Passion Defined

My Story For His Glory

Friday, November 11, 2011


Well my friends, it is time for me to say farewell!  It has been almost a year since I've posted here and I've decided it is time to move on.  But, I will not be moving on from blogging!  Not by any means.  I have begun a new blog, which I hope you all will visit.  I was just ready for a change; a new blog and a fresh start.  I've greatly enjoyed the time and conversations here at Passion Defined and I will leave it up for anyone who may want to peruse the entries, but I will officially say goodbye to my first blog and hello to my next.  Thanks to all my readers for your participation, contribution, thoughts and prayers.  May God richly bless you all as you walk with Him and as you seek to glorify His Name.

To God be the glory!

To an audience of One,


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Searching and Learning

Oh how sweet to trust in Jesus!  I am completely through with school now and will be officially graduating with my B.A. in Communications in a little less than two months.  The past several weeks I have been trying to find a full-time job, and it's been a challenge!  In December, I had three interviews with a recruiting company called Clinical One, which is a staffing firm and it recruits and places nurses and other healthcare professionals with hospitals all across the nation.  The job I was interviewing for was that of recruiting specialist and everything was looking very promising with that potential job.  I made it through all the interviews, but I didn't end up getting the job.  I was discouraged, but I realized that if God closed that door, then that means He has something better for me somewhere else!  The challenge is now finding where, and waiting on the Lord for His direction.  Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to trust in the Lord with all of our hearts and lean not on our understanding, but to acknowledge Him in all our ways and He will direct our paths. 

I've been thinking a lot lately about where God wants me to be, specifically how God can use me the most for His glory with whatever occupation He provides.  I've also been thinking about what my prayer and focus should be during this time of searching.  The Lord has really been convicting me that throughout this job search, I really haven't been coming at it from a perspective that keeps Christ centered.  I've been all about finding a job that pays well so that I can save money and I can move forward with the things in my life that I want to do.  That has been so wrong!  I know that every minute detail of my life is about Christ and that my purpose for everything I do ought to be to bring glory and honor to His Name, but somehow I missed that during my job search.  I knew it in my head, but I hadn't committed to it in my heart. 

This has a been a painful, but rich lesson!  Christ has promised to provide for His children, and I know that promise was given to me when He saved me and made me His own.  I also know that His command to His children is that we shape our desires to be in accordance with His own.  This experience has taught me that God doesn't bless the desires of those who seek something in a way that does not please Him.  He does not bless those who are self-centered!  God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  The Lord has graciously revealed this area of pride in my heart and is helping me, through the power of His Spirit, to deal with this sticky part of my heart that needs to be fully released.  I can't say that I'm fully where I need to be, but I'm closer and I know that according to Philippians 1:6 that the Lord will complete what He has begun.  If I can trust Him to keep me forever secure in the palm of His hand for life and salvation, how much more ought I to trust Him with something material and temporal?  Yes, an occupation is a big deal, especially for man who has a vision to be a husband and father someday, but in the light of eternity, a job is simply a part of this life that will one day be of no importance.  I need to be more focused on the bigger picture.  I need to look through different lenses, and seek to see things through Christ's eyes.  My prayer is that my vision in finding a job would be to bring Christ honor and to submit to Him as He leads me.  My own efforts and energies are useless if they are not motivated by a desire to glorify my sovereign King.

It's neat to see how God uses different things at different times to teach you more about Himself and to shape you more into His own image!  My prayer, as I continue seeking where the Lord would have me, is that the source of my motivation would be an earnest desire to honor and worship Christ for how He has, is and will continue to work in my life.  I know that He will answer, and that all of this is a small part of His wonderful plan for my life.  It is so comforting to rest in the refuge of His love and to have assurance in what the Lord has prepared for those who love Him.

Oh the depth and the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  Praise the Lord for His perfect work.

To an Audience of One,


Monday, November 8, 2010

Closing in...

So here's a brief school update...

Just two more weeks and I'll be finished with my bachelor's degree!  Two weeks ago, I finished the five online courses I was taking from Thomas Edison State College and I got A's in all of them, so my GPA will be a 4.0 when I graduate!  Right now I'm working on finishing my PLA (prior learning assessment) in Interpersonal Communications, which is basically a big writing project.  After that, I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to be doing, but I already have a couple of different job possibilities that I'm looking into and praying about right now.  I can't wait to see where the Lord will lead me during the next couple of weeks!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Worship Conference (Part Two)

This is the second post on my recent trip to Waco for the DCB Fantastical Church Music Conference. In my previous post, I talked about what I enjoyed about the conference and the good things that I took away from the conference. In this post, I’m going to talk about some of the things that I did not like and why I believe they were unbiblical.

One of the speakers that we heard was Rob Bell. He talked about words and the power of words and how we use them in worship. Rob certainly knows how to use words! He is very dynamic and I thoroughly enjoyed him as a speaker. However, he has some ideas that if followed to their logical conclusions leave us far from Scripture and the way the Lord has instructed us in worship.

The premise of Rob Bell’s session was that we learn to use words in such a way as to create a context to orient people in a similar physical direction so that we can then move to the spiritual. More simplified, here is a possible interpretation: We use words and external factors (specifically applied to worship, but also in evangelism) in order to get people’s attention, get them all on the same page, and then hopefully unite them spiritually. To break it down even further, Rob said that we can use elements like mood lighting, smoke machines, hyped-up worship times, and emotionally arousing verbal transitions to arouse a response that many people think is spiritual but is simply nothing more than an emotional high derived from the psychological influences of a well-done musical performance. Several times he said we use the physical nature of things to put people on the same page before moving to the spiritual. If the spiritual takes a backseat to external factors, where is the authority? It certainly isn’t in Scripture if the spiritual comes second to emotionally driven aspects of “doing church.”

Rob Bell in several instances also made fun of the idea of trying to “be Biblical.” He said that we can’t get all wrapped up in trying to be theologically correct. I think we have to be extremely careful here because some will use this to say that we don't necessarily have to be careful about what we preach and whether or not it is consistent with Scripture and sound doctrine. In 1st Timothy and Titus, Paul emphasizes that it’s not okay to abdicate the absolutism of the truths of Scripture, but that we teach what is in accordance with sound doctrine. In several instances, Mr. Bell came across as if he were promoting a Christianity that drew from what it felt was important whether it was Scriptural or not, as opposed to promoting a Berean body of believers who should continually examine the ideas of men to ensure their consistency with the ultimate source of truth, the Bible.

The last thing from Rob Bell that has the potential to be dangerously misleading was his thought concerning the analogies we use to describe the Gospel. Rob said we don’t necessarily have to stick to Scripture to find ways to describe the Gospel. Rather, we ought to find other analogies from the culture to tell people about the work of Jesus Christ, which is fine so long as the analogy does not in any way give a wrong or incomplete depiction of the Gospel. The challenge is actually finding one. Now granted, all analogies have limits and we need to recognize that, but what Bell was proposing was using the world’s ways to compare the principles of salvation and the Gospel. 1st Corinthians makes it clear that the difference between the natural and the spiritual is irreconcilable. The world and Christianity are not compatible, so there really isn’t a way to draw an analogy from the world’s culture and it be entirely in tune with the truth of the Gospel. I also believe that it’s futile to try and make an unbeliever understand the truth of the Gospel except for by the work of the Spirit. 1st Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” By saying that we ought to find new analogies outside of Scripture, Rob is implying that we can find ways to make people understand in our own strength apart from the work of Christ, and he’s placing an unnecessary burden on Christians to make people understand. Not one time did Rob even acknowledge the work of the Spirit in a man’s heart when He draws men to Himself. It seemed to be more about us and what we can do and our words that can bring a person to making a decision for Christ. Yes, we certainly are to proclaim the Gospel, but we can't take the responsibility of making people understand.  Only the Lord has that power.  I believe that we certainly can draw from our own testimonies experiences as believers in our evangelism, so long as what we say is consistent with the truth of the Gospel.

One session that I did not enjoy at all was by Josh Griffin, the high school minister at Saddleback Church in California. He talked about students leading worship and what churches ought to do or keep in mind when they incorporate youth as worship leaders. Before I jump into this one, I just want to give two principles so that you will know the frame of reference that I am drawing from when I analyze this man’s workshop.

I believe that as God’s church, and as a body commanded to be pure and undefiled from the world, that all of our music ought to glorify God in every way, all the time. The church cannot allow influences from the world to affect the way God designed it to function.

I also believe that what you win people with is what you win them to, meaning that what you use to draw people is what they accept, learn to desire and claim as their own. As the church, what are we told to use to win the world? The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Anything less is subpar, unbiblical and out of the question. We win people with the Gospel of Christ because that is what has the power to change hearts and draw people to the Lord.

With that being said, let me share some of the things that I found disturbing, and yes even appalling, about Josh Griffin’s workshop. First of all, the bar of expectations for students in worship was set every low. Standards of dress, behavior, and lifestyle for students in worship were set at a level just high enough to set them apart from the average crowd, but not enough to challenge them to strive for excellence. Also, the general requirements for those involved made membership on the worship team seem more like a job in an organization as opposed to people coming together to lead in the worship of God. Yes, I believe that worship leaders ought to be committed and involved, but not where external stipulations usurp spiritual emphasis. The ideas that Josh presented in many ways elevated the physical requirements of worship over the spiritual reasons for worship, downplaying the importance given to those who lead the people into the presence of God. He never once mentioned making sure that the students involved understood what it meant to lead people in the worship the sovereign Ruler of creation.

Another thing that was very repulsive and the saddest thing in the whole workshop was the idea of using secular music in the worship service. Yes, secular music. Josh Griffin proposed that churches (specifically for youth groups) use secular pop, rock, rap and other genres of music in the time designated for music. I’m not exactly sure where in Scripture he found that idea… His argument is that we have to provide something unsaved people are familiar with so that they don’t feel awkward by coming to church. My argument is that we have to let Christianity be what it is: radically different and unlike anything of the world. Why stoop to the elements of culture when Christianity propounds a life opposite of what the world offers? Romans chapter 12 tells us not to be conformed to the world, but to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. When churches use secular music, how is that living up to the command to not be transformed to the world? What you win people with is what you win them to. If we use secular music in the process of winning people to Christ we’re winning them to something that really isn’t different from the world. We’re called to win people to the Light. How can we expect to do that by providing dark? Why give people an inaccurate expectation of what Christianity is?

As a worship leader and someone who holds the principles of worship dear to my heart, I am very passionate about keeping the worship of our Lord pure and undefiled. When I hear teachings that promote ideas allowing for worldliness to enter our houses of praise, it pierces my heart! Markets and money-changers have entered the temple once more. When did the modern church begin to think that Christianity isn’t radically different from the world? When did it become okay not to require excellence in our standards? What makes it okay for us to sit by and allow the ways of the world to become an acceptable alternative to the commands of Christ for His church? What will it take for us as Christians to see that satan is being allowed to build strongholds in our churches when we passively watch the things of this world take from the truth of the Gospel. If Christ is jealous for His church, what must He feel when our churches are participating in idolatry by using songs in worship that don't please and glorify only Him? Maybe that’s too much to ask. Maybe we’re not holy enough. Perhaps God understands. But what if it’s not too much to ask? What if we’re not living up to the expectations God has for us, His church? What if God only understands that He has set apart for Himself a generation, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation called to sing forth the praises of Him?

It’s not up to us to decide how we worship God. The Lord has given us clear direction for how we ought to orient our lives, and that is in a direction that puts God at the center, with everything else revolving around the Son. Our ultimate purpose for being on this earth is to bring glory and honor to the matchless Name of Christ. Let’s not taint it by allowing the vain thoughts of men or the elements of the world to pervade our church, but let us hold fast to the immeasurable riches of the Word of God.

This conference has given me so much food for thought. Those of you who know me as a blogger can probably guess what's coming next…yep, I’m going to do another series! This is the second part of my thoughts from the conference, but as I have time I will be composing another series on worship, aside from the conference. But until then, sing praises to the Lord and bless His Name!

To an Audience of One,


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Worship Conference (Part One)

What’s the difference between a drummer and a drum machine?

…You only have to punch the information into a drum machine once! :)

Yes, I did learn more at the DCB Fantastical Church Music Conference than corny drummer jokes, just in case you were wondering! My friend Daniel and I went to the conference in Waco, TX last weekend at Baylor University and overall, it was well worth the trip! We stayed about four blocks from campus with Daniel’s cousin Tracy and her husband Vincent, so that made it very convenient for getting to the conference each day. Here’s just a brief run-down of the events of the conference and then I’ll share what the Lord taught me during the conference.

We left around noon last Thursday and it took us somewhere around four hours to get to Waco. Once we dropped our stuff off at Tracy’s, we went to register for the conference and then waited in an incredibly long line until the doors opened at 6:00 p.m. The bands for the opening session were The Welcome Wagon, and a new band called Gungor, who were absolutely amazing by the way! The speaker for that night was Francis Chan. Following a 30 minute break, we went to the campus coffee shop, Common Grounds, to hear more from Gungor.

Friday morning kicked off with a group called Bifrost Arts, who had a neat combination of band and orchestral instruments and sang mostly hymns. We then heard speaker Rob Bell, followed by the band Leeland, who was also phenomenal! The A.M. workshops were next and Daniel and I went to hear a session on songwriting by Matt Redman, Matt Maher and John Mark McMillan. After lunch, we had another large group session with a panel of different speakers discussing the question, “Why do we sing?” which was also the theme of the conference this year. After the panel discussion, Daniel and I went to hear the workshop by Bob Kauflin on the limits of creativity in worship (and I’ll explain more about that later on). After that was our dinner break and then the evening group session. The opening band was Israel Houghton (yick!), the speaker was Louie Giglio (yes!) and the closing band was Hillsong London (yeah…). Later, Daniel and I saw performances by The Civil Wars, and Jars of Clay.

The last day began with workshops, and Daniel and I made the mistake of going to a session called “Students Leading Worship” by who we later found out was the high school minster at Rick Warren’s church in California. Talk about a total waste of time! After that we had the last group session opened by a folksy band called Michael Crawford and His Secret Siblings. Don’t ask me where they got the name! They were pretty good though, and then we heard the last speaker, a guy named David Dark who was very philosophical and had some neat things to say. Then, everything was finished up with none other than…a little group called the David Crowder Band. I think they’re originally from Waco or something… ;-)

So yep, that’s the conference! Now I’ll share some of the things that really resonated with me.

Francis Chan, Louie Giglio and Bob Kauflin were by far my favorite speakers of the weekend, and I greatly enjoyed Matt Redman and Matt Maher as well. One of the things that Francis Chan talked about was how worship is not just music, but it’s all that we do to bring glory, honor and praise to God. He talked about the importance of living lives of worship and being characterized as people of God, challenging each person to step beyond the expectations and raise the bar for today’s Christianity. If our stories were stuck in God’s Word, would our worship fit with the testimonies of the saints that have gone before us? Would people look at how we live for God and say, “Wow, that reminds me of Moses, or David!” or would they sit back and say, “Well that certainly was boring.” Sadly, I believe a lot of the stories of our Christianity today would evoke a response more like the latter. We need to live like Bible material!

Bob Kauflin’s workshop on the limits of creativity was probably my favorite session of the weekend. He asked the question, “How innovative can we be with the Gospel?” meaning, how far can we go in our creativity before we distract from, detract from, or distort the Gospel of Jesus Christ? Mr. Kauflin used water as an analogy to creativity. When water has limits (i.e. banks for rivers, shores for seas, and pipes for house water) it serves a purpose and is beneficial. But, when water breaks out of those limits (i.e. floods, tsunamis, and busted pipes), it is damaging and no longer serves a purpose. Creativity is a wonderful thing, but it needs limits. Humans are creative because we were made in the image of Christ, Who is more creative than anyone or anything in existence. Our creativity is a wonderful reflection of the nature of God, but we must make sure that in being creative in worship we don’t take away from the Gospel of Christ. This would mean that we strive to use creativity in our musical worship times in church to point people to Christ. If people go away saying, “Wow, Joshua led that worship song really well, he did such a wonderful job,” then I used creativity in some way that took away from God, essentially robbing Him of His deserved adoration. Worship ought to be led in such a way that worshippers go away with a new understanding of who God is, how great He is, and ultimately with an even greater desire to know Him more and to make Him known.

My last thought is from the songwriting workshop, which I thoroughly enjoyed. As an amateur songwriter, I’m always looking to learn about how I can compose better songs. This session was mostly the personal philosophies of the different songwriters. One of the things that Matt Maher said was that you can’t divorce your personal experiences from your songwriting. Music is an artistic expression of something personally valuable or meaningful. We draw from what we know (God’s Word, life experiences and lessons, and personal feelings) when we write songs and we also draw from the level of intimacy that we have with Christ. Maher encouragement was to have a deeply developed prayer life and know Christ as intimately as we can so that the level of closeness to Him is reflected in our manifestations of praise. The piece of advice that I gleaned from Matt Redman was his personal purpose of learning to enjoy God. As Christians, our primary purpose in life is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, and the more we enjoy Him the more we will want to praise Him. When you enjoy something, you think about it, want to do it more and want to talk about it. The more we enjoy God, the more we will want to think about Him, talk about Him, and enjoy Him more and more. The more I enjoy God, the more I will want to praise Him through song and tell others about what my wonderful Savior means to me, an undeserving sinner.

So, there you have it! Those are the things that meant the most to me from the conference and I pray that there might be some nugget of truth that you can take away as well as you continue to grow in your worship and live every moment as an offering of praise to our glorious, wonderful God!

In my next post, I intend to talk about some of the things that I did not enjoy about the conference (speakers, bands, etc.), but that will have to wait for another time! This post is already longer than I expected it to be, but oh well…I suppose that’s typical of me as a writer!

Until then… “Sing praises to the Lord, O you His saints, and give thanks to His holy Name.” ~Psalm 30:4