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Our Greatest Need and God’s Greatest Gift

John 3:16

Recently, I had the honor of leading worship at a church in California. The guest speaker was Allen Randolph. He spoke about John 3:16. He made the statement that we are all too familiar with this passage of scripture and sometimes we can overlook all that God is telling us in this simple verse that we’ve all memorized. He summarized his message with this powerful statement…

“Our greatest need is the desire to be loved unconditionally…God’s greatest gift is His love for us”.

It makes perfect sense that this need that we have can only be met by God’s love. It also became very clear to me that I struggle quite a bit in this area. God loves me and that is the only approval that I need. He approves, accepts, affirms, appreciates me! When man does not, God still does. When I don’t feel like I am loved, God still does. His greatest gift meets my greatest need. God spoke to me very clearly and I felt him say…I have called you and loved you, I have brought you to this place and will keep you. The other thing that Allen said that really stood out for me is this…If someone gave you a thousand dollars, what would be the greater gift? A thousand dollars or the fact that this person loved you enough to give you the thousand dollars? The truth is God loves us and that is the entire motivation for what He brings our way. So two things I need to learn to do…1. Walk knowing that God loves me. This makes me unshakeable by anything that man does.  2. Trust that everything I go through is working in God’s plan for my life and his love is working everything out.
Today and everyday…you are loved, accepted, affirmed, appreciated, approved by God!



Fix Your Eyes on Jesus

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in You, all whose thoughts are fixed on You!  –Isaiah 26:3, NLT

Everyday, every minute is an opportunity to fix our eyes on Jesus!  Do we struggle with this fixation?  Did we go all day shopping for Christmas and never ask God for help?  Do we go thru the day at work and never talk to God about blessing others, healing others, needing patience to deal with others, needing guidance on a particular task, wanting direction for a need, asking for blessings on those who are angry?

Fix our eyes on Jesus.  An idea that may help with “fixing our eyes” is to focus on a verse for the day or/and a song for the day. Make the words to a song personal – a prayer – just between me and our Savior:

Joy To The World the Lord is come,

Let me receive you as king.

Let my tiny heart

make room for You,

and heav’n and my heart sing,

and heav’n and my heart praise,

and heav’n and heav’n and insert your name sing.

Post by Valerie Johnson, CBC Choral Librarian & Amplify Band Admin.


Our Eternal Joy

Worship is not a fad but an eternal practice. Worshiping on earth is like practicing for heaven. I’ve talked about heaven a lot over the years. Jokes and stories about seeing loved ones are common parts of every day conversations. We don’t have a lot of word pictures of Heaven in the Bible, so there is some degree of mystery about what Heaven will be like. Heaven is really beyond our imagination and like nothing we have ever experienced. What pictures we have in Scripture include sitting around the throne adoring Jesus – the One who got us there!

John, in the book of Revelation, described the most sensational worship experience in history. The time, date, and place are yet to be determined. Notice the focus was not the method of worship or even the worship leaders. The band, sound, and style are incidental. Worship is focused on the most worthy Lamb of God! And He is the focus of our worship now, too. How much relational tension in churches would be bypassed if the Lamb became the single focus! My friend, Dennis Jernigan, wrote a worship song that captures this sensational worship experience in Revelation.

We Will Worship

We will worship the Lamb of glory We will worship the King of kings We will worship the Lamb of glory We will worship the King

And with our hands lifted high, we will worship and sing. And with our hands lifted high, we come before You rejoicing. With our hands lifted high to the sky, when the world wonders why, we’ll just tell them we’re loving our King…oh, we’ll just tell them we’re loving our King. Dennis Jernigan

Read through all of Revelation 4-5 if you want to enjoy a great personal worship time. John described the worship this way:

“And when the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, to Him who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne, saying, worthy are You, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for You created all things, and because of Your will they existed, and were created.” (Rev. 4:9-11)

“And every created thing which is in Heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, ‘To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.’ And the four living creatures kept saying, ‘Amen.’ And the elders fell down and worshiped.” (Revelation 5:13-14)

What a picture! Can you imagine the scene in Heaven? Worship is the natural response to someone we adore. We cheapen worship when we try to guilt or manipulate people into being excited about Jesus Christ. Worship is so much greater than manufactured experiences. Worship is discovering who Jesus really is face-to-face. Authentic excitement follows that great discovery. God longs for us to worship Him unashamed, unhindered, and unforced. When we are truly with Him (Revelation 4-5), we get to that incredible place.

Christian musician and worship leader, the late Keith Green, once asked the question, “Will we be bored in Heaven?” In his article, he made a powerful and convicting observation:

“The Lord made me realize recently that if I do not absolutely relish His company now, desiring to be with Him more than anyone in the whole world, then I would not really be comfortable in heaven at all – for it is there that we will spend all eternity in the company of the Holy One who made us.

If you don’t like worship here, you’ll be miserable in Heaven! You will be bored stiff! We will adore the One who loved us first for eternity. Revisit these great passages that reveal who Jesus is. Reconsider where you are in your relationship with Him. He will ignite a new flame of passion for Him when you do.



Excerpts from the book “Will You Worship”  by Ray Jones with Dino Senesi

Available at Dec. 17


Lessons from the dance floor

Had you told me 6 months ago that I would develop a love for swing dancing, I would have laughed out loud.  Here’s what happened. I’m just as shocked as you are.

I have been trying to find something to do for fun that isn’t music related, something new that I haven’t tried, some way to meet new people. I overheard a friend of mine mention that she had been going swing dancing every week, and I had thought maybe I’d give it a try. Now I have grown up being very self-conscious of dancing for the most part. Just because you are a musician and have rhythm doesn’t necessarily mean you will be a good dancer, and I’m a pretty good case of just that.  But I figured I’d give it a try.  Why not?

Being a worship leader, I am most comfortable on stage with a guitar in my hand. That’s my “safe place.”  Not that it’s about being on stage, because we all know that it’s not – but that’s my sweet spot, it’s where I feel in control, it’s where I basically know what I’m doing most of the time.  I found out rather quickly that the dance floor was the exact opposite of what I thought of a as a “safe place” the very first night.

I went to the lesson before hand, learned the basic steps, and proceeded to stumble my way through the entire evening attempting to let other guys lead while I attempted even harder to follow. It was a hilarious mess.  I had the basic steps down after a couple hours, but that was about it.  But I had fun, which was really strange to me.  And so I went back the next week…and then the next week…and the next week….and before you know it, here it is a month later and I am triple stepping, doing tandem charleston, and a bunch of other crazy dances that I have never heard of.   And I have to say, after practicing and trying and being willing to learn, I’ve actually gotten the swing of it.  Pun intended.

Here’s the point – when I’m swing dancing, I am totally out of my comfort zone – I can’t lead. I wouldn’t have the first clue as to what to do.  I am used to steering the ship, and there was an internal squirm the first night –  where is my microphone?!?  A monitor?!?  Something!! Can I just jump on stage with the band instead of dance?!?  Swing dancing forces me to follow.  In fact, if I don’t relax my frame and allow my partner to literally push me and guide me with his hand, it is one huge mess.  To take the obvious metaphor even further, I am not even supposed to look down, I am supposed to keep my eyes on my partner for the most part.

We get so used to being large and in charge on stage, sometimes I think it’s good to humble ourselves and do something that challenges us to follow and not lead for a change, and maybe learn something new.  Sometimes I get so headstrong in what I am capable of doing, I forget to relax and trust God’s leading – He is trying to nudge me along, but if I don’t let Him lead I only end up messing things up for the most part.   It makes sense to try and look down and focus on trying to figure things out, but the Word says to keep our eyes on Jesus and trust His leading first.   If we would just do that, we might find some other “safe places” in life that we never knew existed.


The Little Things

Have you ever noticed that it’s not always the grandest of gestures that make an impression in our lives and on our hearts?  The unexpected stuff that catches off guard and brings undeserved joy to our day is the best!

Over the years of working with teens, it’s been my practice to send each member of our youth choir a birthday card from all of their choir leaders on their special day.  I don’t know if it’s the fact that they receive “real” mail in the mail box, which is pretty rare for all of us these days, or the hand-written note I include, or just the fact that they feel thought of and celebrated, but the response always amazes me.

I have received emails, texts, phone calls and even thank you notes from students and parents alike…for a birthday card…crazy, right?  Such a small thing, but God has used it to touch the hearts of our kids.

Since our enrollment has exceeded over 200 at times, this practice is sometimes overwhelming in the midst of the dozens of other things on my “to do” list.  I admit, at times, I’ve considered giving up this custom to free my time for “more important” tasks.  Each time that thought has crossed my mind, the Lord quickly reminds me of the impact I’ve been shown that this has had, and possibly some I may never know.  To this day, it’s my weekly task to see that this happens, in obedience to His urging.  After all, really, what could be much more important than lovin’ on these kids?

So many little things, like learning and calling our students by name bless and build relationship.  After all, God knows our names.  Can’t we strive to do the same no matter how many there are?  Believe me it’s not easy, but it lights up their face, especially when you run into them outside the walls of the church.

Even now, God reminds me of some of the “little things” He’s done for me and how, only I, really, fully understand what it meant to me at that moment in time.  It can be unnoticed by others, but deeply profound to me.  God is so specific in speaking to our hearts, even in the most subtle of ways.

The Word says that we are to love our neighbor as ourselves.  I believe we can show love, change a heart, an attitude, a belief, heal a hurt, encourage, give worth…all by one small act of kindness.   Let’s all ask ourselves, “What’s my “little thing” today, and who might it touch?


Sherry Owen is the Founder & Director of Puresound, CBC’s high school (formerly 7th-12th grade) youth choir.


Jesus…Worship With Your Heart

In the past, I have had people confront me about the fact that Jesus did not address New Testament worship…but I have to disagree.  Jesus was all about daily worship and was often found in the synagogues, alone in the wilderness, and even in day-to-day experience. Jesus had a private and public worship life. We also see him speaking on worship to the woman at the well, in the Temple when he said: “if any man is thirsty, let him come to me and drink,” when he addressed Martha concerning Mary sitting at his feet, and when the woman came and anointed his feet with oil.

One of my personal favorites is when Jesus addressed the disciples on rejoicing over having Holy Spirit power over demons in Luke 10: 17-22 The Message. The seventy came back triumphant. “Master, even the demons danced to your tune!” Jesus said, “I know. I saw Satan fall, a bolt of lightning out of the sky. See what I’ve given you? Safe passage as you walk on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the Enemy. No one can put a hand on you. All the same, the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you. Not what you do for God but what God does for you—that’s the agenda for rejoicing. “At that, Jesus rejoiced, exuberant in the Holy Spirit. “I thank you, Father, Master of heaven and earth, that you hid these things from the know-it-alls and showed them to these innocent newcomers. Yes, Father, it pleased you to do it this way. “I’ve been given it all by my Father! Only the Father knows who the Son is and only the Son knows who the Father is. The Son can introduce the Father to anyone he wants to.”

This passage shows us the desire of men to get Jesus’ approval over their success in ministry but Jesus wanted them to get the bigger picture.  Jesus wanted them to rejoice over the fact that they were going to be in Heaven one day. You see, He had been to heaven and he knew what was in store for them. At that point in verse 21, the passage states “Jesus rejoiced, exuberant in the Holy Spirit.” When you research those words in the original language it may be best translated that Jesus jumped for joy (how undignified)! Then He broke into a prayer of praise to the Father – not caring who was listening or what anyone thought about Him. Our worship must be like this scene; we have to come to the point that we do not care what others think.  Our worship must become uninhibited and be totally abandoned to the moment so that we will be unhindered by the opinions of man.

Early in my worship journey, a church leader confronted me about my open expression during worship. He accused me of being the same as a cult leader manipulating the emotions of the congregation to bring them into an over emotional state. I was crushed by his words but knew that my heart was pure and that I was only trying to bring people into the presence of Christ. What we must recognize is the difference between emotion and reality. The reality of the moment caused Jesus to have an emotional reaction of pure joy – much like the feeling we get when our sports team makes a great play. In those moments, our reality becomes emotional because of the joy and celebration that overtakes us. Why would this be offensive to others (especially those that are also believers in Christ)? My only response is that their reality has never reached its potential. I pray that your expression of worship is unhindered by your inhibitions.


A mid-year New Year’s Day

At about this time last year, I talked on my personal blog about the summer being my version of New Year’s. I say that because, if your ministry is anything like ours, it runs in a semester-type format. Everybody in our department has school-aged children, so we operate on a school calendar mentality. For kids, we have only fall and spring semesters and take the summer off. In fact, we try to end in mid-April or early May because we know how busy this time of year gets for parents and it’s nice to give them a break. But the planning for a large program never stops. Our dates for 2011-2012 are already on the calendar. I’ve begun choosing songs and creating curriculum for the first & second graders this fall (and next spring). I’m close to designing the registration forms for next year…because we start online on July 1. We have to get together as a team and choose themes and logos. And of course, there is camp and VBS to look forward to.

Personally, this is always a time of renewal for me. It’s a time where we can take a deep breath after an action-packed year. I say that this is my New Year because it is a time where I evaluate my progress towards last year’s goals – both professionally and at home – and make new ones for the coming year. Most importantly, though, it is when I stop and take stock of the activities I have going on in my life so that I can make sure I have chosen things that inspire and motivate me. And on the flip side of that, I can retire the activities that leave me feeling drained and unfulfilled. Whether you do it now, in the mid-summer lull, or on the actual New Year’s Day, all people in ministry need to take that break, a few days for self-evaluation to determine what works and what doesn’t. Because let’s face it – we all know that old rule about 15% of the people doing 85% of the work. I don’t know about you, but as a ministry-minded person, I tend to find myself in that 15% a LOT. In other programs here at church, at the PTA, in the school choir or booster clubs…you name it. I find that at the end of the year, I have collected a weird assortment of odd jobs and board positions simply because nobody else was there to say yes, and so I did. Well guess what? If you don’t take the time to lay some of that load down, it’s just going to get heavier and heavier as you progress. Eventually your ministry (and your sanity) is going to suffer.

So take time for yourself this year. Sooner, rather than later. For me, the process is prayer, lists (which should surprise nobody who knows me), serious introspection, and a talk with my husband. I come out refreshed and excited about the coming school year. I hope you do, too.

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