Prayer for the Week

jesus-resurrection-easterSixth Sunday of Easter

O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

And They Will Reign Forever

river of life (2)Sixth Sunday of Easter (May 1, 2016)

Revelation 21:10 | New Living Translation (NLT)

10 So he took me in the Spirit[a] to a great, high mountain, and he showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.

Revelation 22:1-5 | New Living Translation (NLT)

22 Then the angel showed me a river with the water of life, clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb. It flowed down the center of the main street. On each side of the river grew a tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, with a fresh crop each month. The leaves were used for medicine to heal the nations.

No longer will there be a curse upon anything. For the throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants will worship him. And they will see his face, and his name will be written on their foreheads.And there will be no night there—no need for lamps or sun—for the Lord God will shine on them. And they will reign forever and ever.

Here is the blessed hope – here is the promise – this is what makes all the difference.  John had the new heaven and new earth revealed to him.  He was taking a message to believers who were being persecuted.  Remember that Revelation was written in the late 1st Century.  At the time, Christians were being persecuted for their faith.  They would continue to be persecuted for their faith until the 300’s. I believe that this is why John was chosen to write the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  Those who were going through intense persecution needed to know what the end of the story looked like.  After all, who doesn’t like to know the end of the story.  In these six short verses, we see the promise.  The “end” is in sight and yet the “end” goes on forever.

I find it interesting that the end of the book has a river of life…just as the beginning of the book had a tree of life…and the beginning of the book “began” with rivers.  There were four rivers flowing out of the Garden of Eden.  Eden was original paradise – it was God’s plan A.  He wanted a relationship with “the man” or Adam.  As we learn, God created male and female and he created us in the image of himself.  I think that is pretty amazing – that God would think so much of us that we were made in his image.  No wonder He was so disappointed when Adam and Eve fell into sin.

So we have come full circle – paradise lost has been restored.  The place that was created without sin and pain is restored.  The sea is gone – as we discussed last week and so is the curse of sin.  In John, Jesus declared that he was living water and now the water of life flows from the throne and the Lamb.

This is a place of pure worship – there will be no need for sun or lamps because the Lord himself will shine on us.  And we will reign forever with the Lamb.

I don’t know what you are going through.  Maybe you are going through some sort of storm.  I encourage you to look to the promised one – I encourage you to look to the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.  Put your trust in him and worship him.

The song I’ve chosen to finish this post might seem strange, since it is “Christmas” in nature, but I’ve decided to finish this post with a tune of Chris Tomlin’s new Christmas CD. “He Shall Reign Forevermore”

Are Our Lives a Testament to the Light of the World

For my devotions during February and January, I was using a devotional that was written by one of our Wesleyan worship pastors, Aaron Reimer, called “Worshiping Through John : A Devotional for Praise Teams”  It was written for primarily for a worship team to use through a year but Dale had downloaded on my iPad mini so I used it.

In the first couple of days of reading through John, I realized the John the Baptist’s ministry was a great example of what Christians should be doing in their world. So the next couple of weeks, we will be looking at the example of John the Baptist. The first thing that John the Baptist tells us is that we should be witness of the Light of the world.

In John 1: 6-9 we hear these words:

 God sent a man, John the Baptist, to tell about the light so that everyone might believe because of his testimony. John himself was not the light; he was simply a witness to tell about the light. The one who is the true light, who gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.

We are called to tell others about the Light of the world who is Jesus Christ. We are also commanded to show the Light of the world in our lives since Christ lives in us. We should show people the way to Jesus in everything we do in our lives. No matter where we go or what we say it should be a guide to who Jesus is. We also need to let people know that we are not the Light of world; in our world there are people who have told people they are the light of the world. They have taken a lot of people down the road of destruction in the way of cults.  We need to watch how our words and actions are testifying about Jesus

My Worship/Pastoral Journey | Part 10

CSC_2115_edit.jpgParkway Wesleyan Church – Staunton, VA

Our journey to Parkway Wesleyan Church has an interesting backstory which I will get to shortly.  Toward the end of 2008, we felt that God was releasing us from the ministry at Preston Wesleyan.  In January of 2009, I attended FLAME at Table Rock Retreat Center in Pickens, SC.  Pam went with me so that she could take classes and I led the worship.  Upon our arrival back in Martinsville, we received two calls, one from our District Superintendent – he had asked how FLAME went and if we were going to pursue ministry at Preston that year.  I said that I felt that the Lord had released us from the ministry that we would soon begin our search for a new place of ministry.  Later that day, I also received a call from Barry Lawson, the pastor at Parkway in Staunton. He was looking for a music and youth person to come on staff. He had heard that we were released from the ministry and were beginning our search for a new ministry.  He asked about my experience and said, “You might be overqualified.” I responded, “Let’s keep talking.”

10653535_10153715532943820_4190440116746696500_nHere’s where the backstory comes in. It turns out that I was recommended by Shirley and David Duncan.  David and Shirley had attended our district’s Minister and Spouses Gathering the year before, which just so happened to be held in Staunton.  I led worship that year – during the course of the gathering, I remarked to Pam how much I could really be called to Staunton – because of the beauty of the countryside and the city.  Shirley is the Development Director for Hephzibah Ministries in Macon, GA.  They came to tell their story.  David is an ordained Wesleyan pastor and a bit of an entertainer – if you’ve met him, you know what I mean.  Each year Hephzibah holds a gathering in Gatlinburg, TN.  Several of the members of Parkway attend each year.  During that gathering, the Parkway members mentioned that they were looking for a worship pastor and David and Shirley recommended me. The members came back to Parkway and when the subject came up, they suggested me.  I find that an interesting story and I only learned of it several years later, during one of our district conferences that David and Shirley attended.

statler-brothers-the-5068f8ccc1040So in June of 2009, our family said goodbye to Martinsville and moved to Staunton – which is the home of the Statler Brothers (a boyhood influence of mine) and where Woodrow Wilson was born.  So, actually we moved to Waynesboro.  The Waynesboro Wesleyan Church was between pastors, so we moved into the parsonage there until a house could be built for us on the church property. Anna headed off to college at Southern Wesleyan that fall, so James was our last child in the house, and because we didn’t want to have to move him part way through the years, one of our dear friends at the new church (who was a school
counselor) helped make the arrangements – even though that meant a commute twice a day to pick up James and bring him home.  It helped MTIwNjA4NjM0MDEyOTkzMDM2that I was full-time at the church – and the church and school were only 5 miles from each other.

On the first Sunday of July we began our ministry at Parkway.  It would be the first time since we were at Lakeview that I would not need to make a songsheet for worship.  Parkway had a projector.  It would be the first church where I would lead worship without hymnals in the seats – everything was projected.  We quickly upgraded from Powerpoint to EasyWorship – for one EasyWorship has a song database, so that we didn’t have to constantly make new slides or import them from old presentations.  At Parkway, I quickly stepped into leading with guitar and played the occasional bass, and when the keyboardist was away, keyboards.  When we got here, it was the first church where we using a digital keyboard rather than piano.  I loved the fact that it went straight into the sound system and it was always in tune.  Toward the end of our time here though rd-800_top_galthe old Roland A-90 had some issues, so we replaced it with the new Roland RD-800, which by the way is a great keyboard.  I much prefer it to an acoustic piano.  Parkway would also be the first church where I had a praise team from the beginning and no choir except for special presentations.  When we came, Parkway was on the traditional side of blended and when we left, I would say we were on the more modern side of blended.  We used music from many different sources – traditional hymns, gospel songs of our holiness heritage, traditional worship choruses, and many of the newer songs.

Since these posts are about worship and music, I won’t mention much about the other part of my calling which was student ministries.  I ready don’t consider myself much of a youth pastor, but we had a good group of kids and had good times – there was SummerFest, WinterJam, the Rock and Worship Roadshow, hiking, photo scavenger hunts, lock-ins, and the annual snow trip to Massanutten.

Another part of Parkway that was big was its emphasis on missions, both around the world and across the street.  We had a great Global Ministries Team and each year there were opportunities to go on missions trip.  We had several trips to Guatemala and El Salvador


FLAME Gives Back Missions Team

and while I was there, I took another man onto a mission trip to the Navajo Nation for a “FLAME Gives Back” missions trip.  I think we had some of the roughest conditions of any team because we had no running water, or regular electricity.  We only had electricity when the generator was running.  Also at Christmas of 2014, our family when on a Student Ministries missions trip to Hephzibah.  It was a great trip.

Parkway would be the first church since Flint that we would have a drummer – at least for a year or two.  We had a very interesting sound with acoustic guitar, keys, flute, drums and singers.  Anna called it indie hipster worship. I really liked the acoustic sound and the congregation at Parkway can sing.


Playing at District Conference – what a great band to be part of. Picture courtesy of Shirley Duncan. 

While at Parkway, I would also get the opportunity to be part of the district praise band for District Conference.  The first year I played bass, the next couple I was on electric – which was a real stretch for me.  Last year, I played acoustic.  Anna also played several years.  I really enjoyed that.  Also on a district level I was able to lead one or two Minister and Spouses Gatherings – this time on our home turf.  Also it was during this time that Pam was ordained and headed up the Children’s Ministry.

In addition to all the above – I really became a wiz at tech stuff, because I had to.  I learned much more about networking than I ever planned.  We had a big building and it was hard to get wi-fi coverage over the whole building and then someone (me) wanted to be able to print from anywhere in the building.  I also did quite a bit on our web presence (Website, social media, etc.)
During my time there we also did quite a bit of aesthetic changes to the multi-purpose room where we worshiped.  (Click the images to enlarge.)

When we got there, I spent considerable time making the sound system sound better, but we had problems with an echo of three seconds.  That was solved by acoustic sound panels – what a difference that made when we added those.  A family also donated a beautiful stained-glass window of Jesus ascension.  In addition, we had someone donate banners that we put on the platform, all to give it a more worshipful feeling, rather than a gym.
We also upgraded the sound system, started livestreaming the services and this was a first for me, recorded the services on computer and then burned CD’s of the service.  So as you can see, Parkway was different than some of the other places we served.

However, February of last year, we felt God was releasing us from the ministry there, so Pam and I resigned and said some very tearful goodbyes.  Next week I will write about the year in-between.


What I looked like when we moved to Staunton – in case anyone forgot. 

Edit:  I can’t believe that I didn’t put this in at first – but my time at Parkway was instrumental in me getting fit.  It was August 31, 2009, I first put on running shoes for the sake of running and ran/walked 1 mile at the Lee High School track.  I was 260+ pounds at the time.  Three months later I would run (all the way) my first 5K.  The following October I would run my first long race – the now defunct Staunton 10 Miler.  There were several 5K’s in there, but then my first big achievement – the Park to Park Half Marathon.  For the next 4 years I would run that.  Following that is my huge achievement of running the Richmond Marathon.  In the process I shed over 70 pounds and have stayed that way.  Talk about influence.  It was the gentle prodding of our lead pastor that encouraged me to get fit and do it by running and I am glad he did and glad I listened.

Making “Sense” of Modern Worship: Scripture, Spirit, AND Sacrament

I want to share this link with you to an article that I found interesting.  Part of what draws me to it is the emphasis on the sacramental.  Lately, I’ve been wondering if this is part of what we are missing in the “modern” church.  I’ve included the first paragraph and then you will have to click on the link for more.

Making “Sense” of Modern Worship: Scripture, Spirit, and Sacrament
By Ryan Flanigan

Glenn Packiam is one of the most important voices in modern worship. In an attempt to reason with those who continually slam modern worship, Glenn posted this fantastic blog on what critics might not know about modern worship:

As Glenn argues, not all modern churches are alike, so it’s usually unhelpful to make blanket statements about what’s wrong with modern worship or to lump all megachurch worship with modern worship. He also observes that much criticism of modern worship comes from people who want to “kill” it rather than people who want to make it better.

He then speaks to the good in modern worship, such as its Spiritual inspiration, missional impulse, and emotional engagement.

[Read the rest of the article]