Pirate Ships and Christmas Programs: Dec 4th - 10th

This Week & Beyond...

Hey everyone!!

Thanks for taking the time to read this post!!  I just wanted to touch base with you and confirm what you may have heard at the budget meeting this Tuesday night...

Yes...I will be taking a leave of absence for 3 months starting in the new year.  As part of the pastoral position at Calvary, you're entitled to sabbatical every 6 years.  Over the last year, through much dialogue and prayer with the elders, it has become clear that a 3 month break this winter would be beneficial.

Now being on sabbatical most definitely doesn't mean sitting around doing nothing.  It's the opposite really.  While being full of "rest", it is very high on being purposeful in seeking the Lord through relational context as well as study.  I will be spending most days studying the Word and reading, and seeking him through personal devotion, singing, praying, and other various ways in which I meet with Jesus.  I'm super excited!  In addition to this, taking time to be with Michelle and the kids, and doing some creative stuff, is on the agenda!

My goal is to come back changed!  Not just rested up, but, launching into a new season of life!

While I'm away, Tony, Lisa, and Corinne have graciously agreed to take up the leading slack.  Please feel free to ask them your questions and encourage them as the serve more often than usual!

I understand this is a brief snapshot of what's to come, so, please feel free to pull me aside and ask anything you wish.

Blessings,
Gregory

Devotional...

Pirate Ships and Christmas Programs
by Carlene Archer, Chatsworth, Georgia  

So this is what the Sovereign Lord says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed." (Isaiah 28:16)

One Christmas Eve, my husband and I purchased an elaborate pirate ship for our 5-year-old son. The store display was amazing; my husband played with the dazzling construction of plastic, string, and metal rings until I made him stop. The ship came with a crow's nest, cannons to aim, and lots of deck room for pirate battles. There were pirates sporting plastic bandannas, a treasure chest with "real" plastic treasure, and even a parrot perched upon the shoulder of one of the swarthy "mates."

We didn't realize, however, that all this pirate glory would cost us more than our store receipt indicated. When we opened the box, we discovered that the ship came with "some assembly required." There were hundreds of pieces in a myriad of shapes, sizes, and types of material. We separated the bags of parts into piles on the floor. The directions seemed useless, as my "general manager" of the construction project tried desperately to fit Flap A into Slot B, and to connect the round gizmo to the square whatchamacallit. The possibility of this entire project ever coming together to make something resembling a pirate ship seemed pretty dismal.

As a music director, one of the highlights of my year is selecting music and dramas for the Advent/Christmas season. I enjoy browsing on-line, shopping in our local music supplier's warehouse, flipping through musicals, humming tunes to myself, contemplating chosen Scriptures, and reveling in the process. So much cool music! So much great potential! It all sounds so wonderful on those demo CDs! It all seems so "doable."

So I leave the warehouse with a full bag, and, the next thing I know, I'm sitting with the Christmas teams at our season kickoff party. We eat pizza and sing along with wonderful new tunes. We laugh at the hysterical lines in the drama and wipe tears at the poignancy of the final moments we plan for the program's finale.

Before I know it, October is here. The music and drama selections have been shredded into pieces for each rehearsal. My set-design person, so enthusiastic at Labor Day, has vanished like a ghost by Halloween. The 5-part harmony, so inspiring on the CD, is sounding...well...about a part and a half short. To my dismay, the Christmas season services lie disassembled, like our son's pirate ship. In the store, it was so cool...so workable...so complete!

At this stage in the preparation, songs lie around me like Flap A's needing Slot B's. I wonder if the scattered and tattered components will ever resemble anything close to that heady, shopping-day dream.

We all face disappointments at times. So in the face of our dreams being reduced to something less than we had envisioned, what should our reaction be? Do we lapse into discouragement? Do we pass the blame to circumstances or to people who were less committed than we had thought? When push comes to shove, are we placing our trust in our own talent and abilities or our talented coworkers?

Those are easy traps to fall into. Instead, though, we should return to the reason behind the things we do. We must rely on our foundation -- Jesus Christ -- for the strength and perseverance to see the project through. We must trust that He will speak to hearts through our efforts. As God said through Isaiah, if we put our trust in Him, we will never be dismayed. He has laid the foundation. He will make certain that His work in us and through us will accomplish the things He desired.

GOING DEEPER: 
1. Have you ever experienced your own pirate ship debacle experience? Share about it.
2. How do you keep your joy, determination and vision during difficult times?
3. The opening Scripture tells us that if we trust in the Lord, we will never be dismayed. Let's agree together to help one another trust when we find that individually challenging.

The Race for Me ... and Thee: Nov 20th - 26th

Devotional...

The Race for Me ... and Thee
by Karen Morerod, Kansas City, Kansas  

Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus... (Hebrews 12:1b-2a)

I walk two miles most mornings. That might not be impressive to real athletes; but it's a fairly new regimen for me now that 50 years of age is lurking at the door. Maybe in the near future I'll work up to a longer workout, but for now, it's what I can do without my body threatening to go on strike.

When I walk, I try to keep focused on something. I seldom look at the people in the cars that go by. I keep my head down or look straight ahead. Sometimes I pray. Other times I think about tightening certain muscles when I walk and what shape I might be in on my 50th birthday. Or I focus on my driveway in the distance and pant, "One hundred more yards... fifty more yards... I can... do all things... through Christ..."

If I don't focus on those things, my mind can too easily get sidetracked. I begin to wonder how a certain neighbor can have such a messy yard. I envy the next neighbor's landscaping. I shake my head at the farmer's sign that says "Vegatables" (spell it right, for pete's sake). Or, with sweat running down my neck, I covet the cool air the passing drivers are enjoying with their rolled up windows.

With thoughts like that, it's probably best that I keep focused.

It reminds me of the scripture in Hebrews that tells me I should run with perseverance the race marked out for me. Oh, the scripture actually says, "...marked out for us," but I wonder if we could make that scripture a little more personal. The Hebrews' author is using the collective noun us, implying that all of us Christians should run the race marked out for all Christians. However, I don't see in scripture where I'm to run Kathy's race or Carole's race or my husband's race. But, the Bible does tell me I have a specific part in the Body of Christ and I need to get focused on that -- the race marked out for me.

How about your involvement in your church's music ministry? Are you focused on your part in that race? Or are you looking around and checking out others and their actions? Do you notice every time someone is late to practice? Mentally keep track of when they're absent? Do you get huffy at others' wrong notes or when they come in a beat late? Or are you silently envious of someone who's a little better than you?

The problem of not paying attention to our own race -- of not being focused -- is that we start to notice the negative and then become prideful, critical or judgmental. Okay, that's what I do. Hopefully you would never do anything like that.

Now I'm not advocating lazy singing styles or unfaithful practice attendance, but if each one of uswere focused on what we are supposed to be focused on, then maybe some of those problems would go away.

I do something else on my morning walks. I jog a little. (I hope "a little" isn't exaggerating). I start at one road sign and give myself a goal of jogging until I get to another sign. I keep trying to improve my goals, making those stretches longer, pushing myself to get stronger.

What if each of us pushed ourselves to get stronger to help lead our church in worship? Maybe we could cease pointing out others' faults and work on our own goals. Goals such as being faithful in attendance and on time, or learning a song better. Or the ultimate goal of worshiping God with a sincere praise-filled heart.

I think we do this best when Jesus is our focus. With our eyes fixed on Him, each of us can run our own race, do our own personal best, and our team or choir will operate in better unity and harmony.

GOING DEEPER:
1. How do you handle it when you're feeling envious of -- or superior to -- someone else in the worship ministry?
2. Where's your focus most of the time in the worship ministry?
3. As you focus on your race and what God is asking you to do, is there a goal you should be aiming for and asking God's help with?

Don't Labor in Vain: Nov 6th - 12th

Devotional...

Don't Labor in Vain
by Tom Kraeuter, Hillsboro, Missouri   

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. (Psalm 127:1)

I have been blessed with an amazing privilege. Week after week I get to stand in front of groups of people and teach. I have the opportunity to expound upon the Scriptures, helping to bring forth the nuggets of God's Word in an easily understood way.  Through seminars, retreats, Sunday morning sermons and more, I can help unlock the mysteries of the Bible.

It goes beyond the face-to-face encounters, though. Through numerous books and scores of articles, the Lord has allowed me the chance to help bring countless people around the world into a more mature understanding in their faith. I feel very privileged in my calling.

I regularly pray that God will cause me to write and speak clearly and well. I work hard to craft together words that will have the utmost impact. Choosing just the right word can make the difference between someone understanding or not understanding. In live or video settings, using just the right voice inflection or facial expression at the correct moment can help people feel the emotion in what I'm saying, thereby having a greater impact. All of these are important tools, and I consciously try to use them as wisely and carefully as possible.

Sometimes, though, I begin to think that the teaching itself is what makes changes. It is easy to have the idea that my oratory abilities or writing skills are what cause people's lives to be profoundly affected. If I just do a good enough job -- say the correct words and say them well -- then the hearts and minds of the hearers or readers will be altered.

Yet when I read the psalmist's words, I am once again drawn up short. "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1). The truth is that all of my eloquent words fall on deaf ears unless God causes them to take root in the hearts and minds of the hearers or readers.

So, more than just speaking and writing clearly and well, I have a job that is even more important and comes before those things. It even comes before praying that the Lord will cause me to do the best I can. It is something that most of us recognize, yet seemingly few of us do well.

What is this all-important task? Praying for the people to whom I minister. Unless God works in their minds and hearts, all my efforts are in vain. Unless He implants those words, my carefully crafted words fall on unprepared soil.

So, what does all this have to do with you and the worship ministry of your church? I hope you made the connection by now, but just in case, let me make this clear. You can do a great job musically, perhaps even offering a flawless performance. You might have extraordinary gifts and abilities in artistic endeavors. Yet, even if your instrumental or vocal work this Sunday are beyond compare, still, unless the Lord causes people to connect with Him through it, unless His likeness becomes a bit more imprinted on their souls as a result, you have only made some nice music, nothing more.

I would challenge you to spend as much time (or more) praying for the people to whom you are ministering as you do actually ministering to them. "Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain" (Psalm 127:1).

GOING DEEPER:
1. What would it look like for you to humbly and honestly pray for the people you are helping to lead in worship?
2. What sort of difference do you think it might make if you and the entire team did that regularly and consistently?
3. Take time right now to pray for the people in your congregation. God may even prompt you to pray for one or two individuals all week long.

Serving The Lord With Gladness: Oct 30th - Nov 5th

This Week & Beyond...

Hey friends!!  Thank you to all that were able to come out Sunday night!!  To those who couldn't, I'm so sorry you had to miss out, it was a great time!  Here are the pic's in case you didn't get to see them.

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Devotional...

Serving the Lord with Gladness
by Stephen Altrogge, Indiana, Pennsylvania (adapted from Stephen's blog, "The Blazing Center")

Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! (Psalm 100:2)

Let me be completely candid for a moment. This verse presents some very serious problems for me.

Don't misunderstand. I can serve the Lord. No problem. When He says, "Lead worship," I respond by asking, "How many songs?" I can do that part very easily. It's the gladness part that makes things difficult for me. Because often -- perhaps even most of the time -- I don't necessarily feel especially glad about serving the Lord. I know that's not a very "Christian" thing to say, but it's true.

Let me give you an example. Our church recently went from one service to two. That means I now get to do everything twice. Lead worship, hear the sermon, give the exhortation, etc. Double the time and double the work.

You should know that I really am grateful for the opportunity to serve God and His people in this way. I often feel privileged for the calling on my life. At the same time, though, I have to admit that on Saturday night I'm not always overflowing with gladness.

My usual Saturday night version of Psalm 100:2 goes something like this: Buckle down and serve the Lord, even if you don't feel like doing it, because it will be over soon enough, and then you can go home and rest.

Not exactly serving the Lord with gladness, is it?

But let me ask you: Have you ever felt this way? Are you ever inclined toward not serving? Like you just aren't in the mood to do any serving and you would rather stay at home and lay on the couch with a bag of chips next to you? Be honest.

Recently, though, I've been made aware of a simple truth that has helped me. God and his people are worthy of all my enthusiasm and gladness. They really are!

God is worthy of two worship services. Of six worship services. Of a thousand worship services. His worth doesn't diminish even a tiny bit based on my feelings -- or my lack of feelings. The preciousness of God's people doesn't lessen along with my energy or my excitement. God and His church are objectively worthy of all that I can muster. Period.

I can't be content to serve God glumly. When I'm not in a "serving mood" (as if there ever was such a thing), I need to remember that God is worthy and then ask Him for fresh strength and gladness. Then I need to just get moving and quit feeling so sorry for myself.

Serve the Lord with gladness.

GOING DEEPER: 
1. What do you do to help keep the gladness in your serving?
2. Do you always serve the Lord with gladness? If not, how could that change?
3. How could we as a worship ministry team convey this same idea to the congregation?

Guard Your Heart: October 23rd - 29th

This Week & Beyond...

Just a quick reminder about our upcoming kick-off on Sunday @ 5pm!!

If you haven't already confirmed you attendance to this fantastic event, please take a moment to do so!  It's gonna be a good time and I look forward to hanging out with y'all!!!

Please also remember to bring $10 for food and fun??

Blessings!!
Gregory J.

Devotional...

Guard Your Heart
by Tom Kraeuter, Hillsboro, Missouri

Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. (Proverbs 4:23)

A friend of mine -- a really big guy who used to play football for the Air Force -- once accompanied me on a weekend ministry trip. At one point I jokingly introduced him as my bodyguard. Later, an older lady approached him and asked, "Are you really his bodyguard?" My friend just laughed. He assured her that he was just a friend along for the trip.

That's become a running joke between my friend and me, that he's my bodyguard. Actually, though, bodyguards are not generally a joking matter. I remember when President Ronald Reagan was shot. One of his Secret Service agents jumped in the way to protect the President. The guard was seriously wounded, but Reagan was shielded from further injury. Being a guard is no trivial matter.

Lots of places and people have guards. Banks. Celebrities. Military bases. High tech companies. Even some everyday businesses located in crime-ridden areas have guards.

People who know about such things have told me that some of the best guards are off-duty or former police officers because they have much of the necessary training. They know a bit about the criminal mindset, are generally in good physical shape, know something about self-defense and know how to use a firearm. As a guard, if they need to actually defend the person or institution from attack, they're prepared.

So, in the context of our verse for today, what does it mean to "guard your heart"?

Well, it seems to me that if we're truly going to guard our hearts, then we need to be vigilant about it, just like people who are guards for a living. We need to take our job seriously. Maybe some of the attributes of guards that I mentioned earlier would benefit us.

Know your enemy. Do you realize you have an enemy? Of course we generally are willing to acknowledge that we have an enemy, but often we don't actually live as though we do. "Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour" (1 Peter 5:8). He doesn't want to play with you; he wants to devour you. Be on your guard, aware of his tactics.

Be in good spiritual shape. Are you growing in your walk with the Lord. I don't mean just going to church on Sunday morning. When our children were very young, we had to feed them. They couldn't do it on their own. As they matured, however, they became able not only to feed themselves, but to find the food on their own. As Christians, it isn't just the pastor's job to feed us spiritual food. We have a responsibility to feed ourselves. We should be growing in God's Word, prayer and in our relationship with Him.

Know how to defend against attack. This is where our study -- not just occasional reading of a few verses -- of Scripture comes in. We need to be able to confidently wield the Sword of God's Word. When the enemy comes at us with his lies, we need to know the truth of what the Lord says. Are you learning and growing in order to be able to defend against attacks?

If you're involved in the worship ministry of your church, then part of what you do is to help point people toward God. If you're not guarding your heart in your own relationship with Him, you won't have much to offer on Sunday mornings.

You might respond, "But I'm just the bass player" or "I'm only a singer." It makes no difference. Guard your heart. It is the wellspring of life. 

GOING DEEPER:
1. Have you ever before compared an actual living/breathing guard to what you should do with your heart? So, what should that mean for you in practical terms?
2. If you think that your role is lesser  -- and therefore the guarding your heart idea not so important -- discuss that line of thinking in the context or Ephesians 4:25, "We are members of one another."

One Of Those Grandglorious Days: Oct 9th - 15th

This Week & Beyond...

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Good day friends!!  All I got this week is a reminder to sign up for the kick-off meeting on October 29th, 5-9pm!!  I'm really looking forward to the evening and trust it will be a good time for all.  If you have plans and can move plans to make it, do so.  If you feel like not coming, change your attitude. Ha!!  If you're dog ate your homework, well, get rid of the dog and come. ;)  If you don't like free food and good fellowship, come see me, I'll pray for you and drive your there myself.  I think you get the point, you should be there!  Looking forward to hanging out with you all!

Sincerely,
Gregory

Devotional...

One of Those Grandglorious Days
by Karen Morerod, Kansas City, Kansas

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. (Colossians 3:2)

It had been one of those days at work and I was glad it was over. Driving home on the curvy roads through the county, a song came on the radio. The song spoke of one of those days. Not the kind of day I'd had; rather, looking forward to the day when we would see our Savior face to face -- and even see the hands that took the nails for our sins.

As I continued home, I began dreaming what Heaven would be like. In the past, I used to make a list of all the questions I'd ask God when I got there. But eventually I decided none of those questions would really be important when I'm kneeling in front of the Creator of the universe! 

Suddenly, my mind wandered to family and friends who had reached Heaven before me. And scriptures began to come to mind about the sights of Heaven. I envisioned a world where there is no sun because Jesus is the light. I thought of the jeweled walls, gold streets, fountains, trees, and seeing the place that Jesus had prepared for me to live.

Then I imagined the music. It will surely be grandglorious! (That's a special word for singing in Heaven.) All our favorite musicians and bands in one great unending song. Then, there'll be the angels leading us in worship of our great Creator God.

Oh, I can only imagine!

Recently, I think I caught a slight taste of what this might be like in Heaven. We hosted our area churches for a special worship service. As people filtered in, it was great to see all the people representing different cultures. When the service began, as English was spoken, interpretation was provided for our Hispanic brothers and sisters. Then, as scriptures were read in English, Spanish interpretation again followed.

But, it was the singing that brought us all together! The Spanish-speaking church mounted the platform and broke out in guitar, piano and drums. As they sang in their language, I recognized the melody, but I had to play a little Name That Tunewith myself before the English words came to mind.

Everyone around me must have recognized the song about the same time because we all started singing. As we all joined together, it was indeed grandglorious! It didn't matter that some were singing English words and the others Spanish words. We just lifted up the name of Jesus! And we even ended on the same note!

Yes, many languages and tongues will be joined together in Heaven. And, I'm not sure if we'll all sing in our own tongue, or we'll all have a new heavenly language. But, from the descriptions in God's Word it will clearly be nothing less than grandglorious.

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!" (Revelation 5:13).

Of all the people in the church, those of us involved in the worship ministries of our churches should have our minds set on things that are above. What we do here and now is really only the warm-up for later on. 

As I sing in my church, I want to give God all the glory I can while I'm here on earth. But, I want to worship with eternity in mind. And, I think as I do, even my singing will be a little more joyful!

GOING DEEPER:
1. As you help to lead your congregation in worship, do you ever set your thoughts on things above? What does that mean for you?
2. It seems as though at least part of our job as those involved in worship ministry is to encourage the people to look heavenward; to help them "see" God. How can we tangibly help others to see today in the light of eternity?

Living by Faith: October 2nd - 8th

This Week & Beyond...

Good day everyone!!  Yes, I know it's a little shocking, I haven't added a post in sometime, well, crawl back onto your chair and check out the news!!

KICK OFF MEETING!!
While it will have been two months since we've been back in the swing of things, I'm still gonna call it a KICK OFF MEETING!!.  Stop yelling Greg! 

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October 29th, @ 5pm, we will be gathering at Tony & Lisa's for some food & fellowship.  Wings, salads, laughing, etc, to be exact!!  Yum!  It's going to be a grand time, and, if that's all we did, well, it'd be just great!  However, that's not all.  After a short time at18 Ramsey's Gate, we will be departing to a secret location for a time of team building and fun!!  You don't want to miss this.  Actually, you're not allowed unless you have a really good excuse!!

Date: October 29th, 5pm - 9pm
Cost: $10/person
Location: 18 Rams Gate & secret location to be announced whence there! Mooo ha ha haaaaa

Please respond as to your availability at your earliest convenience.  

Blessings!!
Gregory

Devotional...

Living by Faith
by Tom Kraeuter, Hillsboro, Missouri

The just shall live by faith. (Romans 1:17, Galatians 3:11, and Hebrews 10:38)

I just finished reading the book, There Is A God, by Antony Flew. On the cover, the title actually looks like There Is No God, but "No" is crossed out and "A" is hand-written over it. You see, Antony Flew was an atheist. Actually, he was one of the most outspoken, oft-quoted and published atheists in history. In fact, his 1950 essay, "Theology and Falsification," became the most widely reprinted philosophical publication of the last half century.

But Flew has seemingly always had an inclination to follow the facts, regardless of where they might lead. If the evidence led him in a direction that was opposed to a previous position he had taken, he had no problem changing his mind. He actually did that more than once over the course of his career. So, as scientific discoveries became more and more profound, looking ever more deeply into life and matter, the evidence began to convince Flew that there is indeed a Creator. As he pondered the facts, he ultimately decided it was time to recant his atheistic stance. Antony Flew, a philosopher for more than sixty years, now says that, based on the evidence, there clearly is a God.

Some of his statements echo something that I have said for years: It takes more faith to believe there is no God, than it does to believe there is One. After all, how can one gaze upon the variety and grandeur of creation and think there is no Creator? How can anyone look at the increasing scientific discoveries that depict order -- and that lean away from evolution -- and think it all just happened? I really do have to respect someone who has that much "faith" to think there is no Creator. They certainly seem to have more faith than I have.

The very thought of that last statement puts me to shame. Atheists with more faith than me, a worship leader? To be clear, their faith is grossly misplaced. Nevertheless, it is a form of faith.

Faith. That's an interesting word. Just five letters in English and either six or seven (depending on the form) in Greek. Yet it forms the foundation of how we as Christians are to live: by faith. Confidently trusting in God and His promises.

If you read Hebrews 10, the great "faith" chapter, you'll see a panoply of our ancestors, those who have gone before us, who lived their lives confidently trusting in God and His promises. They were all just sinful human beings like you and me. Yet they trusted the Lord. Their faith was placed squarely in God and His Word.

That's a great example for you and me to follow. As people who have been made "just" -- that is, justified by Christ -- we should live our lives by faith, trusting confidently in God and His promises. 

Of course, this also then includes our roles in worship ministry. We're not there just playing our instruments or using our voices. If we're honest about it, we should be trusting that God is working in and through our meager offerings of music, art and spoken words to bring glory to Himself and to bring life to His people. 

Are you confidently trusting that the Lord is working through you in the worship ministry of your church? If you haven't been, why not-- right now -- ask Him to do that?

GOING DEEPER:
1. What difference do you think it might make if you came into your services not just to do your musical part, but fully confident that God was working through your efforts?
2. Have you asked Him to grant you the faith to believe that He is doing that? If not, why now do that right now?

Heaven on My Mind: June 19th - 25th

This Week & Beyond...

Hey friends,

As per the usual, just a few things to bring to your attention this week:

1. Summer!!  Yes!! One week until the summer months are upon us, Lord willing the heat will follow shortly and it will be warm enough to wear shorts.  But seriously, just wanted to take this opportunity to ask you to start praying about your involvement for next year.  It's never to early to let me know, and, it's never to early to ask the Lord how He wants to grow and challenge you through your gifts, talents, and abilities.  As you feel you get a handle on your thoughts for fall, feel more than free to let me know!

2. Appreciation Dinner:  My apologies about some of the poor labelling on emails that have gone out about the appreciation dinner this coming Sunday, June 25th @ 6pm.  I have corrected the issue, and if you check the schedule, it should now make sense.  If you haven't yet confirmed your attendance... Adam, Lindsay, Steven, Tony, Greg D.... make sure you take a moment to let me know!  Looking forward to eating and hanging out with y'all.

3. Babies:  Two out of our three regular drummers are going to be dad's yet again!  PTL!  Let's keep them in our prayers and minds as to how we could be a blessing.  Pre-congratulations Greg & Jermey & wives!!

Be blessed everyone!!
Gregory

Devotional...

Heaven on My Mind
by Fran Moore, Imperial, Missouri

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. (Colossians 3:1-4)

There was a Christian chorus that was very popular during the early '70s: "Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace." This song was actually written by a lady named Helen Lemmel in the early 1920s. The second verse says, "Through death into life everlasting He passed, and we follow Him there; over us sin no more hath dominion for more than conquerors we are!" Obviously, this sister was familiar with this passage from Colossians.

As a young believer, I struggled with the idea of trying to be "in touch" with the things of heaven while my 5-foot frame, carrying its bushel of books, was jostled and shoved through the halls of my high school. My eyes and ears too frequently witnessed the profanity and shallowness of the daily zoo. I remember closing my eyes and imagining that my friend Jesus was by my side, pushing through the whirlpool of sweaty athletes, the cigarette smoke seeping out from under the door to the girls' restroom, and the overbearing perfume of the covey of pom-pon girls just ahead of us. Indeed, He was there with me...but how I longed to travel in His stomping ground instead of mine.

There is a reason we, as believers, are to set our minds on things above the level of this earthy existence. It is because we died. The stuff of the world ought to mean nothing to us, really. The things that make "normal" people tick should seem distant and odd to us. It is not that we should act or put on an air of being better humans than any other humans; the fact is that we are now beyond human, but not in the neo-evolutionary sense. Now the only life we have of any significance is that which springs from our spiritual birth, given us by no expenditure of our own.

So what is happening beyond the things of earth... before the throne of God? At any given moment, we can expect worship to be surrounding the Almighty. True worship, untainted and unhindered by the things of earth swirls about Him continually. (see Revelation 4:8)

So, if we're to set our hearts on things above, then worship should be going on in us, too. Yet, I must live in this world: I work, I walk the dog, I check my e-mail, I plunk around on my guitar, I throw a pizza in the oven, I clean a toilet, and perform a million other tasks in an average day. What should continually be in my heart and mind, though, are the things happening in the kingdom of God. My heavenly "ipod" should be playing in my spiritual ears all the while I am doing what must be done to function here on earth. I should be speaking with the Father, interacting with the Holy Spirit, fellowshiping with my Savior, Jesus, much the same way someone might text message friends while standing in line at the store or walking down the street.

As those involved in the worship ministry of your church, I would challenge you to consider: where is your heart? Is it really on things above? As we focus there and worship Him, the things of earth will, indeed, grow dim.

GOING DEEPER:
1. What should it mean for us as believers to "set your hearts on things above"?
2. The author asked if your heart really is on things above. How would you answer that question? A resounding "Yes"? An embarrassed, 'No"? What would it take to move your answer in the right direction?

An Unexpected Act of Praise: June 12th - 18th

This Week & Beyond...

WORSHIP IN THE CITY!!
Hey everyone, just a reminder that this weekend is Summer in the City!!  In addition to the rides, booths and entertainment, as you may have heard in church, this is the first year that Worship in the City will be moving downtown onto the big stage.  There will be a church service on Sunday @ 10am and a number of bands, one accompanied by our very own Darian Brown(Island Breeze), playing throughout the day.  It's going to be a great day of celebrating the Lord together as a community.  You should most definitely check it out!

Much work was been done in acquiring funds and volunteers to make this day happen.  Let's be in prayer that the Lord impacts Steinbach for His glory!!

APPRECIATION NIGHT!!    
I've sent out the email, please take a moment to respond as to your availability at the appreciation dinner on Sunday, June 25th @ 6pm.  Hope to see you there!!

Gregory...

Devotional...

An Unexpected Act of Praise
by Luane Guyton, St. Louis, Missouri

When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears.(Luke: 7:37-38)

Our worship team practice was over. We had learned the new song, nailed down chord changes, and smoothed out transitions. We talked about dynamics, worked on the build of the opening set, and solidified the solo. It was a good practice.

Before heading home, we sat together on our sanctuary floor. Someone handed out Bibles and everyone turned to Luke 7. Taking turns reading aloud, we made our way through verses 36-50. Jesus, in the home of Simon the Pharisee, was reclining at the table. A woman came up behind Him, knelt at His feet and weeping, began to wash them with her tears. She used her hair for a towel and then kissing His feet, she anointed them with perfume.

We tried to imagine what it was like to be there. What if we were reclining at the table with Jesus when this happened? Immediately, we felt uncomfortable. We wondered why. What brought the discomfort?

Someone suggested we throw out words that describe this woman's actions. Maybe we could find a clue to our discomfort in our perception of what she did. Here's what followed:

Authentic -- She didn't try to fake it. 
Courageous -- Scripture tells us she led a sinful life. It's very unlikely she was invited to the dinner party. Crashing it was a brave move. 
Transparent -- She didn't put on airs or try to hide her gratitude.
Personal -- She didn't send someone to act on her behalf. She washed Jesus' feet herself. 
Risky -- A sinful woman in the house of a Pharisee... the risk she took was great. It's possible she could have been stoned.
Active -- She didn't stand back and observe. She acted.
Intentional -- When she heard where Jesus was, she picked up her alabaster jar and intentionally put herself near Him.
Sacrificial -- The perfume was expensive. Some say it cost more than 3 months wages.
Expressive -- Her actions were filled with emotion. 

The words and descriptions above are very positive. So we asked each other again; why the discomfort? We eventually came to the conclusion that it was because this woman was willing to do things many of us were not. Worshiping Jesus was worth everything to her and she demonstrated it by what she did.

It wasn't until after we prayed together that someone noticed the first letter of these words, when in the right order, spelled "Act" and "Praise." We were both challenged and excited by what God revealed to us, and we left desiring to praise our Savior in greater ways.

Maybe you, too, need to be challenged to praise the Lord in greater ways. Is there something in what we saw that makes you uncomfortable, also? It may look differently for you than it did for us, but is there a way He wants to stretch you? Let's ask Him to help us love and praise Him more.

GOING DEEPER: 
1. Tell of a time when God stretched you beyond your comfort zone in worship.
2. As the author asked, is there something in what we saw that makes you uncomfortable, also?
3. How can we encourage this same heart of worship in our team and in the congregation?

Peter's Miserable Night: June 5th - 11th

This Week & Beyond...

Summer Schedule
Okay, this is yet another reminder to block out dates on planning centre that you don't want to serve this summer.  You can also email me dates or any other pertinent information that would help me in making the schedule for July & August.  I WILL be making the schedule on Tuesday, June 13th.  Please compete this most pain staking task before then. :)

If you're name is listed here, I've heard from you:
Lisa, Tony, Corinne, Sheldon, Greg D(aka. schteve), Cassie, Kelsey, Elleah

Year end wrap-up!!
Please don't forget to mark your calendars for June 25th @ 6pm.  We will be getting together for a time of appreciation!  Fellowship, food, etc...

Devotional...

Peter's Miserable Night
by Tom Kraeuter, Hillsboro, Missouri  

But Peter said, "Man, I do not know what you are talking about." And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, "Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times." And he went out and wept bitterly. (Luke 22:60-62)

He went out and wept bitterly. What a contrast this is to the Peter we see so often throughout the gospel accounts. Generally, Peter is recognized as cocky, boisterous, self-confident, and even arrogant at times. It was only hours before this scene that Peter confidently declared, "Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away... Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you!" (Matthew 26:33, 35).

Suddenly, though, Peter found himself broken, defeated, and deflated. Did his earlier boastful words ring loudly through his mind at this point? He definitely remembered what Jesus had told him when Peter made his brash declaration: "Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny me three times" (Matthew 26:34). And, recalling those words, He broke down and cried. No, actually, the translators captured the full essence of the Greek in this verse: Peter "wept bitterly." He wasn't just sad. His sorrow was exceedingly overwhelming. Peter was a broken man. He knew that not only had he completely failed Jesus, but Peter also recognized that Jesus knew he had failed. So he wept bitterly.

It must have been a miserable night for Peter.

Fast forward though. The Peter we see in the gospels is a very different man than the Peter we see in his writings. Have you ever read his New Testament letters? Oh, he's still confident, but now his confidence is in Christ only. He's definitely no longer arrogant or even brash. Peter changed dramatically.

I would suggest that if it hadn't been for that dreadful night -- if Peter hadn't come to the end of himself and lost his deep-seated self-assuredness -- that his later ministry would have been far less effective. God doesn't really need our amazing abilities. He wants our hearts. And He doesn't truly get that until we reach the end of ourselves.

It's only when we recognize our complete and total dependence on the Lord that God can fully work through us. When our confidence is in us, we're sunk. "Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Corinthians 10:12).

I know that you might be a really good vocalist or instrumentalist or whatever your role might be in the worship ministry. It's possible that you are the very best in your church at whatever it is that you do. But you know what? Although people may be quite impressed with your musical prowess, God isn't impressed.

Don't misunderstand. Whatever gifts we have were given to us by the Lord Himself. He loves us and created us just the way we are. But just like Peter, until we come to the end of ourselves, we will never reach our full potential with those gifts and abilities.

GOING DEEPER:
1. Have you ever -- like Peter -- experienced a "hitting the bottom"? Would you be willing to share that experience?
2. If it's not too personal, what is God saying to you through this devotion?
3. Read 1 Peter 4:10-11. What should be the motive for using our gifts?

Anchored in the Heavenlies: May 29th - June 4th

This Week & Beyond...

Hey hey!!  Welcome to this weeks communication!!

A big thank you to all who came and served at the Pursuit night!!  My count put us at just shy of 55 people!!  What a great time worshipping and meeting with the Lord.  I heard say that someone was healed without even getting prayed for!!  PTL!!  I was asked by the Loeppky's as to when we are planning the next one, so, we definitely didn't spoil our welcome, even in spite of the crazy loud music and shaking floor!

***Important***
Well, summer is just around the corner and that means a couple things.
1) Appreciation night!  As per usual, come July 1st, you are all blessed to be released from the music ministry!  That is if you should so desire... ;) Thank you for serving, we will be having an appreciation get together on Sunday, June 25th at 7pm.  I look forward to hanging out as a group one last time before we all part for more relaxing, bug filled, nights!!  Please mark it on your calendars and let me know if you have any thoughts on what you'd like to do the evening.

2) Block out dates!! As mentioned, you are to be released from serving, however, if you'd like to continue, you are more than welcome!!  I would ask that you take a couple minutes, yes, that's all it takes, and block out any dates that you don't want/can't serve throughout July & August.  This serves me so well while making the schedule.  
- it let's me know if and how much you want to serve
- it let's me know when you can and can't
What a great tool as I look to making the schedule in the next week or so.  If you could accomplish at your earliest convenience, that would be so wonderful!!  Okay, let's just say that I will be making the summer schedule on June 14th, so, if you haven't done this before then, things may get messy! :)

Great, you're in the know, up-to-date, now go out and enjoy the beautiful weather!!

Blessings,
G
 

Devotional...

Anchored in the Heavenlies
by David Baroni, Nashville, Tennessee, www.DavidBaroni.com

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil... (Hebrews 6:19)

"Above the high and stormy gale, my anchor holds within the veil!" I love that line from the hymn, "The Solid Rock." As my wife and I were worshiping and praying today, I sang that line several times and sensed the nearness, the presence, the assurance of God.

I was very grateful for that nearness, because, as I write this, there has been more month than money. The royalty check that I was counting on to pay the mortgage was lower than it has ever been and not nearly enough to help us get caught up financially. I have juggled bills and tried to figure out what to do, and I have been tempted to panic. Unfortunately, I am ashamed to say that I have even given in to that temptation at times.

This is not something new for me. Feast or famine seems to be the lot of this self-employed, traveling music minister. Although I must admit, we usually feast, and we never have been truly without food.

Many times, when I am in the midst of a difficult situation, I am reminded of the things I so easily share from the pulpit, "God will give you a peace that transcends your circumstances." Or, "He is faithful and even though the night gets long and dark sometimes, there has never been a night without a dawn."

I believe those things with all my heart, I really do. Still, though, sometimes they seem much easier to say than to live. Then there are mornings like this morning when I sensed so tangibly the presence of my Father God as I sang, "My anchor holds within the veil."

Jesus said, "Blessed are you who have not seen and yet believe." Hebrews 11 tells us that, "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen."

The truest demonstration of worship is when we can still trust Him even when things aren't going well. And for those of us involved in the worship ministry of our churches, how we worship when life is topsy-turvy will encourage others in their worship of God.

Do you want to hear how this financial need was met? I will tell you about it sometime. I know that it already has been met in the heavenlies, it will be manifested on earth somehow and, for now, this is all the answer I need.

GOING DEEPER:
1. Tell of a time when things weren't going well and you needed to trust God. Remembering those times helps us to be able to encourage others -- and ourselves -- to worship Him even when all outward signs seem to point in the opposite direction.
2.When you are in a difficult situation, what promises of God do you cling to? Or what songs do you sing to help keep your focus on God?

Carrying Others to Jesus: May 22nd - 28th

This Week & Beyond...

Pursuit: In the Loft - Details...
1. This Sunday!! May 28th @ 7pm
2. Please come between 6 - 6:30 for setup & warm-up
3. VERY IMPORTANT!! Please open 'Music Stand' at home(with your own wi-fi) and ensure you can view all songs!! There is no wi-fi at the loft, if you don't do this before, you won't have access to the list!  This should be done before you come, on Sunday, to ensure the latest list is up.
4. We are meeting at Ron & Hedy Loeppky's... Last driveway on the right, before Oakridge nursery. Black gated driveway.
5. Park on the road after you have unloaded.

If you have any questions, please let me know!

Devotional...

Carrying Others to Jesus
by Tom Kraeuter, Hillsboro, MIssour
i

Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. (Luke 5:18-19)

Sometimes worship ministry can begin to be a drudgery. Between the time for rehearsals and the early Sunday mornings, it can become time-consuming and wearying. In this midst of this, I find it easy to become self-centered and focused on feeling used or taken advantage of. When this happens it's time for a heart check to help me recognize that what I'm doing isn't really about me at all.

Some time ago I received an email from a woman named Julie Ann. She lives in the St. Louis, Missouri area. In her email she shared a great testimony. In part she said this:

"During June a few years ago, I had the opportunity to worship God in the midst of heartache and chaos. On June 9, I was told at work that one of my close friends was on her deathbed, and I left to go see her. She was already in a coma by the time I got to the hospital, but I knew she had recently re-dedicated her life to the Lord. Sunday morning I was scheduled to sing on the worship team. While I was on my way to church, I got word that Wanda had passed away.

"A couple of weeks later, during a major summer storm that hit our area, a tree came through our home, stopping just short of the interior. The electric was out and we were displaced for an entire week. I went to church the next morning to a candlelight service. When the congregation began to sing "Amazing Grace" a cappella, I was undone. I was so grateful to know that my God was with me even in the midst of no power, no immediate home, horrific heat that week, and a heart that still ached for my departed friend. While the immediate circumstances were uncomfortable and frustrating, I had higher hope."

If you ever wonder why you do what you do with the worship ministry of your church, let Julie Ann's testimony help keep you on track. Don't misunderstand my meaning here. Our worship is for God. But our leading of worship is for the people.

Every week people come into your church, and mine, with hurts and heartaches that no one else knows anything about. Sometimes those pains are self-inflicted. Other times they are the result of harsh words from another person or situations over which they have no control. Maybe a son or daughter has declared they are leaving... and leaving their faith, too. Perhaps they have just received a negative medical diagnosis: cancer or some other serious ailment. Some of the things that trouble people can be minor and others can be life-threatening. All of them, though, are very real to the person who bears them.

And just like the paralyzed man's friends, you and I have the privilege of helping to carry that person to the Lord. Oh, we don't usually physically carry anyone. Yet we get to, in a very real sense, lift that person before the Lord by guiding their eyes and heart and attention to Him.

If we had an inkling of how often people are renewed in their spirits because of our ministry, we would jump for joy at the opportunity to be involved in worship ministry. We don't get to hear all of the stories, but those people are out there, just like Julie Ann.

GOING DEEPER:
1. Have you ever before considered that your involvement in the worship ministry can help "carry people to Jesus"? What should that mean to you now that you know it?
2. Have you ever heard - or experienced - any testimonies similar to Julie Ann's story? Any you can share with the group?

Worship and Interpersonal Relationships: May 15th - 21st

Devotional...

Worship and Interpersonal Relationships
by Mark Sooy, Hopkins, Michigan

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor. (Romans 12:10)

After the worship service, one of the praise team members was discouraged. "Those comments that the sound tech made before the service were very discouraging. I really had a hard time worshiping this morning." I could tell she was disappointed and frustrated.

By her own admission, she took everything people said very personally -- even if the comments were not directed toward her. The comments the sound tech made were actually meant to help, but inadvertently caused the opposite reaction.

It reminded me of the reality of interpersonal relationships and that our ministry together is full of potential. There is potential for great things, as well as potential for problems. We must navigate through the mist of relationships, often wondering why people do what they do, or say what they say. In my case, I needed to help this team member work through what she was feeling and to think clearly about what happened.

My first thought was to help her to understand the context of the comments and acknowledge that they weren't directed at her specifically. Out in the midst of the congregation, the sound tech hears what we cannot hear on the platform. He is doing his best to prepare for a positive experience for the whole congregation. Muddy words, drums that are too loud, or instruments that are being lost in the mix are serious concerns for him. He is trying to listen holistically and get the best sound for the whole group.

In conjunction with that, we need to consider the idea of our serving the congregation. As a musician or leader, we have a role to play and are concerned about doing that to the best of our ability. We want to serve well. Yet so do the people involved in sound and multimedia. They serve, often unnoticed and with little thanks, until something goes wrong. By dealing with issues during rehearsal, these men and women are also "rehearsing" to serve with their best efforts. Let's believe the best about them and their desire to serve well.

Another thought I shared was that we must enter into the life of the sound tech to understand why his comments may have not been worded well, or were said harshly. We both know this person and his own life struggles. As we talked through the tensions in his life, the frustration from the morning began to soften. When we considered the other person, compassion was built and God's Spirit moved us toward a loving response. We knew that there were greater pressures in his life than simply an adjustment in the mix, and by recognizing this we were able to put his mood and his comments into context.

Finally, I pointed out that her perception of having "a hard time worshiping," may have been simply a misplaced focus. You see, sometimes people look for some elusive feeling of "worship" that will confirm that they have, indeed, worshiped. However, when we rely on our feelings to validate our life and our experience, we often will be disappointed. Worship is an obedient response to the work of God in our lives, and is manifested by serving others (see Romans 12:1-21). We serve our faith community by playing instruments, singing, and planning worship. If God has gifted us for those things, and we are obedient in doing them, sometimes the "feeling" we look for may come lagging along later -- or maybe not at all. Regardless, we must assess our loving response of obedience in serving others as that which God expects from His servants (see Colossians 3:23).

Next time you get a sense of frustration as the result of an interpersonal conflict, use one or all of these ideas to think more clearly about the situation. "Be devoted to each other," as our Scripture verse states, and think the best thoughts about your fellow-servants.

GOING DEEPER:
1. When you have any sort of conflict with someone, how can trying to see the situation from their perspective help?
2. What other practical ways have you learned to deal with conflicts in interpersonal relationships?
3. Take time this week to encourage your tech team and anyone else who may be unseen and unnoticed until a problem occurs.

An Expression of Unbridled Love: May 8th - 14th

This Week & Beyond...

Hey everyone!

The sun is shining and things are heating up!! Praise the Lord!!  Just wanted to keep the following on the tip of your tongue and top of your mind...

Prayer this week...
1) Greg & the team leading P&W.
2) Darnell & Christy as they bring the Word.
3) Rob leading the service.
4) Brad & Kelley and their pursuit of adopting Shannon.
5) Sound persons needed!!  Right now Tim is our only guy.  Let's ask the Lord if there is someone to add to the team!

Team night #7 - Praise & Worship @ The Loeppky Loft!!

It has been booked!!

For our last team night of the year, we will be inviting the church to join us for a night of prayer, praise, & worship at Ron & Hedy Leoppky's loft.  

We will be starting at 7pm with worship and prayer, and around 9pm, ending with a fellowship and coffee in their renovated barn.  As of this moment, the plan is to have the same feel as our 36 McKenzie worship times, maybe just on a slightly larger scale. :)  We will bring a small sound system, and, rotate musicians as are available and desiring.  

Please, if you could... 
1) Save the date, mark your calendars, free up your schedule!!
2) Confirm your attendance sooner rather than later, that would be most excellent!!
3) Mention it to others!  It would be great to fill the space.(60-80 peeps)

Blessings to you all!!
Gregory James...

Devotional...

An Expression of Unbridled Love
by Tom Kraeuter, Hillsboro, Missouri  

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship (Romans 12:1).

A dear friend of mine pastors a church in northern Minnesota. There is a young boy, maybe 9 or 10 years old, named Isaac in his congregation. Isaac has Down syndrome. As is typical of such children, Isaac is very free in his expressions of affection. In fact, most of the time when Isaac sees my friend the pastor, he hugs him. And not just a polite little squeeze either. Isaac gives his pastor a big bear hug at nearly every opportunity.

When they celebrate communion at my friend's church, it's a bit more formal than in many evangelical churches. The congregation members file to the front of the sanctuary and kneel side by side to receive the elements from the pastor. Those who are younger and who have not been instructed in the meaning of the Lord's Supper, receive a blessing. The pastor stops, touches the child on his head or shoulder, and prays for God's strength and peace to rest on that child.

One day as my friend was distributing the communion bread and wine, he noticed Isaac kneeling at the railing like everyone else. But out of the corner of his eye, the pastor noticed a big smile on Isaac's face. Just as my friend reached Isaac and went to pray a blessing on him, Isaac jumped up and gave him a big bear hug. Suddenly the formality of the moment was disrupted. The pastor had never learned about how to handle such a situation while he was in seminary. His training had not prepared him for this scenario. The pastor fought back tears as Isaac unashamedly demonstrated his love.

Later my friend shared with the congregation that Isaac's disruption was a great example of how God wants us to act toward Him. A true expression of unbridled love. The Lord isn't looking for some sort of stoic formalism with no life. He wants our hearts expressed with real passion. Just like Isaac did with his pastor.

I would challenge you to consider this as you help lead worship this week. Our job isn't to help get the congregation -- or even ourselves -- just to sing. Our job is to worship the Living God, and thereby help others to worship. We shouldn't be content to simply get them to say the right words. Instead, our desire should be for them-and for us-to truly connect with the Lord in an expression of unbridled love. Our goal should be, as Romans 12 says, that we would all present our bodies as living sacrifices to Him.

GOING DEEPER: 
1. What could we do that would help and encourage the congregation to honestly give themselves more freely to God in worship? 
2. Share a time when you have seen someone demonstrating "unbridled love."
3. Consider the expression of unbridled love demonstrated by the father in the parable of the prodigal. (Luke 15:11-32) Imagine God greeting you like that. How could you express that same kind of love back to the Lord?

Cheating: Apr 24th - 30th

This Week & Beyond...

Hey team!!

This coming Sunday is our team night for April!!  Please don't forget to head over to 'Planning Centre' and update you availability.  In addition to this, if you know someone who you think would enjoy coming, invite'm on down.  Let's fill up the house!

See ya there!
Gregory

Devotional...

Cheating
by Tom Kraeuter, Hillsboro, Missouri

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" (Luke 10:29).

I have a dear friend with whom I play table tennis. We're both extremely competitive and quite enjoy an occasional ping pong match. Sometimes, though, we start talking and forget exactly what the score of the game is. As we try to reconstruct in our minds the last few points, he often assures me that he would never cheat... unless it was to his advantage. That's a comforting thought, isn't it? Of course I know he is only kidding.

However, in little ways and big ways, I have frequently "cheated" to my advantage. I have endeavored to justify my words and actions, always with an eye toward making me look better. I want to always present the best side to people and also to God.

In the tenth chapter of Luke's Gospel, Jesus was confronted by a lawyer who asked what he must do to inherit eternal life. Instead of offering a direct answer, Jesus responded by turning it around and questioning him, "What is written in the law? How do you read it?" (Luke 10:26). The man answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10:27). To this response, Jesus, in essence, said, "Good answer!"

But the man wanted more. He wanted to know who was his neighbor. So he put that question directly to Jesus. "And who is my neighbor," he asked. Just prior to the question, though, we get a bit more insight into the reason behind the inquiry. "But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus..." (Luke 10:29, author's emphasis).

Why is Scripture so often so convicting? Don't misunderstand. It's not that I would ever do or say anything to justify my actions. Well, at least not since yesterday. Or was it earlier today? Maybe it was just a little while ago. Or perhaps... oh never mind. You don't need to know every sordid detail of my life. I'm really not such a bad guy.

Aaarrrggghhh!! I just did again!

Certainly such a thing could never happen in the midst of your church's worship ministry. No one there -- and certainly not you -- would ever do or say anything that would make them look or seem better than the true story. You're all much too holy for that, right?

No one there would ever subtly mention that they deserve the solo part more than that other person because of a certain trait or character quality or ability or talent. No one in your church's worship ministry would try to worm their way into a special position over and above someone else, would they?

The truth is that we all do it regularly. We "cheat" to our advantage. We justify our actions, although underneath there may be misplaced and even sinful motivations.

We rarely want anyone to know about our screw-ups. We want them to see us in the best light. We want to appear as though we really do have it all together. All the while, though, on the inside we know that we don't really have it all together. We justify our actions to make us appear better that we are.

Maybe what I've said here has pricked something on the inside of you. Perhaps you need to go and apologize to someone -- maybe even someone in the worship ministry -- for some way that you have "cheated." If so, don't put it off. The conviction of the Holy Spirit is given for a reason.

Finally, before we close, let me add one more very important thought: Don't read or listen to this with an eye toward someone else's self-justification. You might think you're not nearly as bad as someone else. If, so, then you really need to take this to heart.

GOING DEEPER:
1. Would you be willing to share about a way in which you have, at some point,  justified your less-than-noble actions?
2. Don't miss the challenge in the devotion -- to go to someone and apologize for some way in which you have "cheated" against them. If that's you, don't shove that aside.

Interruptions or Opportunities: Apr 17th - 23rd

This Week & Beyond....

Just a couple reminders this week...
1. Let's pray for the team serving.
     - Tony & Lisa leading praise & worship
     - Myself preaching
     - Rob leading the service
     - Matt and the team serving in the children's ministry
2. Team night in a week and a half.  If you haven't confirmed yet, please do so at your earliest convenience.

Thanks!!
Gregory

Devotional...

Interruptions or Opportunities
by Mark Sooy, Hopkins, Michigan, www.MarkSooy.com

Jesus took the apostles "with him...so that they could be alone. But the crowds found out about this and followed Him. He welcomed them." (Luke 9:10b-11a)

 I don't know about you, but it seems to me that life gets busier with each passing day. We can have work to do, phone calls to make, children to shuttle from one thing to the next, and a myriad of other responsibilities that pull us in every direction. It is often overwhelming as we seek to care for our own needs, but also desire to care for those around us.

Of course Jesus had a busy schedule as well. He devoted Himself to mentor twelve men in living as obedient believers and leaders. He taught regularly in the synagogues, the temple, on the beach, on the mountains and in the streets. His healing ministry caused crowds of people to gather around Him, if only to touch His robe and be healed of their infirmities.

In addition to that, Jesus walked from town to town to share the Good News of the kingdom. His ministry spread over many miles and touched countless people. He seemed to be constantly moving, and noted at one point that He had "no place to lay His head."

As the twelve began to be more involved in ministry, Jesus recognized their need for rest and time alone. After an especially demanding time of preaching and curing the sick, Jesus "took them with Him to a city called Bethsaida so that they could be alone" (Luke 9:10b). Jesus knew that the excitement and stress of ministry was great, and He attempted to provide for their refreshment.

This was an excellent plan -- until the crowds found out about it. In the middle of this important retreat, throngs of people started showing up. They had many needs, and they knew that Jesus was the answer to their problems. They could hear the Good News to nourish their souls, be cured of their diseases to fix their bodies, and -- if they were lucky -- they might have a picnic lunch provided by Christ and the apostles!

Each time I read this story I am surprised at the response Jesus has to these demanding, self-interested crowds that come at the most inconvenient of times: He welcomes them! He opens His heart and draws them into His love. Unlike my automatic response of irritation at the inconvenience, His consistent response is to reach into their lives. He talks to them about the kingdom of God, He cures their sickness, and in this instance, provides lunch! Jesus responded out of a gracious heart in every situation.

This brings me back to the busy lives that we lead today. We all need a break from the grind of daily responsibilities, and often the rest that we plan for a weekend or some other time gets interrupted. We lie down for a nap, and the phone rings. We sit in our favorite chair to read, and our spouse wants to talk (or a friend, or son, or daughter).

Even in the worship ministries of our churches the demands can seem overwhelming. We may have a tight schedule for rehearsal; we can't afford any interruptions. And when the rehearsal or ministry time is over, we're out the door, headed to the next all-important whatever.

But... what if we took the time to care for one another? How might we respond in a more Christ-like way when inconvenienced by someone? Are there people in the worship ministry of your church who need a touch from Jesus that you could give? Are there folks in your church who need to feel loved after the Sunday service? Do we really need to be in such a hurry that we ignore such people?

Of course, it's vital that we rely on the Holy Spirit's prompting to respond appropriately in each situation. Yet Jesus gave us a great example and His Word tells us to do likewise, bearing one another's burdens. So maybe part of our planning should be to leave some extra time to respond and, like Jesus, be aware of the people around us. We have something they need -- Jesus! Let us give freely of Him with an open and loving heart.

GOING DEEPER:
1. In what way(s) do you find this particular devotion challenging?
2. Tell of a time when you were "too busy" to help someone -- a time that you wish you could rewind and do over.
3. Have you ever been an "interruption" in someone else's life and met grace and compassion?

Blooms for Easter: Apr 10th - 16th

This Week & Beyond...

Hey Everyone, happy Easter!!

Exciting stuff this week!  We are preparing to celebrate the death & resurrection of our Saviour and, thanks to Lisa, will be having a couple different things happening on Sunday morning.

In addition to the regular worship team, a group of about 25 children will be joining us as a choir! I'm really looking forward to this!  The children have been practicing at home for that last couple weeks, and, the plan is to have them join us in choruses and whatever else make come up during our practice this Thursday.  If you think about it, please remember to pray for us and them as we come together to prepare for Sunday.  

As well, a small drama team will be performing a skit of which I know absolutely nothing about! lol  In any case, I'm super pumped that drama will be a part of Sunday.  Like music and the art ministry, the Lord has gifted us with arts to glorify his name.  It will be great to see this come to life on Sunday.

April Team Event
Just a quick reminder about our team event coming up on April 30th @ 7pm.  This month we will be returning to our worship night at the Calvary House.  A couple things I'd like you to think about:
1)  Are you coming!?  Please make sure to save the date and respond on planning centre accordingly.
2)  Is there someone you think would like to come?  I know it's a small place, however, it would be great to have it packed, and, even have people in the hallway and eating area.  Worshipping, praying, pressing into the Lord!

The Lord has been impressing on me a need for us to pray and praise!  This is an invitation to stoke the fire, fan the flame, and trust the Lord to ignite a deeper passion for Jesus at Calvary!  We won't grow without Him, we won't be changed without Him, we won't see healing without Him, we won't 'anything' without Him.

Calvary is blessed!!
I've heard it said many times, "Calvary is blessed with great P&W!!".  Well firstly, if you haven't heard this, please know, it's been said many times!!  Why do I emphasize that?  Because you're a part of it!  You're serving, you're giving back to the Lord what He's so graciously given you, contributing to Spirit led worship in which many are blessed.  Secondly, as I pondered this today, I was amazed to realize what we all have!
- 4 anointed worship leaders
- 5 gifted piano players (Michelle, Elleah, Cassie, Corinne, Lindsay)
- 4 guys capable of drumming the daylights out of our small chapel (Jerms, Greg, Owen, Darian)
- 6 groovy bass players (Darian, Andrew, Sheldon, Eryn, myself, Tim)
- 2 highly smooth electrical guitars masters (Nyk, Kelsey)
- 1 amazing violinist (Brenda B)
- more than a handful of soulful singers (Lisa, Michelle, Corinne, Roxy, Brenda, Ton-Loc, etc....)
- 2 technical sound wizards (Steven, Tim)
- 4 lyrical projection technicians (Adam, Ken, Ezra, Julianna)
- organ, stand-up bass, harmonica, etc.... :)

And it really doesn't just stop there!  Some of you could still be put in other categories than I mentioned.  I mean, wow, just wow!  From the bottom of my heart, until you get sick of hearing it, thank you for serving at Calvary!!  It is more than a pleasure to go into battle with each and every one of you on a weekly basis!!

Blessings!!
Gregory...

Devotional...

Blooms for Easter
by Carlene Archer, Chatsworth, Georgia

Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. (1 Corinthians 12:27)

Back in the season of my life when a thick, cream-colored invitation in the mail meant friends getting married (not their offspring graduating high school!), I received a wedding invitation with an unusual note at the bottom: "Kelly and Steve have requested that each of their wedding guests bring a single flower to the ceremony."

A single flower? Were they that strapped for money? How could you make bouquets out of mismatched flowers, anyway? What was up with this? I read and re-read the unusual request.

With much anticipation I walked up to the sanctuary door that beautiful late-spring day. I carried both my bright pink carnation and my husband's choice of a white carnation in hand. The usher said, "Oh, I'll take those," as he met us at the door.

When we walked into the sanctuary, the huge circle of flowers that surrounded the center of the platform almost took my breath away with its beauty: daisies, roses, birds of paradise, gladiolas, carnations. It was a floral rainbow; fuschia, crimson, canary yellow, all offset by the white flowers sprinkled among the crayon box of colored ones, and all of them set against a background of green stems and leaves.

The ceremony began, and the pastor led Kelly and Steve carefully to the center of the circle of flowers. There they pledged their love and vows before God and all present.

But why perform this most important part of the ceremony standing in the midst of that beautiful circle of blooms? It was pretty, yes... but I knew Kelly and Steve. Those flowers were not simply to make the setting prettier.

At the end of the ceremony, the pastor paused then explained, "Kelly and Steve asked each of you to bring a single flower to symbolize the effect your love and relationship with them has had on their lives. The flowers surrounding them represent each of you. Each flower's beauty shines individually, but shines much brighter together as a whole. They wanted to thank you for being a part of their lives."

Wow! It amazed me how much beauty there was in that circle of flowers. Just as the circle wouldn't be the same if any particular flower were left out, Kelly and Steve wouldn't have been the same without the love and relationship they shared with each unique individual that contributed flowers to the ring.

If you're involved in music ministry, you bring your own unique beauty to your church's Easter gathering. Your single voice, leadership, or sounds from your instrument -- or however you contribute -- brings a beauty to the whole that is singularly, you. And when all the individual "blooms" of gifts come together, the resulting Easter music and pageantry bring forth a custom-made bouquet designed just for your gathering, just for this particular day.

In my days as a Music/Worship Director, I have spent many Easter services physically exhausted from all the preparation; preparation of family as well as of music for that one special day. But the beauty of gathering our gifts together means that, if one bloom is a little wilted, or another a bit faded, it's not easily noticed when all are presented on this most holy day. If we just lay down our best, in the moment, as those dozens of blooms on that long-ago wedding day, our differences enhance the beauty of our worship offerings.

This year, let's celebrate with passion the individuality of each fearfully and wonderfully made participant in our Easter gathering. Take joy in knowing that, when God shows up at your service on Easter Sunday, He will be presented with a beautiful bouquet of precious souls that He loves so much; souls sending the sweet aroma of worship to Heaven. The Easter celebration won't be the same without you... or your neighbor on the platform.

GOING DEEPER:
1. Take a few moments to share with one another the gifts that you see in each other.
2. According to 1 Corinthians 12, each part of the Body is necessary, just like those flowers at the wedding, and just like each person in the worship ministry of your church. Take another brief moment and thank God for the variety of gifts He has placed in your midst.

Inciting a Riot: Mar 20th - 26th

This Week and Beyond...

Good day everyone!!  Just sitting here pondering my thankfulness for each and everyone of you today.  Each of you bring a unique flavour and gift to Calvary Chapel and I'm so blessed to be called to serve alongside of you.

I'm encouraged by your faithfulness, desire to give back to God the gifts that he has so clearly given you, and your joy in singing, playing, and leading the congregation in music.  Keep pressing on!!

As per other weeks, let me encourage you to be in prayer!
- for each other
- for the leadership of the music, service, and preaching
- for the Holy Spirit to be ever present in our meetings
- for much fruit to come out of our times together
- children's choir and our Easter celebration

Island Breeze!!  Just a quick note to let you know Darian will be playing bass for Island Breeze at Calvary tomorrow night (Thursday, March 23rd @ 7pm).  If you enjoy praise and worship, I'm sure the youth won't mind you standing at the back and taking it all in.

PLEASE READ DEVOTIONAL... :)

Blessings
Gregory

Devotional...

Inciting a Riot
by Tom Kraeuter, Hillsboro, Missouri

"And now, please let the power of the Lord be great as you have promised, saying, 'The Lord is slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, forgiving iniquity and transgression...' Please pardon the iniquity of this people, according to the greatness of your steadfast love, just as you have forgiven this people, from Egypt until now." (Numbers 14:17-19).

These words of Moses are amazing. God had just -- once again -- threatened to wipe out the Israelites and start over by making a new nation from Moses. This was immediately after the twelve spies had returned from the Promised Land and gave their report. In the minds of the people, the ten bad reports apparently overwhelmed the two good ones. The people believed the ten naysayers causing rumblings of a mutiny to be heard throughout the camp. God was rightly displeased with His chosen people.

Keep in mind that this was after they had seen the Lord emasculate the nation of Egypt through fierce and deadly plagues. It was also after they had witnessed the parting of the Red Sea and the annihilation of the most powerful army on earth. It was even after the incident with the golden calf, when God clearly displayed His anger, yet relented when Moses stood up for the people.

So here they were, just a short time later, again rebelling against Moses, wanting to elect a new leader: "And they said to one another, 'Let us choose a leader and go back to Egypt'" (Numbers 14:4). Yet in the midst of their consistent rebellion, Moses again interceded on their behalf. "Lord, do what You promised," Moses said, "demonstrate Your great mercy to Your people and forgive their sin." What an amazing reaction!

As I travel, I regularly hear those who are involved in worship ministry talking about people in their congregations. Most of the time those comments are pretty negative. Sometimes they are quite minor: "Someone mentioned they didn't like the new song we did last week." Other times are much stronger: "Those people are so lazy. They never really worship. They just stand there looking at us. It's disgusting."

I wonder what would have happened if Moses had spoken like that to Aaron in their non-public moments. If he had, do you think he would have been able to stand up for them when it came to the real crunch time? I don't think so.

If you read the whole story of the Israelites leaving Egypt and entering the Promised Land, it is obvious that Moses valued the people the Lord had placed him over. Again and again he defended them even at the possible expense of his own life. It seems obvious that he could not do that publicly while privately mumbling about them over and over.

Several years ago the administrator of our Christian school confronted the father of a student at the school. The student, although only in junior high, repeatedly said negative things about the staff and policies of the school. The father defended his child by emphatically stating the kid was correct in making such assessments. The administrator turned the conversation, however, by asking where the father thought the student might have acquired those ideas in the first place. The father was silent because he knew it was from conversations overheard at home.

I don't mean to meddle, but how do you talk about the people in your congregation? As one involved in the ministry of worship in the church, your words carry a lot of weight with others. The things you say about the people in your church will impact how others see those people. Don't be guilty of inciting a riot, even inadvertently.

Are you like Moses, always valuing and standing up for the people, or do you grumble and complain about them? Which do you think would be more pleasing to God?

GOING DEEPER:
1. Speculate for a moment: What do you think might have happened if Moses had spoken negatively about the people in private?
2. How do you talk about the people in your congregation in your private conversations? What about conversations that are less private?
3. Talk together about the things you appreciate about the people in your church.

Practice Makes Permanent: Mar 13th - 19th

This Week & Beyond...

Good day everyone, just a few things to bring to your attention...

March Team Night
Due to springbreak at the end of this month, there will be no team night on March 26th.  Please mark your calendars for next month, April 23rd.

Prayer
As always, let's be in prayer for the team serving this week.
Rob - Preaching
Jermey - Leading the service
Greg & Michelle - Praise & Worship

AGM
Don't forget that the AGM is next week Tuesday, March 21st @ 7pm.  While numbers may not be your thing, it's a great opportunity to ask questions and hear about what the Lord has done and is doing at Calvary.  I encourage you all to come out.  

Well, that's it that's all folks...
Blessings!
Gregory

Devotional...

Practice Makes Permanent
by Karen Morerod, Kansas City, Kansas

No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God's seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God 
(I John 3:9).

The students listened intently as the visiting college band played. After the song, the students asked questions.

"How did you get so good?" the curious middle-schooler asked.

"Well, with lots of practice," the college student answered, and then added, "You know, lots of people think practice makes perfect. But one of my professors once said, 'Practice makes permanent.' "

She went on to explain that many times musicians practice a problem area over and over just until they get it right once. And then they move on to the rest of the piece. But her professor pointed out it's important to practice such sections many times the right way. Because how you practice it over and over becomes the permanent way it's performed.

That's wise advice for our praise teams, choirs and church musicians. We know we will never reach perfection. But we do want to practice to get our music to a point that is conducive to worship. We should practice it the right way so it becomes permanent and ultimately beneficial to the congregation and glorifying to God.

But I think we can take this truth further. We know we will never be perfect human beings. But, as followers of Jesus Christ, and leaders in our church, we want to be practicing the right behavior -- living a life that brings glory to God.

Of course, the Bible reminds us that we still sin even if we are redeemed children of God. But, what life actions do we continue to repeat over and over? Is our day filled with continual gossip? Or do we squelch that temptation? Do we repeatedly watch questionable content on TV and the internet? Do we fill our minds with godless reading materials? Or do we have a practice of filtering what we put into our minds? Have we gotten into a rut of treating certain people unkindly? Have we developed a habit of deceit, dishonestly and deception? Or do we consistently attempt to treat others in a Christ-like manner?

I think the college professor is right. What we continue to practice risks becoming permanent in our life.

The Bible explained this truth many years ago. The Apostle John said if we are born again, we should be practicing a Godly way of living. We shouldn't keep sinning because Jesus abides in us. This isn't always easy, though! We have our fleshly desires that tempt us to do otherwise. But as we determine to practice the right way -- the Godly way -- then it becomes more and more natural.

In my own life, I've struggled with responding in a compassionate and considerate way to others. I've found the more I ask God to control my tongue, the easier it is to practice kindness. I've seen my responses change over the years. And I know it's all because of God's seed growing in me, allowing me to develop more Christ-like behaviors.

So, before we practice our music, let's first stop and check what we've been practicing in our personal lives. Have we been pleasing to God? Is our heart bent on making permanent life changes that glorify God? If so, our responses will become Christ-like more of the time -- and more permanent!

GOING DEEPER:
1. What is one of your favorite things to practice? (Examples: golf, baking, woodworking, painting, etc.) 
2. How might your experiences in these areas demonstrate a need for practice in behavioral issues also?
3. Share an area of your Christian walk that might be a "problem" area for you -- an area where you struggle to live God's way. Pray for each other, keeping in mind Philippians 2:13 - "It is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

What a Fragrance: Feb 27th - Mar 5th

This Week & Beyond...

Hey friends!!  How are your shoulders doing this fine day??  For those of you that were there Sunday night, thanks for coming out!  I had a great time and trust you did as well.  Lots of laughs were had and I'm still pumped about Tim's final 2 pin to beat Nyk in the first game!!  Definitely one of my highlights of the night!!  Go TIM!!!

Team night #5 is currently scheduled for March 26th but will have to change!!
Due to spring break and my being on holidays, we will either move or cancel that nights event.  Please stayed tuned for further details.

Team night #6 - April 30th
It has been my desire, for a number of months now, to have a night of worship in a loft of some sorts.  Arrangements are currently being made to make this a reality.  Please mark your calendars and join me in praying for this night.  If you have any thoughts and/or questions, please let me know!

Devotional...

What a Fragrance
by Luane Guyton, St. Louis, Missouri

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. (2 Corinthians 2:14)

Open the door to a house of a good cook, and you'll smell wonderful aromas! You may not realize it, but the reason you can smell all those fragrances is because of diffusion.

During the summer, you'll find fresh vegetables and a variety of herbs growing in my small garden. Many times you'll find them filling my kitchen with wonderful aromas -- at least that's the goal!

Herbs are funny things. They aren't eaten by themselves. No one ever has a bowl of basil for lunch or a handful of rosemary for a snack. Herbs were created to be mixed with (stirred, sprinkled, rubbed into) other foods. That's when they shine. In fact, herbs are most potent when they are crushed. One of the easiest ways to identify an herb is to rub it between your fingers. The fragrance quickly reveals its identity.

As a cook and a gardener, I find it fascinating that God says He diffuses the fragrance of Christ through us. But it begs the question, How does He do that? Let me try to explain.

Serving in a worship ministry is not a solo gig. It is a team effort. We come together to create a musical offering to God, to lead others into His presence, ultimately, to bring Him honor and glory. We bring our individual parts and mix them together to honor Christ. We have lots of fun together. We work hard to make things sound great. Often there are amazing times of worship.

What happens, though, when things are far from fun? What happens when harmonies don't lock, beats are loose, and notes are sour? What happens when "great" or "amazing" are definitely not the words to describe what just occurred? What happens when personalities clash, when ideas are at odds, when expectations aren't met? Even worse what happens when words hurt?

The Apostle Paul was involved in lots of difficult and even hurtful situations. He wrote 2 Corinthians in response to one. In chapter two, he uses words like "grieved," "sorrow," and "distress." He describes a previous interaction as "painful."

Have you ever found yourself there, in a painful situation? I know I have. I didn't want to be there. I certainly didn't set out to go there, but somehow I ended up there just the same. Maybe you can relate.

So what do we do? Perhaps Paul can give us some advice. Let's go back to 2 Corinthians. People have been hurt, Paul is grieved, and there's lots of stress. He acknowledges it and then he says this, "Reaffirm your love..."

What? Wait a minute. Back up. Shouldn't we first get to the root issue and correct the problem? Shouldn't we get everyone on the same page?

Actually, those are good thoughts. In fact, if you read through the rest of 2 Corinthians, you'll find Paul doing some of them. However, it's not the first thing he does. First he reminds people of his love for them, (vs 4) and then urges them to love each other (vs 8). So regardless of whether you were the one hurt or the one who caused the hurt (and be honest, we've all been both places), the first step is to love.

So think about it like this: Could our messes be opportunities to diffuse the fragrance of Jesus? Absolutely! Maybe how we respond will reveal the beauty of Christ through us. Perhaps God will even use it to capture the attention of the world.

Aren't you glad that Jesus didn't say, "People will know you are my disciple if you never rub each other the wrong way"? Who could ever live up to that? Instead, He said we'd be known as His if we love one another. When we do that, we are diffusing the fragrance of Christ. Maybe the most beautiful sound we can make as a worship team is not musical at all, but the sound of forgiveness and love.

GOING DEEPER: 
1.If those of us in the worship ministry loved one another even when things don't go well, how might that affect the congregation?
2. What can we do to reaffirm our love for one another within the worship ministry?
3. Is there someone that you need God's help to love? Take a moment to pray for God's help.