Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Women’s Service in the Church: The Biblical Basis by N.T. Wright

"Among the many things that need to be said about the gospels is that we gain nothing by ignoring the fact that Jesus chose twelve male apostles. There were no doubt all kinds of reasons for this within both the symbolic world in which he was operating and the practical and cultural world within which they would have to live and work. But every time this point is made – and in my experience it is made quite frequently – we have to comment on how interesting it is that there comes a time in the story when the disciples all forsake Jesus and run away; and at that point, long before the rehabilitation of Peter and the others, it is the women who come first to the tomb, who are the first to see the risen Jesus, and are the first to be entrusted with the news that he has been raised from the dead. This is of incalculable significance. Mary Magdalene and the others are the apostles to the apostles. We should not be surprised that Paul calls a woman named Junia an apostle in Romans 16.7. If an apostle is a witness to the resurrection, there were women who deserved that title before any of the men."

Monday, December 5, 2011

God Provides, even...ESPECIALLY...the small things

For those who don't know, this is a capo: more than that, it is a broken capo. Capos are used by guitar players to change the key that they're playing in without changing the chords that they're playing. It makes everything MUCH easier. It also makes pianists and other 'real' musicians hate guitar players =P

My capo broke at our regional conference several weeks ago, and since then I've been either too busy or too lazy to replace it. While capos make things easier, they are by no means necessary: you can get by without them. Furthermore, I have another capo that kinda works the same way...it was made to do something different (cover some of the strings but not all of them) so you can kinda cheat and use it as a full capo. 

The other day I was strumming my guitar as I sat on the grass in Parkside waiting to practice with Rachel for some worship we'd be playing together when I saw one of the maintenance guys walking towards me. "Great" I thought to myself. "They're probably wanting to mow the grass or water or something and need me to move. The guy and I made that awkward early eye contact too where we both knew we saw each other but were still kinda too far away.

When he got close enough, he asked me a simple question: Is this yours? He was holding a (different but similarly functioning) capo in his hands! 

I told him that it wasn't mine, but he gave it to me anyways! Without having to do anything for myself, God totally provided a new capo for me! I sat there kinda stunned-i had NOT expected anything of the sort to happen and so it was a neat moment where all I could really do in response was shoot up a prayer of thanksgiving.

Sometimes I think we can fall into the trap of taking spiritual promises from the Bible to mean that there will be physical blessings, expecting things on this side of eternity that we shouldn't. BUT...sometimes we don't take them literally enough!

Thank You, God, that you care enough to orchestrate the provision of something as simple and small as a capo for my guitar. May I trust you in the bigger things (finances, family, health) also!

"And my God will supply every need of Yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus." -Philippians 4:19


Recently Starbucks changed their logo. And by recently, I mean within the past few months. Forgive me for not commenting on this sooner, but I really haven't had much reason to comment on it until now.

My day to day interaction with Starbucks didn't change much as a result of this change. I still have a gold card, still get my coffee the same ways at the same times, and still spend way to much money there. Seriously, how does that even happen?

I guess what I'm trying to get at is that, while the wrapping changed, the product stayed the same. Starbucks doesn't sell CUPS-they sell COFFEE. (Well, they sell tumblers and mugs and stuff, but that's not the point.)

I've changed the way the blog looks and the way you can leave comments and interact with the content I put here. Unfortunately the blog won't display the comments that people have left on the last few months worth of comments, but switching now ensures that comments will henceforth be saved!

A couple of months ago I saw John Mark McMillan in concert, and as he was introducing a new song he said something that I'm still chewing on today:
Truth doesn't change, but language evolves.
The blog might look a bit different, but I'm still doing the same stuff, writing the same way, and serving the same God! :)

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Conference Setlist 10/28-10/30

This past week we had our Regional Conference for the Navigators: 370 students from around 14 different campuses (in Hawaii, California, Arizona, and Utah!) gathered in Pine Valley, CA (near San Diego) for three days to pursue God intentionally and corporately. This is an annual event but this was by far the largest amount of people that we'd ever had come! We maxed out the facilities at the camp we were at and were scrambling to find places for everyone to lay their head down at night! Praise God for an amazing problem to have to deal with: TOO MANY STUDENTS! :)

I was honored to be asked to lead worship throughout the weekend, an opportunity I jumped at! God has blessed me with this passion and our ministry at Long Beach with an overabundance of talented musicians! So I assembled a six piece band (including me: two acoustic guitarists, one electric, piano/keyboard player, bass player, and drummer) and we set to practicing and preparing.

I could go on and on about how the weekend went, but to keep it short and simple: it surpassed all my expectations! The band really came together well and I think we found that balance between not being so BAD that you're distracting but also not being so GOOD that you're distracting (i.e. making it a performance). The feedback that I got over the course of the weekend was nothing but encouraging and I'll never forget specific moments from the weekend like the first song, the various times everyone sang a-cappella ("How Great Thou Art" being the most obvious), and the ways I saw God moving and answering prayers during the extended time of worship Saturday night.

Normally when I lead worship I share the songs and link to youtube videos of the songs, but this time there's just too many! We played close to thirty different songs and repeated a few of them, so if I were to do that...well, it'd just take FOREVER. I have a compromise, however, with two aspects.

First, I've still included the list but only linked to songs that are newer or people asked me about. If you have questions about any of them, however, PLEASE let me know and I'll do my best to accommodate you!

Second, if you have Spotify you can go to my profile (click here!!) and I've put all these songs in a playlist! If you DON'T have Spotify...well, you should lol. Anyways, I hope one of these two ways will be beneficial to you!

I've organized the songs into a list that's arranged by the them of each talk they were with, since that's how I chose the songs in the first place. Again, let me know if you have any questions or anything!

1. "Your Love Never Fails" by Chris McClarney [Jesus Culture] (Bb)
2. "In Christ Alone"by Stuart Townend (D->E)
3. "Hosanna" by Hillsong United (E)

4. "Lead Me to the Cross" by Hillsong United (D)
5. "Jesus Paid it All" modern arrangement by Alex Nifong (B)
6. "Forever Reign" by Reuben Morgan [Hillsong] (C)

7. "Center" by Charlie Hall and Matt Redman (E)

The Nations
8. "The Highest and the Greatest" by Tim Hughes (Bb)
9. "Saviour of the World" by Ben Cantelon (Bb)
10. "Mighty to Save" by Reuben Morgan [Hillsong] (Bb)
11. "Be Thou My Vision" (E)

12. "Here I am to Worship" by Tim Hughes (D)
13. "Blessed Be Your Name" by Matt Redman (A)
14. "Consuming Fire" by Tim Hughes (G)
15. "I Lift My Eyes Up (Psalm 121)" by Brian Doerksen (C)

16. "Living For Your Glory"

Extended Night of Worship 

17. "Cannons" by Phil Wickham (G)
18. "You Alone" by David Crowder (C)
19. "How He Loves" by John Mark McMillan (C)
20. "Nothing Is Impossible" by Planetshakers (C)
21. "Our God" by Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman (G)
22. "Your Love Never Fails" **
23. "At Your Name" by Phil Wickham and Tim Hughes (A)
24. "One Thing Remains"by Brian Johnson and Jeremy Riddle [Bethel Church] (A)
25. "Sweetly Broken" by Jeremy Riddle (C)
26. "The Lost are Found" by Sam Knock and Ben Fielding [Hillsong] (A)

The Lost
27. "I've Found a Love" by Ben Cantelon (A)
28. "At Your Name" **/"How Great is Our God"/"How Great Thou Art" (A)

29. "Rescue" by Desperation Band (C)
30. "Marvelous Light" by Charlie Hall (B)
31. "The Lost are Found" **

32. "Be Thou My Vision" **
33. "Our God" **
34. "Forever Reign" **


What song(s) were most impactful for you? Which ones had you not heard before or in a long time? Favorites?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Sacrificing Sacrificed Food

"All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up." -1 Corinthians 10:23

Lately I've been wrestling a bit with the surprising ways that my own selfishness can interact with the freedom that we have in Christ. That might sound like an odd combination, but it's a very real concern that I'm still in the process of wrestling with. Let me explain a bit.

Sometimes I feel like the believer in 1 Corinthians 8 who just doesn't have a problem eating food in an idol's temple. Although there are many so-called gods in heaven and earth (v-5) I know that in actuality there is one God (v-6) and that "food will not commend us to God. We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do" (v-8). What does it matter where I eat this? God made it and I do all things to his glory, so it shouldn't matter, right? In isolation, this is not a bad argument. Paul is agreeing that there's nothing inherently wrong with the actions of the believer who would do something like this (although there's a distinction he draws later with actually participating in idol worship through this food in chapter 10).

The problem with this line of thought comes when other believers who hold different convictions enter the picture. We see this in verse 7 of chapter 8: not everyone has the same attitude towards food sacrificed towards idols and "their conscience, being weak, is defiled." We run the risk, then, of harming our brother and sister by our own actions (v-11). And not only that: "Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ" (v-12).

By wounding another believer's conscience, I sin against Christ. That's a scary thought, folks! By disregarding those surrounding me, I risk destroying the brother for whom Christ died. That is a sobering thought.

For the sake of argument, Paul asks: "Am I not free?" (9:1) Can't I do what I want without thinking of these other brothers? Paul shifts examples from food sacrificed to idols to raising support from local churches and other rights he has as an apostle to show that even he isn't immune from this struggle of thinking of others first instead of being selfish with the grace that God has given him.

Paul's conclusion is that "we endure anything rather than put an obstacle in the way of the gospel of Christ" (9:12). Think of others before yourself and don't let your choices/behavior, which you can control, influence others negatively. Paul goes on to talk about being "a servant to all" (v-19) and doing this all "for the sake of the gospel" (v-23) and then warning against idolatry (the first portion of ch. 10), before arriving at perhaps the most famous part of this passage and how I began this post: "All things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up" (10:23). But what is "helpful"? What "builds up"? Paul's answer is the next verse.

"Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor." (10:24) What ultimately matters is the rest of the body. What ultimately matters is my brothers or my sisters. I must love them as Christ has, i.e. sacrificially. I must honor them and thusly bring glory to God, not myself. It isn't easy, but it's what we're called to do. As we follow Paul's example and Christ's example (11:1), we must deny ourselves for the sake of others and live lives that embrace grace not selfishly but selflessly.

God, help me to think of others first. Thank you for the grace that you've given me and the freedom I have to walk in it, but help me to "pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding" (Rom 14:19) and not my own selfishness. Thank you for your sacrificial love-may my love grow to resemble yours more and more every day. 

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Aroma of a Crushed Sacrifice

I've been thinking about trees a lot lately: to be specific, fig trees. The story of Jesus cursing the fig tree in Mark 11 really stood out to me when ROCKharbor went through their series on Mark and I've been occasionally returning to the story and the idea of fruitfulness for the past few weeks.

We have a fig tree in my backyard back at home, so I'm familiar with the taste, smell, look, and feel of figs. It was definitely a recurring Saturday-morning activity at the Ray household for Dad to rouse the troops (all five of us guys-Katie usually helped Mom inside) and set us to work on the various plants that needed trimming, etc. Of everything on that list, the fig tree was always one of my least favorite. Why? To put it simply, because it grew so much and bore so much fruit! The fruit literally coats the ground under the tree and the tree grows enough to constantly need trimming.

A week or so ago I was walking down the street to a friend's house when I stopped dead in my tracks. It was late, so it was dark, and I was either texting or checking something on my phone because I wasn't paying much attention to my surroundings, but something wrested me from my relative inattention and turned my thoughts to the present. What stopped me dead in my tracks? The overpowering scent of figs.

As I looked around, I realized that not only was I standing under the largest fig tree I've ever seen aside from the one in my backyard, but that the ground was covered in ripe figs that this tree had dropped. The figs were EVERYWHERE. The grass, the sidewalk, everything was covered with figs, some crushed and others intact. I took a few moments to survey the scene, and as I did everything that I'd been dwelling on the past few weeks came flooding to the forefront of my mind.

What a beautiful picture of our relationship with Christ and the call we have as Branches connected to the Vine! The "problem" with both these two fig trees isn't that they aren't growing or aren't producing fruit, but exactly the opposite! They are producing TOO MUCH! They can't hang onto all the fruit they're making. Furthermore, there is NO mistaking just what exactly they are and what their purpose is!

God, may I glorify you by bearing much fruit and so prove to be your disciple (John 15:8). May my life be "a fragrant offering and sacrifice" to you (Eph. 5:2), having the same effect on others that this tree's crushed fruit had on me. May I have faith in you, God (Mark 11:22).

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

All Who are Thirsty...

You can always tell when classes are either about to begin or have just ended on campus at CSULB by the line at the Starbucks. Either of them, actually (there are two within a two minute walk from each other). Or the Coffee Bean. Ok, let's just say by the line at any of the many coffee shops on campus.

It's almost as predictable as gravity or people going crazy over the newest iPhone: the line stretches out the door and stays that way! People just have to get their daily fix of caffeine or sugar or corporate America (I say this as I sip on my iced coffee, so I'm not exempt here...lol).

This semester we've been focusing on the life of Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels, especially in John. It's been an incredible time of seeing just exactly what it is that Jesus offers, who exactly He is, and why we should come to Him in the first place.

As I watched the line this morning at Starbucks, it struck me that all of these people are thirsty. I know, I know, what a genius insight! Next I'll be telling you that they all appear to be breathing!! :) Anyways, here are people who are lining up and waiting (sometimes at the expense of being to class on time!) to satisfy their physical desires.

Jesus' words to the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4 and to the crowds in John 6 immediately came to mind:

"Everyone who drinks of this water [coffee, tea, etc.] will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." -John 4:13-14
 "Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.'" -John 6:35

God, draw the students at Long Beach to yourself. May they find true satisfaction in You and You alone.  

Monday, September 5, 2011

Monday Setlist-Unplugged! August 29, 2011

Our first NavNite of the year was last Monday, and from a musical standpoint we had a few challenges. The room we meet in is currently being remodeled and just earlier that day that had put in some drywall. Because of the construction we had no sound equipment-no speakers, no moniters, no tvs for powerpoint and no mics.

Worship at that particular NavNite was "unplugged"-we had two acoustic guitars and a djembe (as well as some printed out lyrics for everyone). This is not the ideal setup for leading over 80 people in corporate worship, but we definitely made do. It helped that many of the songs were familiar ones.

One of the highlights of the night happened before worship even began-as we were warming up and practicing Abby Chi, the 6 year old daughter of some of our staff, danced her little heart out to the music! It was a powerful and striking reminder of what it looks like to be so caught up in and unashamed of our worship that we go for it completely and without reservation.

We opened with a single song and then had a five song set after announcements, which seems to be the setup that we'll be going with for the foreseeable future. Especially for the first few NavNites of the semester, we felt it'd be good to wait on having times of reflection or response.

Worship Set:

1. "Marvelous Light" by Charlie Hall-(G)

2. "Blessed Be Your Name" by Matt Redman-(A)
3. "You Alone Can Rescue" by Matt Redman-(A)
4. "Lord, I Need You"-by Chris Tomlin-(A)
5. "Forever Reign"-by Reuben Morgan [Hillsong]-(C)
6. "Everything"-by Tim Hughes (C)

When leading an acoustic set, it becomes very obvious very quickly which songs people know, which songs people like (i.e. sing along to), and which songs fall into both categories. 
When you have a sound system and mics, any songs people don't know or don't sing along to can be compensated for. Everyone can at least hear the music and the lyrics. However, without that "safety net" of louder sound, it can be a question of projecting so people can hear or a fairly awkward couple of minutes until the next song.

That said, an acoustic set can also lead to incredibly powerful times of corporate worship where you find yourself not leading the worship but participating as everybody sings together. Last Monday we definitely experienced that at various points, but it was undeniable during "Forever Reign" that there was something special/unique going on. No sooner were the first two words ("You are...") out of my mouth than I found myself not leading the song anymore. From the third word of the song ("good") till the end, the room was filled with everyone's voices as we sang about the truths of God's attributes and the response of our hearts to His love. "Forever Reign" is a song that is near and dear to my heart and I couldn't be happier that it's a song that people in our ministry have really latched onto.

Thematically, I wanted to start the semester just dwelling on our need for God-He is the one who rescued us, He will remain faithful to us, He is all we need, and He is the one that we must run to and make our everything. Jesus is the only answer-there's a reason we're focusing on Him this semester in our times in the Word together!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

SMT Setlist Part 2-August 25th, 2011

After a focus on God's work in the past, who we are, and who He is, I chose on the second day to pick up where we'd left off: focusing again on our need for God, praising Him, and then turning to the future and God's power to accomplish great things. That's a lot of thematic ground to cover in half an hour of total playing/singing time spread out over two days, but I didn't let that stop me :).

Worship Set:

1. "Lord, I Need You" by Chris Tomlin-(A)
2. "10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord)" by Matt Redman-(G)
3. "Mighty to Save" by Reuben Morgan [Hillsong]-(G)

Repeating "Lord, I Need You" after singing it the previous day also was a very intentional decision so that these students would already know the song when we sang it on the first NavNite. This proved even more important than I initially thought, as I'll get to in the next post! Short story: technical hurdles lol. When teaching a new song, there's a fine line to walk between playing it enough times that people pick it up and playing it so many times that they get sick of it!

With "10,000 Reasons" also being a new song, I felt it very important to finish with a familiar song. "Mighty to Save" fit the bill perfectly, conveying the truth that I wanted to focus on while putting people in a place where they could sing the words from recall instead of having to read them.

If you haven't yet, check out both "Lord, I Need You" and "10,000 Reasons" by clicking the titles and watching the youtube videos! The entire summer I've been listening to them again and again and again-I can't get enough :)

Later this week: the setlist from our first NavNite on Monday!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

SMT Setlist Part 1-August 24th, 2011

This week was our retreat for about 25 of our students where we planned for the upcoming semester and did some training, equipping, and praying (actually a LOT of praying!). With school starting this coming Monday, we needed to get all of our ducks in a row and plan out events and outreach strategies for the first two weeks of the semester, a very crucial time for recruiting and for meeting new students!

I led a time of worship both days of the retreat and the times served to bookend our time together-the first thing we did Wednesday Morning was worship and the last thing we did Thursday before praying over the campus in the evening was also worship. In the days leading up to the retreat I couldn't help but get excited for the opportunity! It had been several months since I had worshipped with many of these folks and I also had some new songs that have really been speaking to me over the summer that I wanted to introduce.

For the first day, I chose to focus on what God has done for us in the past, who we are, and who He is. I felt it crucial to take advantage of this time to attune all of our hearts collectively to these truths so that we could operate in light of them as we looked to the future.

Worship Set:

1. "Sweetly Broken" by Jeremy Riddle-(A)
2. "Lord, I Need You" by Chris Tomlin-(A)
3. "Forever Regin" by Reuben Morgan [Hillsong]-(A)

"Sweetly Broken" is a great meditation on Christ's work on the cross, "Lord I Need You" focuses on our lack and how He meets us in that lack, and "Forever Reign" is basically praising God for attribute after attribute, truth after truth.

"Lord, I Need You" is a newer song that we sang a lot in Russia as a team and I love its simplicity: we need God. Its hymn-like quality is in large part due to its inspiration, the hymn "I Need Thee Every Hour." This is a song that I intend to lead quite often at Navs :).

Tomorrow: the set from the second day!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

No Other God

Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
  that the mountains would tremble before you!
As when fire sets twigs ablaze
  and causes water to boil,
come down to make your name known to your enemies
  and cause the nations to quake before you!
For when you did awesome things that we did not expect,
  you came down, and the mountains trembled before you.
Since ancient times no one has heard,
  no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
  who acts on behalf of those who wait for him.
                                       ~Isaiah 64:1-4


Monday, August 1, 2011

Just as Lost, Just not as Obvious

Today I read "The Prodigal God" by Timothy Keller. I was walking through the local Borders the other day, mournfully lamenting the fact that it's going out of business while simultaneously and (non-hypocritically! haha) looking for some sweet deals. I saw "The Prodigal God" on a 20% off rack-the paperback was $14. I almost got it at that point but later found a copy of the hardcover in the bargain bin for $3! I HAD to get it at that point.

Keller is an author that I've heard nothing but good things about, but also one that I'd never really gotten around to reading. I went in with a bit of a critical (in a good way) view, wanting to see if he lived up to the reputation that he'd picked up in my subconscious as some sort of 21st Century C.S. Lewis.

In "The Prodigal God," Keller more than lived up to his reputation: his communication was clear, authoritative, Biblical, and-more than anything else-convicting. As he took Jesus' familiar parable about the Prodigal Son and explained it in a way that gave equal importance to EVERY character in the story (not just the wayward son), I found myself challenged and humbled.

One of his main points that contributed to this conviction was the assertion that, while the younger son was lost in his worldliness, the older son was just as lost in his own self-righteousness. I had never quite considered it this way, but, as Keller explains:
What must we do, then, to be saved? To find God we must repent of the things we have done wrong, but...to truly become Christians we must also repent of the reasons we ever did anything right. Pharisees only repent of their sins, but Christians repent for the very roots of their righteousness, too. We must learn how to repent of the sin UNDER all our other sins AND under all our righteousness--the sin of seeking to be our own Savior and Lord.
Our own attempts at righteousness, when they become a substitute for Christ's grace, can be just as much a sin as the vices that we can so easily and obviously identify as sins. They are not always as easy to identify as such, though. Thanks to Mr. Keller, I now am awakened a bit to the need to watch for them more closely. I would highly recommend this book to anyone, no matter (or maybe especially because of) how familiar they think they are with the parable Keller addresses.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Nobody's Hipster

John Mark McMillan is a worship leader and musician that isn't afraid to go against the grain. In this interview he shares some of his thoughts on worship, being known as "the musician for the Hipster Christian," and his song-writing process.

Of particular note to me as a fellow worship leader was his thoughts on whether it's better to have a singable song or one that's a bit more complex/wordy/different:
I like to challenge people with what they will sing and won’t sing. People will do more than they get credit for. I like the idea of having them listen to a verse, then sing the chorus, it’s like a call and response type thing.
What do YOU think? I'm interested in some feedback: is it better overall to have a song like "Death in His Grave" that's more this call and response style where people listen during the verses and sing during the chorus, or is it better to have a song that's singable all the way through but a little watered down as a result?

Saturday, July 9, 2011


I'm back. For those of you that didn't know,  I was in Russia for three weeks with The Navigators, teaching English and proclaiming Christ. It was an incredible experience and deeply impacted me, motivating me for the coming semester and giving me some food for thought for what comes next.

This blog has been somewhat...inactive lately-I intend to change this. For a while I considered doing a day-by-day update similar to my post-India project, but I've decided against that. I didn't have to fundraise that month =P. 

Stay tuned for more updates as I continue fundraising and preparing to return to CSULB in the fall! This will be one of the ways that I'll be keeping you all abreast of my current needs and prayer points! 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Help Me Help You

The semester here at Cal State Long Beach is basically over-it's finals week for the students and so we're all in the middle of transitioning into summertime. I'll be travelling overseas with The Navigators for the month of June and fundraising for the rest of the summer.

As a part of updating everyone about the trip and also getting into contact with everyone about fundraising I'll be sending out a newsletter soon-I'd love to update my contact list before I send it out though! Would you take a few seconds to fill out this short survey and help me out a bit? Thanks!

Click HERE for the survey.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Tuesday Setlist-May 3, 2011

For inspiration in deciding which songs to play this week, I started with Ephesians 6:10, which says, "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power." This was our final week in Ephesians (aside from a quick summary/wrap up next week) for our NavNites. 

With God's strength and power as a focus, the journey for the set, from our helplessness to the Crucifixtion and Resurrection to our response, crystalized. Although we are in dire need of rescue, we cannot save ourselves-its only God who can do that. Ephesians 1:19-20 tells us that this same power from 6:10 is the power that raised Christ from the dead and that Jesus predicted in John 16:33 (overcoming the world). These truths should lead us to a response of praise, exalting Christ for paying our debt and raising us up from the dead.

Worship Set:

1. "You Alone Can Rescue" by Matt Redman-(B)

2. "Death in His Grave" by John Mark McMillan-(D)
3. "Take Heart" by Joel Houston [Hillsong]-(B)
4. "Jesus Paid it All" modern arrangement by Alex Nifong (B)

5. "All to Us" by Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin- (B)
6. "Enough" by Chris Tomlin -(B)

A few notes on one of the songs: "Death in His Grave" is a recent favorite of mine, with hymn-like lyrics that border on too wordy, a unique time signature, and poetic imagery that tells the story of the Resurrection in a fresh way. John Mark McMillan (who also wrote "How He Loves") is definitely helping to lead the way in a movement to keep worship from becoming stale, formulaic, or lacking the Spirit, and I greatly respect him for that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday Setlist-March 15, 2011

Being flexible is a key aspect of leading in any regards, but it was especially true of leading worship this past week at Navs. I had originally prepared to do all the songs at the beginning of the evening, but we ended up having a time of response to the message at the end of the night. The flow then changed from one five song set to two sets-one of four songs at the beginning and a single song to close. Thankfully the Spirit had led in a direction song-wise and one of the songs already worked perfectly!

Additionally, the setlist looked a LOT different originally (the only two that made the transition were "Forever Reign" and "Your Love Never Fails"), but in response to some personal and global circumstances I felt strongly led to use the time of worship to dwell on God's peace. From there the songs really just fell into place-some even the day of practicing with Rudy and Athena! It isn't always this clear every time I sit down to arrange a set, but I really felt Spirit-led in arranging it this time. 

The flow of the set started with us expectantly asking of God, then dwelling on God's character and God's love for us. These songs proclaim some powerful, powerful truths about God and it was amazing to watch the Spirit move in the room and use the time to impact hearts.

Worship Set:

1. "One Thirst" by Jeremy Riddle [Bethel]-(A)
2. "Beauty of Your Peace" by Tim Hughes-(C)
3. "Forever Reign" by Reuben Morgan [Hillsong]-(C)
4. "Your Love Never Fails" by Chris McClarney [Jesus Culture]-(G)

5. "Always" by Kristian Stanfill [Passion]-(A)

I led and played guitar, Rudy played piano, Athena sang backup vocals and played guitar, and Mr. Steven Crawford made a cameo on the drumset. One of the biggest blessings of serving with the worship team is the opportunity to serve with such quality and qualified people week in and week out!

To walk step-by-step through the "roadmap" for the evening: "One Thirst" is an amazing request and invocation of the Spirit to come and be present in our worship in addition to being a beautiful time to prepare our hearts for what's to come. I especially wanted to sing it because Rachel had introduced it the previous week and I wanted to sing it again and really let people learn it and dwell in it for a bit. "Beauty of Your Peace" is an earnest plea for God to replace everything that is the opposite of peace and fill our lives instead with Himself. "Forever Reign" just might be my favorite worship song currently, proclaiming truth after truth after truth about God's character in the verses and then moving into a chorus and bridge of our response: running to His arms. "Your Love Never Fails" is a celebratory declaration about just what it sounds like: God's unfailing love. And "Always" proclaims a simple truth: God will always be our help, our refuge, our strength. our all.

I can't say how it was in the audience, but from my standpoint on stage it couldn't have been clearer that God was speaking to those gathered during and through the time. Every aspect of leading worship is a privilege, but one of the ones that I appreciate the most is one of the best seats in the house to watch God at work, speaking and responding to His children as they cry out to Him. Gives me chills just thinking about it :).

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Sunday Setlist-Feb 27, 2011

Picking up on the theme of God being our God that we'd established Saturday morning, I chose to focus the Sunday morning worship wholly on God's greatness. Whereas on Saturday the set moved from how great He is to our response, Sunday morning we started with God's greatness and camped there for all three songs. 

Worship Set:

1.  "Mighty to Save" by Reuben Morgan [Hillsong] (G)*
2. "Our God" by Matt Redman and Chris Tomlin
3. "Awesome God" by Rich Mullins 

*all songs in G

"Our God" and "Awesome God" are such a natural pairing that I really can't think of singing one without the other anymore. If you sing them as a medley it really works well-the transition is organic both musically and thematically (just like singing "How Great Thou Art" immediately after "How Great is Our God").

Both are incredibly powerful anthems: one from the previous generation of worship leader songwriters and one from the current one, but both conveying the same great truth! God reigns! He is sovereign, greater, high above us, and yet does not abuse this position. Instead, He reigns in wisdom, power and love. And with Him on OUR side, what is there to fear? As Psalm 23:4 says, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me."


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Saturday Setlist-Feb 26, 2011

Today and tomorrow I'll be sharing my setlists from a weekend Navigators short-term missions conference that I attended where I was asked to lead worship for about 10 minutes each morning.  Students from all over our region came to Irvine, CA, for instruction and training in how to fundraise and prepare for the various three to five week trips that our region has organized for this summer, in addition to meeting their team leaders and teammates for the first time and beginning to bond as a unit. This is a critical time for our groups-potentially frightening and overwhelming but ALSO potentially encouraging, inspiring, and stretching.

I was torn between introducing new songs or sticking with established songs, but ended up choosing songs that 1) focused on God's power, strength, and our response and 2) were familiar enough that people could sing without PowerPoint.  Familiar songs seemed the best avenue during a weekend overflowing with new information. With all the obstacles that students and staff will face in preparation for and during the various trips, it's critical to bring the focus back to God and His power, His strength, and His heart for the nations. It's only with His help that we'll be able to accomplish anything-but once we realize that we have it, what could stand against us?

Worship Set:

1. "How Great is Our God" by Chris Tomlin (G)*

2. "Lord I Give You My Heart" by Reuben Morgan [Hillsong]
3. "The Stand" by Joel Houston [Hillsong]

*all songs in G

For Saturday, the setlist roadmap was starting with God's greatness and moving into our response-He should be the motivation for everything that we do. I also wanted to introduce the theme that God is our God on Saturday in order to pick up on that theme the next morning. God is great and high above us, but He's personal and chooses to love us even though we don't deserve it. As Paul might say, this is a trustworthy saying-Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom we are chief (1 Tim 1:15).

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

United Worship

I'm constantly amazed and excited when I think about all the amazing things I see God doing through worship both in my life and on a larger scale. When recently asked where the Church is at globally and with regards to worship, Hillsong United's Joel Houston responded:

I think it’s an exciting time. Our worship has to be pure. I think the danger is that even when our heart’s intentions are good, we can be pulled by the demands of structure and routine. Sometimes those things have a subtle way of diluting the purity of our worship. I think as long as our expression is pure and open to the voice of the Holy Spirit in what we're doing, and it’s all about Jesus, and about God and people, I think that we’re in a good place. I sense that.

Purity and openness to the Spirit in worship. Doesn't get much simpler or beautiful than that. You can read the rest of the interview, which had a lot to do with Hillsong's most recent release, Aftermath, here.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tuesday Setlist-Feb 15, 2011

This week at Navs I didn't actually lead worship, but I played guitar and sang some backup vocals/harmonies, so I'm gonna go ahead and share the setlist and some thoughts about it. I think that this will be the way that I proceed for the rest of the semester-if that ends up being the case then this will be a biweekly feature. Huzzah for some consistency here! haha

We're going through Ephesians at Navs this semester, and this week Don's message was on God's grace, focusing on Ephesians 2:1-10. Briefly, the first week Don used as an intro week (1:1-2), the second week Don taught on God's blessings (1:3-14), and last week I spoke on Paul's first prayer for the Ephesians (1:15-23). 

With the theme in mind, Rachel and I chose songs that would help us all meditate on some of the truths of God's grace and our response to His free gift to us. (Well, Rachel chose most of the songs. I had input with one or two of them and the overall order.) In creating a roadmap for the set, we started with the fact that we're destitute and unable to save ourselves-only God can rescue us. He has enough grace for us all though, and along with that grace a compassion, love, and heart for us. These truths should lead us to response-thanks for His love, saving, healing, etc. and also praise that "spills from [our] lips, flowing onto the feet of [Christ, our] King."

Worship Set:

1. "You Alone Can Rescue" by Matt Redman-(Ab)
2. "Your Grace Is Enough" by Matt Maher-(C)
3. "Gracious and Compassionate" by Vineyard-(Ab)
4. "Thank You for Hearing Me" by Sinead O'Connor-(Ab)
5. "I Asked You for Life" by Kim Walker [Jesus Culture]-(Ab)

In addition to Rachel and I both playing guitar (with different intonations to create a fuller, richer sound), we were blessed to have Tammy play violin and Ernest play cajon. Tammy was a trooper for playing all the songs in Ab, a [comparatively] more difficult or less common key if your instrument isn't easily capo'd and you need to actually know some actual music theory (we guitarists are so lucky to be able to "cheat" and capo to get into difficult/obscure keys but play familiar chord shapes).

The combination of all the different instruments definitely led to more of a feeling of us being a team and not just a group of different people doing worship occasionally. Hopefully/prayerfully this will continue over the coming weeks!

Praise God for His gift of grace for all of us! He truly deserves all of the love and all of the honor that we can bring!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Holy, Holy, Holy

"But just as He who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: 'Be holy, because I am holy'" -1 Peter 1:15-16

This weekend The Navigators from our region (the Sunland) had a conference just outside of San Diego. There were between 250-300 students there and it was such a blessing to watch God work in everyone's life through the speakers, workshops, worship, and personal interactions.

Not that I wasn't expecting God to include me in that, but I went into the weekend with somewhat lower expectations that for previous years. God had already called me to serve on staff and was teaching me other things at the time, and this conference is for the students anyways, right? Wrong.

God rocked my world this weekend. Through a combination of the main message and the workshops I attended I really felt God speaking directly to me-and it all came together at church on Sunday night.

The verses from 1 Peter at the top of this blog quickly sum up the main message I felt God giving me this weekend: Be holy not because you are guilty or shamed or even legalistic, but because He is holy. For the past two weeks or so I'd been praying that God would continue to transform my heart and continue to give me the motivation to live for Him-I recognize that it's nothing that I can do alone and no one aside from the Spirit can effect that change within me. This weekend God placed more of that heart and motivation within me!

After hearing that message all weekend, I went to church Sunday night with some friends from Long Beach. Now, ROCKharbor is usually awesome, but the Spirit was clearly and evidently doing something powerful in that room Sunday night. The pastors themselves were kinda taken aback by it-they extended the opening time of worship in response to the way the Spirit was moving.

During worship at the end of the service, God moved again through that time-and spoke to me in perhaps the clearest way that I've EVER heard.  It wasn't the songs-I've sung "How Great is Our God" and "Awesome God" hundreds of times before. It was God revealing Himself to all of us at that gathering that night so powerfully.

In the middle of one of the songs I took a moment to acknowledge God and praise Him through adoration. I intended to just think the thought, "God, You are holy,"  praising God for who He is and humbling myself by exalting Him. God chose to interrupt.

I had only thought "God, You are---" when God spoke in what I can only describe as a low rumble that shook my very being: "I AM HOLY."

I was thunderstruck. I physically gasped-it felt as if I'd just been punched in the gut. For a split-second I was almost embarrassed, but then I reoriented my thoughts to God. What a blessing to have God speak so many ways and through so many people and then confirm and tie everything together so directly and powerfully! Praise be to Him and Him alone!

**A disclaimer: I'm a firm believer that God still speaks audibly to people today and that it isn't an "Old Testament thing." However, I am also very wary-how do we know it's from Him and not ourselves? One of the best ways that I know how to do that is to, as the Bereans did, examine the Scriptures yourself and see if it lines up with what it seems that God spoke. In this particular case, it's pretty easy: in numerous places, one being Leviticus 11:45, God says that He is a holy God. Even if it was "just" my own thoughts that the "I AM HOLY" thought came from, God can still use my own mind to speak to me. The Scriptures agree that He is a holy God, and that's enough for me :).**

Monday, February 14, 2011

Grand Opening

Just a quick update to say that I've added an amazon store onto the blog! Now you'll be able to purchase any cd or whatever that I might mention here on the blog and support my ministry simultaneously-think instant tithing. (Ok, I don't know if that's the best way to phrase it, but you get the idea-money goes to amazon but ALSO to me to support me at CSULB).

It's the tab on the far right of the bar at the top of the page, just to the right of the "Contact Me" tab. So if I were to mention the new Hillsong United or Bethel Live cds that come out tomorrow (2/15), I'll include them and also put them in the store here on the blog.

Right now I only have a "Music" category, but let me know if there's any interest in anything else!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday Setlist-Jan 25, 2011

I'm starting a recurring feature here on the blog:
Tuesday Setlists. Many of the worship blogs and websites that I frequent have a recurring feature of their own called Sunday Setlists where they share what songs they chose to sing at their respective churches. I lead worship at Navs and we meet on Tuesdays, so I wanted to be able to share the same information but personalize the title.

Note: This won't be a weekly feature. I don't lead worship at Navs every week (we rotate between a few worship leaders) and so it'll only be following weeks that I lead. Also, if you liked a song last night or haven't heard one, just click on it and it'll take you to youtube.

Worship Set:

1. "Joyful/The One Who Saves" by Brenton Brown-(C)
2. "Mighty to Save" by Reuben Morgan [Hillsong]-(G)
3. "Nothing but the Blood" by Matt Redman (G)
4. "Because of Your Love" by Phil Wickham (G)
5. "One Thing Remains" by Brian Johnson and Jeremy Riddle [Jesus Culture]-(Bb)

Sometimes the Spirit leads and a set just comes together-this was one of those weeks. Starting with the idea for a medley of "Nothing but the Blood" and "Because of Your Love," I really felt God impressing on my heart the importance to take this time of worship during our first NavNite of the semester to focus on the work that He accomplished on the cross and the way that shows His love for us.

The focus on that theme of the power of God's love and His rescue of us hit home for me in a powerful way once I realized how all the songs worked together. The bridge of "The One Who Saves" says it simply and beautifully: "Jesus, You are my rescue." "Mighty to Save" praises God's status as the "Author of Salvation" the entire time, from the verses to the powerful chorus and through the earnest cry in the bridge. "Nothing But the Blood" and "Because of Your Love" zero in on the fact that Christ's sacrifice for us is accomplished only through the cross: "Because of your cross my debt is paid :: Because of your blood my sins are washed away." And to tie everything together thematically is the bridge from "One Thing Remains":
In death, in life, I'm confident and
covered by the power of Your great love
My debt is paid, there's nothing that
Can separate my heart from Your great love

Don Allen shared Psalm 18:19 later in the evening after worship and I feel it summed up everything that I felt the Spirit communicating as I prepared the setlist and also during the time of worship itself. Psalm 18:19 says: "He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me." David is specifically referring to God delivering Him from Saul, but how true this passage is of us as well! God has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us to His kingdom (Colossians 1:13-14) because of His great love for us! Amazing grace indeed.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Another URL to visit

Just wanted to mention that I now have a staff website at Navigators.org

You can visit it here. Right now it's just a picture, verse, blurb, and link to donate, but it's a start!