8-Shooting - I like to shoot firearms and nothing is worse than getting ready to pull the trigger only to be pulled off target by a strand of hair entering my line of sight and tickling my nose.

9-Questions/Suggestions - With long hair everyone has an idea for how you should wear it.  Everyone has a “great product” that would work for you.  Everyone wants to know, “When you gonna cut it?”  With the Buzz Cut, questions and comments will be eliminated.

10-Too Many Conversations About Hair Care Products - See above and just know I DO NOT CARE ABOUT HAIR CARE PRODUCTS!

Emotional or Spiritual?

This blog was submitted by Paula Childers and I thought it was very insightful.  I wanted to share it with all of you.  Please comment below with any thoughts you may have.

By Paula Childers

Today I was just thinking about blogging and some many ideas I have yet to hash out on paper.  As my mind was going through the many ideas I started reflecting on the different ways my husband and I "do" church.  Then I started pondering the performance based upbringing Derek had as a first chair trumpet player and the emotional Acquire the Fire atmosphere I was immersed in during my late teens and early young adult years. 

I have a tendency to see performance as a sinful and very self focused activity.  But my way of living is probably worse.  With the high emotional settings I often found myself in as a young adult I quickly learned emotions or feelings play a huge part in the spiritual experience.  Not until very recently have my eyes been open to the difference between the spirit - Holy Spirit inside of me and what my emotions say.  Often I have been confused by those who live apart from their emotions believing those people don't really know themselves very well.  But just because I'm aware of my "emos" doesn't make me any more self aware.  

As I pondered this thought I did a quick exercise to feel the spirit - or what I believe to be God's spirit in me and I could feel it!  It is a deep deep part of me that longs for what Pastor Steve calls the secret place.  It is like a well in my chest that doesn't even scratch the surface of what other people see when they see me.  The spirit of God in me is very strong and completely different from a smile or a cry.

It is where God talks to me.  Where I am who He created me to be.  It is where my peace and joy and deep sadness for the evil in this world lives.  It is beyond a doubt a place no one and nothing can take from me.  In this place I can understand how many have endured the cross with great joy.  The spirit inside of me has little to do with my emotions even though my emotions are touched by his presence they by no means dominate it.  As I live and grow in Jesus my prayer is that the spirit will be my guide and that with God's help my emotions will be submitted to His plans and desires.

Times Are Tough But God's Tougher

By Jeremy Griffin

Several times in my life I've found myself searching, struggling to find purpose behind the challenges and pain that come from just living.  When we get saved we are so often led to believe that from then on everything will be coming up roses but eventually we all find out things just are not that way.

God has been saying to me lately this phrase, "for such a time as this".  He has been reminding me how specific I have been made.  He is reminding me that my passions and convictions are not a flaw to be managed or curbed but are exactly how He has designed me.  When conflict comes, or challenges abound amidst the walking out of who we are we are sometimes tempted to retreat inward and yield to the resistance.  I'm not suggesting we walk unbridled but rather stay bridled thru Christ in us and hold fast to the convictions He has made clear to us.

Its easier to give up, there is no doubt about that, but that road eventually leads to destruction.  The song in the video below always keeps me centered and focused on the Lord.  If you are or have been struggling I hope this finds you in a timely fashion. 

Man! I Was Way, WAY Off!

By Jeremy Griffin

Twenty three years ago, when I was a teenager I was new to Christianity and church. I remember sitting in a congregation of about thirty five people listening to the preacher struggling to hear him. Not "hear" him, that was no issue since he was a screamer, but really hear him. While sitting there that morning I thought about the Lord and had a moment of clarity, or maybe revelation. So simple but we so often forget the simple things. I turned to the back of my Bible (I still have it) and wrote these words, "Trust in God not man because man will always fail you."

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Several years later I entered into full time ministry as a Worship Pastor or, as some have come to know me, the music guy. I had an amazing time and for the next 15 years I served the Lord in that capacity. In that time, many men and women of God succeeded in living up to the standard of imperfect and I silently judged them for it. They should have done this, or that better.  My expectations were drastically out of whack.

The truth is, though my mind had an expectation of imperfect beings my heart had a different one. It had an unfair and unreasonable expectation of perfection. It ultimately extended from my own self righteousness and delusion that though mildly flawed I was probably pretty close to perfect. Now, saying that out loud would never happen and really thinking it was off limits too but actions speak louder than words and boy did my actions reflect my heart.

As the adage goes, "Pride cometh before a fall." and it did. I fell. I never rejected my faith or anything but falling due to pride opened up a slew of wounds from childhood on and dealing with them with the same mind that had been judging others was more then I could bare. Things changed in me. I still judged, but I became the target.  I began to devalue myself based on expectations of perfection and the reality that I was far from perfect.  Somehow I honestly believed I could pull it off...perfection.  I knew Jesus would always be the only perfect man but thought I could come close by following rules and keeping right.  With each failure I fell deeper into the pit of self loathing.

I'm learning that what I wrote so many years ago, "Man will always fail you..." was written for me today. I'm learning that failure is nothing more than an inevitability and continued proof of Gods love and grace.  It's not that I've resigned to failure or that I don't want to live a faultless life, it's that I don't care about it anymore.  I really only want to commune with Jesus.  Jesus is my ticket to perfection!  He took away my sin.  My efforts were so futile.  The ONLY path to righteousness is thru Jesus to the Father.  I know, we all know this but do we honestly live it?  I know I'm still learning it and constantly rediscovering the love of God in my own life every day.

Remember this... God is constant and never fails but man fails constantly. So armed with this do two things. First, forgive others and second forgive yourself and begin to really love.

If you want to join in to a dialogue about forgiveness, grace, God's love or anything, just comment below.  Let's walk thru this as a community of believers loving each other without condition or expectation.

Homosexuality and Marriage

By Jeremy Griffin

This debate of what is right and what is wrong is sooooo boring.  Debating homosexuality and same sex marriages is like playing tic-tac-toe.  No one wins.  And just like tic-tac-toe the debate serves no purpose other than to pass the time.

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I may just be cynical but I've been hearing the debate for 20+ years and I have never seen anyone's mind changed as a result of some compelling argument made by a person on the opposing side.  I have a theory as to why that is...because it's an issue of the heart.

I have conviction about a great many things and no one is going to present an argument to me about the invalidity of my convictions that will cause me to turn, because all it serves to do is cause me to reinvest and get more deeply in trenched in my original conviction.

What does cause me to reevaluate my convictions is when I'm presented with an inconsistency within my own conviction structure.  For example, If I'm against drug use but fine with getting drunk that seems to have some moral inconsistencies as these two behaviors are closely related yet my convictions are not equally related.

By that token I have a tendency to weigh ALL my convictions based on where my moral compass lies which is in what my personal experience has revealed about the character of God and how that remains consistent with the accounts in the old and new testaments of the Bible.

In my experience it is not uncommon for people to argue points using biblical reference that they've only experienced anecdotally.  There is no contextual base and no first hand knowledge and in many cases no relationship with the deity they are wrongly quoting and whom they do not even believe exists!  It seems ludicrous to me.

I think Christianity's biggest mistake is taking on the role of defending God.  He is big enough to fight His own battles.  The reality is the Bible clearly and without ambiguity states in both Old and New Testements that it is not consistent with the character of God to maintain or participate in homosexual acts or relationships.  It also covers about 700 other things that are directly in opposition to God but that's not the title of the blog so I won't dive into those.  I didn't write that in the Bible, I read it and I choose to live my life by those standards because I am drawn internally to what I read about and experience with God.

If you believe differently I'm not surprised...my closest family members don't believe exactly everything the way I believe but I'm cool with that.  I don't even try and get them to believe what I believe.  But I would ask, please pay me the same courtesy.  Let me have my conviction without you judging me as intolerant, ignorant or violent.  I simply believe something else and that's ok.

In case you are still wondering...I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.  I resent my government for legislating matters of faith.  Marriage in every culture and religion I have been able to study has always been between a man and a woman.  If the government wants to destroy the sovereignty of its states at least have the decency to stick with your own word instead of cheapening the sacred and spiritually based act of commitment with which I choose to hold.

The non-conformist mind is such a paradox, it so often wants me to conform to its way of thinking...weird.

Another One Bites The Dust...

By Jeremy Griffin

So I just read a disturbing article about Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill.  If you are not familiar with him it's really not important.  All you need to know for the context of this post is that Mars Hill is a multi-campus "mega-church" based in Washington.

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What bothers me is that I'm even reading this article at all.  I know this has been going on for decades now but the "disgraced man-of-god" schtick is getting old.

I'm not sure where this comes from exactly.  Is it that these pastors elevate themselves and thus become targets?  Is it their congregations?  Do they hold these guys in such high regard that they forget they are just men?  Is it residual effects from fallen television evangelists of old that cause people in the media, who may have never been objectively exposed to these church leaders teachings and concepts, to blindly take statements out of context?

Regardless of the cause of these "falls" and perceived evils I am in faith believing that there is a shift in paradigm coming.  That when church leaders embrace not that they are ordinary but that all Gods creations are equally extraordinary, and when church goers will understand not that they're pastor is a measure above but that we are all measured by Jesus' righteousness, and when the world sees exemplified that churches are not a place of piety but a place of charity, love and acceptance, that we will see the temperature toward the American church begin to warm.  That through this shift the doors of ministry will be blown open wide for all of us to stand, imperfectly perfect together and model Jesus.  Not because of who we are but because of who He is.

Osteen Cosby Mashup - My 2¢

By Jeremy Griffin

I've read posts for and against thIs clip.  I'm not going to tell you what I think.  Instead, I want to ask you a question?

When you say to a pastor, "Good word pastor, that blessed me..." How often do you disagree with what that pastor has just said?  When you say, "That was a bunch of crap!" after hearing a word from a pastor, how often are you in agreement with what was said? 

Point being, we generally gravitate to what we already believe and we find solace in more influential folks then ourselves when they say the same thing we are saying. 

On the influential Christian scene I tend to enjoy hearing from Francis Chan, Erwin McManus, and E. Stanly Jones.  I'm not so blind to not realize I like these guys because they foundationaly build on what I already believe.  I go to the church I go to because they teach what I already believe. 

I hope we can all realize, regardless of the message being taught, we ourselves are foul-able and imperfect just as those we choose to listen to and endorse.

 "I bring this up because some from Chloe’s family brought a most disturbing report to my attention—that you’re fighting among yourselves! I’ll tell you exactly what I was told: You’re all picking sides, going around saying, “I’m on Paul’s side,” or “I’m for Apollos,” or “Peter is my man,” or “I’m in the Messiah group.”

I ask you, “Has the Messiah been chopped up in little pieces so we can each have a relic all our own? Was Paul crucified for you? Was a single one of you baptized in Paul’s name?” I was not involved with any of your baptisms—except for Crispus and Gaius—and on getting this report, I’m sure glad I wasn’t. At least no one can go around saying he was baptized in my name. (Come to think of it, I also baptized Stephanas’s family, but as far as I can recall, that’s it.) (‭1 Corinthians‬ ‭1‬:‭11-16‬ MSG)"

Slow Down And Show Grace

By Jeremy Griffin

The title of this blog is the sametitle of the first message I heard from Francis Chan.  That was about 4 or 5 years ago but I still think about it often.

I have a habit of HAVING to be productive to feel I have added value.  This is a pretty reasonable mindset if you think about it.  On the job or even at home, once you get to a certain age or once you are trained there is a full on expectation of productivity.  The problem is that we accomplish this "productivity" so often out of our own ability and strength simply due to our approach to the situation.  I don't want to get ahead of myself here so let me back up.

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Slow down and show grace... this thought process came when I started feeling high levels of anxiety to make things better in every part of my life.  Running sound, creating graphics, managing the household and so on.  I was running myself to death!  I heard the words of Francis Chan just in time.  The crux of the teaching is that at the core of this productivity was PRIDE!

Pride that had me believing I could make it better, I could change it, I could build it, I, I, I...  It seemed a noble enough cause to want to help and make things better but I was doing it out of my own power and rarely consulted God on the plan.

The slow down came through a word from God to "rest".  It became literal and figurative but He wanted me to do just that...rest.  In that "rest" something amazing happened.  The problems and holes I felt so driven to fix and repair began to seemingly take care of themselves.  The truth was that God was now operating and I was at rest.

Funny thing about letting God "just do it".  It get's done BEST!  This is not to say that God didn't use me to get some of the things changed, upgraded, built, altered and so on its just that I started doing it God's way.

Now when I encounter a challenge, a problem or anything that I feel needs "fixed" I simply stop and rest.  I get clear direction from God on 1. Is this what He wants me to do or is it for someone else? and 2. What and how does He want me to contribute.  Notice I said contribute? Yeah, I work more out of my gifts fitting with others gifts than I do flying solo.  I would say that at this point little if anything I work on is a unilateral project.

So if you are stressed, feeling like it's up to you to fix everything then stop, slow down, show grace and let God work through you alongside others.

The Ripple Effect

By Jeremy Griffin

It's a cool September morning around 6:00am. Your sitting on the ground next to a still Midwestern pond. The water is like glass and though it is beautiful, you just can't resist tossing a small rock into the water. It's so easy to appreciate the symmetry and the ultimate mixture of science and art as we see liquid dynamics and cause and effect at work.

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This "ripple effect" can be seen, in all it's beauty, in relationships all around us. It's in the friendly smile you give a stranger. Its in the door you hold open for the elderly gentlemen. It's in the wind blown $20 bill you help chase down for the 12 year old kid. It really is everywhere.

In 1992 there were a couple of young men who loved to play music and dreamed of playing in front of thousands of people in worship events, youth camps, and churches. Wayne was a very talented drummer and Thomas was a singer/song writer who played piano. They attended a quaint little church with about 50 people in Sunday attendance. One day, an elderly women named Pamela approached the two boys with a request. She had written a poem and asked if they could put the poem to music. The boys responded pleasantly enough but on the inside were a bit too proud and maybe even just a bit skeptical about the poem. Thomas assured Pamela he would take a look at it and would give it a shot but made no promises. Thomas took the paper with the poem on it and brought it home with him and sat it on his piano.

After a few weeks had passed, one evening, the young song writer found himself sitting down to work on new music and realized he was blocked. So in desperation he reached for the poem Pamela had wrote and began to add a melody and chord progression. After an hour or so he had a finished work!

A few weeks later, the two young men were scheduled to sing and minister one Sunday evening and so they decided to play and sing this new song as a surprise for Pamela. As they were about to play the song they announced to the congregation that it had been written by her and they began to play her song. She was moved as was the rest of the congregation and that was one "ripple".

This simple act, that really was a move of desperation became a point of giving and love that had a pretty significant and lasting effect. But as with tossing a rock into still water, there were more ripples to come.

Time moved on and so did these two young men. In pursuit of their calling and dreams they found themselves a couple years later at a much larger church, ministering in worship on a weekly basis and "living the dream". One day the two men received word that Pamela had been diagnosed with cancer. At the time the guys were recording some music with their band and decided they were going to record the poem/song for her in hopes it might lift her spirits. So they recorded it (on to cassette tape) and sent it off in the mail.

A few weeks later the two received a letter back from the Pamela and her husband John telling them what the recording had done for her. They said that everyday, after the chemo-therapy they would sit in their car and listen to the song and worship the Lord. It was not only lifting her spirits but building her faith and aiding in her recovery. Pamela's cancer eventually went into remission and that was another "ripple".

Once again, a tiny investment of time that was really a convenient after-thought caused another significant "ripple" in her life. Not only in hers but in her husband John's as well. It provided hope and encouragement. It reminded them that God was ever present and with them.

The next time Thomas and Wayne heard anything about this sweet elderly women was in 2008. Many years had now passed and both young men were now in their 30's and had families. The news came down that the elderly women had passed away...

Even though they had not really kept up with her or her life they had a very special place in their heart for her and were not going to miss the funeral for the world.

Upon arriving to the funeral the two men and their wives were shocked to see so many teenage and young adults in the crowd. There were about 400 people there and nearly half were under the age of 25. This was a bit strange for a funeral for a women, who by this time, was in her late 70's. They found their seats and waited patiently for the service to begin.

Right before the service began the music switched from the more traditional hymns to a surprisingly familiar song. The song that had been at the center of the relationship between these young men and this sweet women was playing! Both Thomas and Wayne struggled to keep their disposition and not get too upset but ultimately succumbed to a steady stream of tears. Not only from the beginning of the understanding of what this song really meant to Pamela and John but also from a bit of embarrassment as things don't tend to sound quite as good as you might have thought they did 15 years ago.

After the song had completed, the Pastor of the church stood up and read the eulogy of this dear sweet women and then announced that they would not be preaching a message but telling a story. Telling a story of two young men. Telling the story that I have just told you...

As the Pastor approached the end of this story his words revealed to the two men why there were so many young people. He said, "As a direct result of two teenage boys' unselfish acts of service, Pamela McNeely poured her remaining years into the lives of countless young adults and her impact will be felt for years to come."....that was the next "ripple" and countless "ripples" will follow as those Pamela McNeely gave so much too will in turn give to those around them.

You see, like the stone in the water, even the smallest of acts have lasting effects but unlike the stone in water, those acts will radiate in perpetuity. Take time to love, to give, and to make positive change in someone around you.