This past week has offered me an opportunity to be a part of a dying Christian man's last conscious moments, certainly one of life's more profound experiences. I feel blessed to have experienced this time with my wife's Uncle Bob, who passed last Wednesday. He had a truly contagious laugh and smile and will be missed by all who loved him. At 82, his generally failing health was hastened by the onset of lung cancer and a nasty fall a few months ago. Bob was the brother and only remaining sibling of my Mother-in-Law, Louise.
Louise asked me to pray with Bob. He had been in and out of awareness though out the day while my wife, Leslie, and I sat with her mother and Uncle Bob in his hospice care room in Williamsport, PA. I will never forget his last two words to me. Although they took all of his strength to utter, they could not have been simpler or more meaningful to both Bob and me.
I took his hand and said, "Bob, would you like me to pray with you?" He said "Yes." The four of us leaned together and I prayed for the blessing of having Bob in our lives and those he had touched. I thanked God for Bob's faithfulness and the life he had led, inspiring all around him to enjoy their own lives. I thanked God for giving Bob the opportunity to be remain in relative pain free comfort while he looked forward to passing into eternal life with Jesus who is also joyful at the coming opportunity to welcome Bob home. As I began to close the prayer I wasn't sure how much Bob was hearing me and I don't know exactly what else I prayed for, but as I finished we heard Bob clearly say "Amen."
I thought, here lies a man who has nothing left on his to-do-list. He doesn't need to be anywhere, or accomplish anything tomorrow. He is simply waiting for his Creator to bring him home. The next day we got word that Uncle Bob was no longer responsive and the following day Bob entered eternal rest until the last days when he will rise to meet Jesus. This is simply because Bob believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who was crucified, dead and buried, then rose from the grave to prove that He was exactly who He said He was. Through Jesus' work on the cross, all of the sins Bob had ever committed were forgiven, allowing Bob to enter into God's kingdom as spotless and free from sin.
One day, hopefully not too soon, but one day, I want to be where Bob was when I saw him a week ago today. All ready to go. The trouble is, what if I get called home a couple of hours from now, caught completely off guard? The Bible tells us to be ready because we all won't get months, weeks and days to prepare for the inevitable, to make complete peace and confess the last sin we committed before we pass. Although we need to live as if the end is just around the corner, by being faithful and diligent at all times, if we do get caught off guard by that speeding bus that we never saw coming as we stepped off the curb we are still saved. We are saved because we are washed white as snow by our belief in Jesus and the work he completed on our behalf almost two thousand years ago.
Just when you think a person can't possibly have any capacity left to help grow God's kingdom, we see Him use even the last moments of a man's life to help reach deep into the hearts of His beloved children to remind us of His promises, reaffirming our own commitment to serve and be light. I can't think of a more powerful way to gain a perspective on my own life and what I should be doing with the time I have left than the time I spent with Uncle Bob over the last couple of weeks. I look forward to seeing Bob again on the other side when my last breath is finally drawn. One day, hopefully not too soon, but one day.
- In Christ, Steve
November 7, 2013
One of my fears is that people will think of me as an old religious guy. Okay, I will accept the fact that I am old, but religious? I go to church because "I want" to hang out with my brothers and sisters in Christ, "I want" to learn more about what the Bible has to say, and most importantly, "I want" to praise my God. I thank God for everything I have, a good job, friends, family, free country, my health, softball, our praise band. The most important thing... Thee most important thing He gave me His son Jesus and Jesus gave His life for me. After what He has done for me, why would I not want to do all I can for Him? So, if anyone thinks that is being religious, don't tell me because I am having a blast worshiping my God.
- Donny (singer, guitar player, songwriter... I just had to put that in there. LOL)
October 30, 2013
Earlier this evening at practice we got talking about forgiveness, among other things, and how forgiving someone not only releases them from whatever they have done against us (known or unknown) but that it frees us from the bondage the sin of holding a grudge has on us. A weight is lifted and we are then free of the burden and more able to bless the person we forgive just as God will bless us for following His example. After coming home and before heading to bed tonight I decided to do some reading about forgiveness in scripture. Sure, I've read about forgiveness before but it is always good to go back and reread scripture often. It is always a good thing to keep reminding ourselves of God's word and directions for holy living and, at least in my experience, He often teaches slightly different lessons from the same scripture each time you read it.
While reading, one particular passage stuck out to me at this time so I thought I would share it with you and add some of my own thoughts. It was Colossians 3:12-17 which says "12 Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. 15 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. 17 And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." I got thinking about the fact that, as God calls us to live holy lives and follow Jesus' example in how to do that, one of the aspects of God's love is His compassion and forgiveness. It is a huge part of the reason He sent His son here to die for us and redeem us back to Himself. If we hope to be like Him in our own walks then we need to learn how to just let go of our hurt feelings, grudges, desires to get even, etc and love like He loves. He loves us and expects us to pass that love on to others in the form of compassion and forgiveness. We are to be kind and humble, patient with each other, letting His peace rule our hearts. That can be tough at times, certainly, but how great does it feel when we let the weight of bitterness, anger, and hurt fall away? How also does it bless the person on the receiving end of forgiveness and encourage them to do the same towards others in their life? Our actions can be the catalyst for great things that reach beyond us and our personal situation. How cool is that? I don't know about you, but that pretty much takes me to verse 16 because it makes me want to sing praises with a thankful heart to God!
Copper Coins enjoys the privilege of being able to sing praises to God and leading others in worship of our Savior and King. Part of it comes from being thankful that He has rescued and redeemed us from our lost state and forgave our sins. The other part is because we love sharing the message of His forgiveness with others. This coming Saturday night we get spend some time sharing the message of love and forgiveness with another group of youth (and anyone else that comes to join us for the evening), and we are super excited! Won't you come out and join us?! See you there!
October 26, 2013
For those of you with a desire to support the ministry of Copper Coins financially as well as through prayer (which we greatly appreciate and covet), you will be pleased to know that we now have COPPER COINS T-SHIRTS!!! Yes, for the first time in the band's history, we will now have a way for you to show publically that you are a partner in ministry with Copper Coins, help us share the message of Christ, and let others know about us so we can reach more people and go more places to share His love and the hope we've found in Him! We'll have these available at our next event in East Smithfield on November 2nd, after which they will be appearing for sale on our website! We will also accept pre-paid orders for additional shirts to be made if needed. More information on that as well as a photo of the shirts coming soon! (P.S. - Ball caps may be coming soon as well!)
October 24, 2013
As we draw closer to our last event for the 2013 calendar year it has caused me to think back through these past few months to recount in my mind how God has spoken to us, individually and as a band, and how we've seen Him work in and through us as we travel and share His message with others. For those of you who know us or have come out to join us for an evening of worship you know we don't do this music ministry for ourselves. It has always been and always will be about Him, glorifying Him and pointing others to Christ. That is our passion and we feel humbled that He has given us the opportunity to serve Him doing something we all love. In the day and age we live, with failing economies, rampant violence, addictions, depression, the loss of hope, we in Copper Coins find it all the more important to be about our Father's business, promoting His kingdom, sharing the hope found in His Son that can give real hope and peace beyond anything this earth has to offer.
Perhaps one of the most memorable events for me that we had the privilege of taking part in was our trip to Lighthouse Christian Camp over the Labor Day weekend. Getting to experience the beauty of God's creation as we traveled and then stood together beside Lake Ontario watching the sunset and listening to the waves gently roll in was incredible. We have been certainly blessed by our King to have had experiences like that... But what spoke to my heart more than anything else was the song God had given us to open with Sunday morning for worship. We had planned our set list weeks in advance, not knowing how fitting God would make it. The chapel we played in was on the shore, not a stone's throw from the lake... and we opened our set with a prelude, calling the campers to worship... with David Crowder's song "Come and Listen". The opening lyrics call out "Come and listen... Come to the water's edge all you... Who know and fear the Lord... Come and listen... Come to the water's edge all you... Who are thirsty, come... Let me tell you what He... has done for me... Let me tell you what He... has done for me... He has done for you... He has done for us...". Christ was calling us, all of us, not just the people we were playing for but "us" in Copper Coins as well. Come. Drink deep. Let me quench your thirst. I am the giver of life. I am the firm foundation on which you can build. I am the ark who will carry you. Come. Just as the words of John 7, verses 37-38 say On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’" and like Revelations 22:17 says The Spirit and the Bride say, "Come." And let the one who hears say, "Come." And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price, we were echoing the call. Come.
None of us would argue that we are in the last days. Christ's return is getting closer. Are we calling others to Him with the urgency we should be? Let's not be wasting the time we've been given to share the good news and the living water. I would also say, if you don't know Christ as your Savior, don't wait to come to Him. Tomorrow may be too late. Come and find out who He is, how much He loves you, how much He wants to give you hope and peace if you'll just repent and give your life to Him. Drink deep and quench your thirst!
September 24, 2013
A Diamond in the Rough – Duck Dynasty's Phil Robertson, a voice for Christ in the wilderness.
Any Duck Dynasty fans out there? If you watch that show you may feel, like me, that it is about the only reality TV show worth watching. Rather than a constant stream of "bleeps" with everyone yelling and cursing each other like almost every reality show I have ever attempted to watch (typically for 5 minutes), this show gives you a chance to slow down, relax, chuckle and admire a Godly extended family in Louisianna whose patriarch is named Phil Robertson. How many other reality shows end every episode in prayer, giving thanks to our Creator for the blessings set before them as they eat the day's catch? I think Phil has that market niche completely cornered. It is a truly refreshing change to see this on my television and my whole family has enjoyed this show for a year or so now.
For Father's Day my kids bought me Phil's autobiography called "Happy, Happy, Happy" which is his now famous phrase for how he views his life, his family and his relationship with the Almighty. If you don't read the cover insert or know Phil's story you might pass it off as just another way to make money for this multi-generational group of bearded millionaires who made a fortune selling duck calls and hunting videos. If you read it you will find it is really another way for Phil to tell people how his Christian faith and his evangelical approach to living it has been the true foundation of his life. It is not only an amazing rags to riches story, but also a wonderful testimony of a man born into poverty, given talents that could have taken him to fame and fortune as a pro-football quarterback (he started ahead of Terry Bradshaw at Louisiana Tech), married a wonderful woman, began a family, but then sank deep into drinking and debauchery until his repentance and rebirth in Christ at age 28 after he had left his new family and hit rock bottom.
What follows is nothing less than a complete transformation of Phil's life, his invention of the duck call that would make his family all millionaires, the use of his skills in the wild to bring people to Jesus Christ. He takes advantage of every opportunity to talk about Jesus and what He did for us on the cross. Phil says he and his sons have baptized many hundreds of people in the river at his home after bringing them to accept Christ as their personal savior. It was not all straight uphill after repentance. Phil and his wife "Ms. Kay" had 2 of his 4 sons go wayward like he did and later return as prodigal sons. Phil and 3 of his four sons are ordained ministers and all of them are intelligent college educated Godly family men. Talk about not being able to judge a book by its cover! Have you seen these guys?
I finished this easy reading book quickly, but could not help thinking I can certainly do more to be like Phil in his outspoken unvarnished continuous quest to tell others what he learned about the gift of God's Grace that we were freely given though we had never earned or deserved it. I would recommend this book to any Duck Dynasty fans or anyone wanting to know how one goes about the not-so-easy job of being a very visible light for Jesus every day.
September 9, 2013
As I was mowing this week and contemplating the change of seasons that is upon us, I began to think about how God made the seasons so different and so beautiful each in their own way. I am a 4 season kind of girl and I love things about each season but I think what I like most is the anticipation of what is next to come. At the end of winter, I look forward to the warmth and beauty of spring. As spring winds down, I look forward to the relaxation and beauty that summer offers. As summer moves into fall I look forward to the coming cooler temps and the beauty of the foliage. I think the anticipation is what makes each change of season so much fun for me. As I continued to contemplate (we have a big lawn), I was thinking that I should live life here on earth with that same sense of anticipation. This world is not my home. Am I living life in a mode of complaining about circumstances around me or am I living in anticipation of the home that awaits? Also, am I living in such a way that others are asking me to "give the reason for the hope I have" (1Peter3:15)? I know I fall short in this area quite often (I just blew it a few minutes ago as a matter of fact), but as the summer melds into fall, it is a great time to remember to be living as if this world is not my home and that the home that awaits is much better. Lord, help me to remember to live with hope and joy knowing that You alone hold the future and it is worth the wait!
August 11, 2013
I was so happy this week to find out that others in Copper Coins also cringe when they hear or see this popular bit of "text speak." I never really mentioned to anyone until now how this annoys me. I found out that I am not the only one on the planet who thinks this common popular exclamation is a violation of one of God's commandments. Have you ever thought about it like that? Let me see if I can get you to.
God told Moses to tell His people that His name is holy and should never be used in vain. Doing something in vain, according to the dictionary means to do it "without real significance, value, or importance; deemed as baseless or worthless." People have been saying "Oh, my God!" forever. The acronym "OMG" was borne of the texting craze about 10 yrs ago and has become SO ingrained in popular speech and writing that it shows up routinely in advertising, on TV and everywhere it seems. I maintain that the proper use of "OMG" would be in the context of a totally humbled worshiper on his/her knees, looking up to the heavens and calling out "Ohhhh, my God! My Father!!! Ooohhhh, how I give you thanks for all you have done for me!! Ohhhhh, Jesus, how I long to see your face! Oh, my God!!! Your love and mercy has no bounds yet you have restored me to a status where you see me as worthy to have a personal relationship with you!"
I clearly recall as a young boy when my mom taught me to not to call out God's name unless I want Him to answer me. Otherwise, His name is being called out in vain. Moms are so smart. I did not even know at the time that her lesson was a commandment straight from God, but I understood that what she was saying made good sense. When a teenage girl shrieks "OH... MY... GOD! These are the absolute CUTEST pumps EVER!!!" do you think she is really talking to God? Do you think she means "Ohhhhh, my God, my heavenly Father, creator and ruler of the universe! You just absolutely like HAVE to come down here and check out this TOTALLY darling pair of pumps I just found. You won't even be able to STAND it! Like, I know, right?!!!" I'm thinking that is not what she is thinking. God is insulted when we do this, plain and simple.
So, at the very high risk of sounding like an old fuddy duddy I would ask you to think about this and decide whether you want to make this personal behavior adjustment, even as small as it may seem to you at first. (Does simply using the words "fuddy duddy" mean I am a fuddy duddy?) Think about it like this for a moment. I believe this must be extremely important to God Himself since He listed this point as #3 in his top ten list of rules to live by, otherwise known as the Ten Commandments which were authored by the finger of God and given to Moses to present to His people at Mt. Sinai after they were emancipated from slavery in Egypt.
Many people think commandments like "though shalt not kill, steal or covet your neighbor's wife" are no-brainers and so obvious. They think it is laughable that believers think God had to write this down for them. Yet, the same people can easily discount the first four that come AHEAD of these in the list.
The top five on God's list say "Thou shall have no other gods before Me, thou shall not make any graven images (false idols) to worship and thou shalt not take My name in vain. Oh, and remember the Sabbath and respect your elders, too." This tells me that the absolute FIRST and FOREMOST thing God wants from us is our absolute devotion to Him and only to Him and that we are to keep his name holy, setting aside chunks of our lives to rest and worship Him. Also, love and honor our parents (and love each other.) These things all come BEFORE concerns about MURDER, STEALING, LYING, ADULTRY and JEALOUSY!! Seek first the Kingdom of God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind. Everything else will fall into place after that. If you submit and believe in Him, all else can be reckoned, forgiven and you can start anew, even stumbling time and time again sometimes. But without adhering to the first few commandments you are lost even if you never break the others. It is very important to understand that.
I will stop short of telling you that an "OMG!" exclamation is a bigger sin than murdering someone because I have a human mind and saying that out loud sounds utterly ridiculous. However, I do believe that in the mind of God, it is logical to conclude that He does look at it that way. If telling people not to murder was the #1 thing on his mind for us He would have listed murder as commandment #1, but He didn't.
OMG, I pray that people will begin to think about the meaning of their words when using Your name. Amen.
In Christ Jesus' beautiful name,
July 4, 2013
Fourth of July is a great time of year, isn't it? The springtime yard work is done and the house is looking good and now it's all about the grill, family and friends, sunshine and living the good life. It's not called Thanksgiving, but in a sense, almost all of our holidays are about being thankful as a society for something.
On July 4th we celebrate the founding of the country we certainly can easily take for granted and complain about on a daily basis. On our worst days of political haggling and stalemates in congress, degradation of traditional family values and the courts slowly choking out the Christian foundation of our nation it is easy to feel like we are all headed off a cliff. It is helpful to remember that, by comparison to many parts of the world, we are still a bastion of stability and freedom. This thought struck me as I picked up the paper and read about the renewed uprisings in Egypt, the turmoil in Syria, continued bombings in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. I could not help but think that as bad as things sometimes seem here, we live in a different universe from those countries and I am tremendously grateful for that.
The privilege to live in the United States of America was born of Revolutionary War blood. It was defended by more blood in the war of 1812. It was nearly torn asunder but salvaged and strengthened by the blood of the Civil war. In the 150 years since then our great country has been defended many times in many wars with much more bloodshed by tens of millions of people. Odds are that much much more blood will spill in the future as good continues to battle evil until Armageddon and our Lord's final triumph over evil for all time.
So, yes, let's celebrate our country's birth and all of our fantastic survival stories, remembering those who have and will selflessly shed their blood for our sakes. But, let's also be thankful on July 4th and every day, not only for the U.S.A. and the freedoms, peace and stability it has offered its people for well over 200 years, but also for the single individual who shed blood for us 2000 years ago, Jesus Christ. Those 8 pints of blood were all it took to give true and everlasting freedom, peace and stability to all who willingly seek and accept His bundled gifts of grace, restoration and salvation for eternity. Kind of cool to think about that.
Have a safe and happy July 4th weekend!
June 27, 2013
One of the Bible studies I go to is using the book "He Speaks to Me" by Priscilla Shirer right now and last night in the video session she said something that really hit home to me. She was talking about how Samuel was "lying down" when God spoke to him (1 Samuel 3:3) and reinforced our need to be still to hear from God. She then went on to the feeding of the 5,000 from John chapter 6. – After it had been established that the people were hungry, Jesus instructions were "Have the people sit down". She pointed out that the food was distributed to those who had been seated. The Lord had used this passage to show her – we need to "sit down" in order to be fed. We live in a busy world and there is always something we can be doing, but God wants our attention and He wants us to sit or be still in His presence. This is a tough task for me. I am a list maker and I feel such a sense of accomplishment by completing tasks.... but God is not as concerned about the tasks I can mark off my "to-do" list as He is with my heart and how I am taking time to be still. If I am hungry for Him, I need to sit down to be filled. I hope you can find time to sit down and be fed on a daily basis! And as a side note, if you are not in a small group of some type – I encourage you to seek out like-minded individuals to study God's Word with. This particular Bible Study I am in started as 4 friends getting together to pray about 15 years ago and I have been blessed beyond anything words can describe by the relationships with those other 3 ladies as well as how God has used the time together to grow me as I live for Him. Have a blessed week and may God continue to draw you to Himself!
June 15, 2013
My husband has said to me several times lately that Christianity is all about relationships. And, he's right of course: our relationship with God through Christ; our relationships with family, friends, believers, non-believers, future believers, husbands, wives, children, even our enemies. That's really what it’s all about. With that in mind, what is it that makes all these relationships strong?
Insomnia can be a great creative tool and one of my 2:30 am wake up calls got me thinking about what each of us needs when it comes to relationships. What came to mind became an acronym that I wouldn't typically apply to anything positive when it comes to how I relate to others. Here it is. We all need to feel Wanted. We all desire to be Adored. We'd like to think others Like us. And, everyone knows, we all long to be Loved. WALL
Wanted: To feel needed, to be considered vital. Adored: To be honored and respected, worshipped Liked: To be favored, preferred, to be found attractive Loved: To be deeply attracted to, to have a passion for, to have tenderness toward
Are these not attributes we lean on to know our relationships are right and is this not what God demonstrates toward us? We are wanted by Him in that He sees us as His treasures. He does not in actuality need us; He is God, complete, and lacks nothing. But He chooses us for His pleasure. We certainly need God. He is vital to our very existence and we are nothing without Him.
He adores us. By never forcing Himself on any of us, He treats His creation with respect and honors our choices to either join with Him or reject Him. We, in response, adore Him and show this in our worship of Him.
He likes us. That's difficult to understand considering how often we fail Him. But, He likes us in grace because of Christ's sacrifice for all we do wrong. And, he shows His favor by forgiving us whenever we ask. The Father found favor in Christ and we see this in Christ's baptism—"This is my Son, in whom I am well pleased." Christ was perfectly obedient and this caused the Father to prefer Him. His grace causes Him to like us. We are to like, favor, prefer our fellow Christians. Perhaps there would be fewer church splits if we chose to favor each other, to prefer others' desires above our own, if we liked each other.
We are loved and we love. This, above all, is what draws us into fellowship with God and with each other. If God is love and we say we are in Him, then we are to love. Read 1 John. If we say we love God, but do not love every person, then we don't really love God. That means we love everyone who has ever hurt us, who continues to hurt us, or doesn't care that they've hurt us, who never asks for forgiveness, and who has no love for us. And, we drop our pride and choose to love those we have hurt by asking for their forgiveness.
So, build this WALL brick by brick in every relationship so that all who know you are safe in your presence. I failed in this today with a stranger when I argued with her over the phone about a medical bill and I need to drop my pride and repair a brick in my wall. What about you? Do you invite others to lean on your wall? Is it strong enough to hold everyone who comes into your presence? When Christ is the builder and the cornerstone, the wall is strong. But, we need to do our part by making sure every brick is in place and the mortar is solid. On Christ the solid rock I stand. All other ground is sinking sand.
June 12, 2013
Copper Coins has been blessed to be part of a couple of great events, "Godstock" two Saturdays ago and "A.M.P.E.D." last Saturday. There is nothing better than making music and worshiping with fellow believers. Thank you to all that worked so hard planning and putting these events together and thanks to all the musicians whom God has blessed with the gift of joyful noise making.
"Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD." - Psalm 150: 3-6
As the drummer, I especially like the cymbals part.
God bless, - Mike
June 2, 2013
Godstock 2013 at Chambers Camp, Beaver Dams, NY yesterday was a relaxing and rewarding time for Copper Coins. It was a rare occasion where we did not have to pack and setup all of our large sound and mixing equipment. We used the house drums, mics and PA which was operated by a stage crew and a sound mixing professional at the helm. We pretty much just showed up, plugged in our instruments and played. We were the kickoff band at 4PM on a spittin' hot Saturday afternoon.
Please don't confuse Beaver Dams with downstate's Beaver Dam, NY in the singular. Since the town we visited was named after more than one water flow control structure built by beavers, I do assume that this one is also the larger of the two municipalities. This is pure conjecture and I digress profoundly...
Anyway, we were treated as royals by the staff at Chambers Camp, with a hospitality barrack for each of the bands, a staff of energetic "handlers" who shuffled all of the equipment for each act from their quarters to the stage and back as the bands rotated through the evening. The facility was a seriously huge tent erected in the center of a camping community that was a mix of semi-permanent camping trailers, cabins, common facility buildings, recreational areas and homes. Beautiful setting. Spacious seating and viewing of the stage created the perfect environment for a great Christian musical and educational event. Many people worked tirelessly to pull this off and they did a remarkable job. I cannot say enough about how well planned and executed this event was. My hat is off to all of the volunteers and staff that made this happen.
The unfortunate shortcoming was that Godstock was not well attended. For that reason, I wanted to write to encourage people to check this event out next year. That will be the THIRD annual Godstock and I hope word gets out to all local churches and communities before then that there is something special going on that can be attended dirt cheap right in their back yard. Unfortunately, it seems to be one of the best kept secrets in Upstate NY right now but we can all try to make it leak out in a big way over the next year.
The music we listened to was very good and varied, the facility was excellent, in between some of the bands were skits or speakers who delivered important messages straight up. If the social media marketing machine can kick in to get some bodies there next year this event will have a bright future. Copper Coins felt privileged to a part of it and would love to see it gain a great annual following.
May 30, 2013
We're back from the Christian Music Summit. I only wish I could remember all that was said ...well maybe not all that was said. One thing that was mentioned is to lead worship you must have a heart of worship. My hope and prayer is everyone who comes to one our events would be blessed as much as I am when we get together and praise our God. I mean "whenever" we get together (concerts, practice, church, C.M.S., in the van-car, restaurants, etc.) our Lord is in much of our conversation. Please take a minute and check out our schedule, find one that is convenient and come and worship with us. If you can't find one, give us a call and schedule one.
I just want to share what God has been driving into my head/heart lately. God wants all of us. He doesn't just want us from 11:00 to 12:00 on Sunday. He doesn't just want our giving to the church. He doesn't just want us to use good "Christian language". He doesn't just want us to have all the biblical knowledge we can muster up. I... my Lord and I wrote a song called "Nothing" that speaks of how we can do all the "right things" and it means nothing if Christ is not the reason for our actions. He wants ALL of us. He wants our heart. Isn't our God AWESOME!!!
- Footer (Donny)
May 29, 2013
The Christian Music Summit that I attended with Copper Coins in Buffalo May 3-4 was the 3rd year in a row for me. I drove home AGAIN knowing I can serve my music ministry better with renewed energy applied. This applies to both my guitar work with Copper Coins and in my Sunday morning worship team at Valleyview Alliance Church in Vestal, NY.
CMS offered exhibits, education, performances, worship sessions, hang out time with my fellow Copper Coins, time to reflect, be inspired and experience a bigger view of the opportunities to minister that leading and performing worship music offers us as Christians. I attended four especially helpful interactive sessions with professional guitarists Ben Gowel (plays for Paul Baloche) and Blues Counsel's Tony Hooper and Will McFarlane. The common message was something like "Play within yourself. Practice and get better but when you play don't try to set speed records, especially if you have not developed the speed skills yet. It will come. Play soulfully and with great tone and make every note count."
Music is a powerful and emotional gift that is God given us. He wants us to use music to draw closer to him as we see again and again in the Bible. God wants us to play skillfully and we should be allowed to exhibit our skills in worship while still giving Him the glory. A blues lick laid into Amazing Grace does not give the devil a victory, as Will says he had been told after doing such one time. Don't just bang out the same old same old in straight block chord fashion. Bring your gifts to the table and offer them up alongside your fellow musicians. Be the person in the ensemble who listens to the others, gives them space and then tastefully compliment the music and other musicians, remembering that many times less is more, especially with more musicians on stage. Being one part of a larger body certainly applies to musicians and singers in a worship ensemble. It was helpful to have the importance of these considerations emphasized. It mentally moved my guitar game up a notch, I think, even the immediate next Sunday morning.
Stay tuned tomorrow to hear what Donny had to say about his second CMS experience!
May 28, 2013
At the beginning of May we as a group headed to the Christian Musician Summit in Buffalo. It was a great 2 days of learning and being challenged both as a musician and as a Christ follower. Faith, worship, leadership, discipleship and many more topics made an impact on my heart. One of the sessions I received the most blessing from was led by Nathan Salter. He was speaking on Intimacy with God and related Gary Chapman's book "The Five Love Languages" to our relationship with God. He spoke on how we need to have a close, intimate relationship with God on a daily basis. It can't just be something we check off our "to-do" list for the day, but time spent with the Lord and listening to Him, not just speaking to Him. He challenged us to spend 10 minutes with the Lord in silence everyday - just listening for Him to speak. That is a challenge for me - my mind is always going 100 miles an hour thinking about everything that needs to be done and people that need things and a plethora of other topics. To sit and be still for 10 minutes a day? That is extremely difficult for me. I have endeavored to make that a habit. I have missed days since then, to be sure, but the days that I sit and really focus on God and what He is speaking to me are treasures and I have grown in Him. One of the last things Mr. Salter said in the session was "Do you make God smile everyday?" I would have to say, I am sure I make God shake His head on a daily basis. Not sure about smiling, but as I continue to walk this journey with Him - that is my goal, to make Him smile and at the end to hear Him say "well done good and faithful servant". Trusting that, as you read this, you are encouraged to strive to listen and grow in your intimacy with our Father as well. Blessings!
Stay tuned tomorrow for Steve's thoughts on this year's CMS event!
May 27, 2013
It has been awhile since our last update and we apologize for the delay in reporting on this year's trip to CMS. As usual, it was an absolute blast filled with plenty of great fellowship and beneficial training that we can put to good use both in Copper Coins and in our home church praise teams. I can't say enough about the CMS event and would strongly suggest that anyone involved in music, whether in your church or outside it, should attend at least one year and see what I mean. This year was my 6th straight but I still continue to learn new things each time I go because there is so much to take in and so many classes and demonstrations to choose from. It has also become our annual band retreat and we're already registered for next year's event! As promised, we'd like to share just a few brief thoughts and comments on our experiences there.
One of the most inspirational and beneficial things about CMS each year are the morning worship times and the opening keynote messages each morning before classes begin. Friday's keynote message was a great way to start off our event when Pastor Jerry Gillis spoke on the faith of Joseph from Hebrews 11:22 "By faith Joseph, at the end of his life, made mention of the exodus of the Israelites and gave directions concerning his bones." Pastor Jerry talked about how many of us (myself included) may pass over this verse and not find it as significant as some of the other testaments of faith in this chapter, yet when we really dig into the truth of this verse we quickly can see its value. Joseph's faith was so strong that God would follow through on His promises that he gave instructions to the Israelites on what to do with his bones when they left Egypt. Though the exodus did not occur in his lifetime, Joseph knew it would occur because God's words can alway be trusted. This can be a great encouragement to all of us when we face trials in our own lives. God will walk with us and bring us through, even when we can't see how or when.
This year, among the many different classes I attended, I again included several songwriting sessions. One of those, a class that both Sallie and I attended and enjoyed together, was a session on melody writing taught by Ian Eskelin (a producer, songwriter, solo artist, and founding member and lead singer of the Grammy-nominated Christian Rock band All Star United). Ian is a very funny and interesting teacher and he made the topics covered in his class very memorable and thought provoking. He demonstrated how he comes up with catchy melodies and combines them with descriptive lyrics that compliment each other to paint a clear picture of the message of a song. I hope the things we learned help Sallie and I to write many more originals for Copper Coins in the coming months and years that speak about our Savior and share the message of His love to those who come to worship with us!
Stay tuned tomorrow for another update from Claudine regarding her thoughts on this year's CMS! On a side note, speaking of the benefits of CMS to Copper Coins, check out the video below in which Mike and Steve share some comments on our Presonus StudioLive 16.4.2 digital mixing/recording console. This was shot in response to a request sent to us on our Facebook page by Doug Gould of WorshipMD, one of the teachers at CMS where we also saw this board for the first time a couple years ago
April 20, 2013
Claudine shares some thoughts based on the book "Forgotten God" by Francis Chan regarding where our focus should be after we leave a worship service. We hope it stirs some thoughts in your own minds and hearts as well. You can find a link to the official website for the book on our Resource Page.
April 16, 2013
This past Sunday evening the band was out together again, this time worshipping with the great people of Steve's home church at Valleyview Alliance in Vestal, NY. I know I've said this before so I apologize if I may sound like a broken record (yes, some of us still remember the skipping needle on that vinyl disc), but I will never get tired of worshipping my Savior with my bandmates or the brothers and sisters in Christ we happen to be visiting on any given day or night. OK, on second thought I'm not going to apologize for that because that's truly how I feel and I'll keep repeating it. I feel so blessed to be able to play music with such good friends as we join together in praising the only one worthy of our worship! Sure, there are times that the work of doing this music ministry gets old (like loading and unloading our equipment... are there any adventurous souls out there who are eager to join our ministry team as roadies??!!), but being able to play music and sing about and to our Creator makes whatever extra effort we put in all worth it in the end, especially if/when it ministers to someone else's hearts like it does ours.
I am reminded, however, of Psalm 34 verses 1 through 3 which says "I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together!" The reality is that Copper Coins can't always be together, out playing the music we love and enjoying the privilege of sharing with others as we worship with fellow believers. The reality is that the majority of our daily lives is spent away from our music... but that shouldn't mean that we aren't still praising our God just as much as we do from the stage. Our lives should be constant demonstrations of our love for Him and our desire to see Him glorified, whether we're at work, school, or play... not just when we're singing. I want that for myself and I will freely admit it is often hard and I don't do it well... but I will keep working at it and asking for His help.
We want that for you too. Are you worshipping your God with your daily life? Are you living for Him like Romans 12 admonishes us? Don't let the day to day grind get you down or forget that everything we do should be as if we were doing it all for Him. Remember Psalm 34... "I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth." I hope those verses speak to you this week as they did to me. After all, as Chris Tomlin wrote... "You and I were made to worship!"
April 13, 2013
When Copper Coins plays we hope to weave the essence of this message into the performance so that the audience is truly engaged in worship with us: WE STRIVE TO USE OUR SPIRITUAL GIFTS TO SHINE A LIGHT ON HOW GREAT AND GLORIOUS IS OUR GOD; WHOSE DEEP SACRIFICIAL LOVE AS DEMONSTRATED ON THE CROSS IS STILL CALLING EACH OF US BACK TO A PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM; WHOSE POWER DEMONSTRATED BY HIS RESURRECTION OVERCAME SIN AND DEATH. OUR GOD IS ALIVE AND RIGHT HERE WITH US THROUGH THE HOLY SPIRIT, OFFERING HOPE, PROTECTION AND STRENGTH TO ALL WHO SEEK HIM. HE IS WORTHY OF OUR WORSHIP AND HE LOVES TO HEAR US SING HIS PRAISES. Amen.
March 23, 2013
Last weekend I flew to Nashville, TN to attend a Songwriters Intensive Retreat given by Cindy Wilt Colville. It was a time to learn from and with other Christian songwriters the structure and purpose of a song and especially how to get the message across to the listener in a way that is memorable and impacts lives. It was a humbling and simultaneously uplifting experience. But, I want to tell you not about the retreat, but about the trip there. I know, sounds mundane, but I haven't flown in 30 years so navigating the airports in Nashville and Newark, NJ was the most intimidating part of this trip for me. In our little airport in Ithaca, NY I watched the seasoned student passengers ahead of me and asked incredulously, "Do I really have to take off my shoes?" That's how it started.
In Newark, I hauled around (with embarrassment, I must admit) my "vintage luggage", as one airline employee kindly described it, trying to find the right gate. I finally asked directions from someone for whom English is barely a second language and then for clarification from another man driving around one of those golf cart shuttles. He smiled patiently and asked me, "So, where are you from?" "Ithaca, NY", I said. He laughed and told me he owned land near Cortland, NY (45 minutes north of Ithaca). "Oh, I work in Cortland!", I said, surprised anyone in Newark, NJ knew Cortland, NY. "Yes, I own some land in Pitcher." He owns land in Pitcher! Population 803. I bet most of the SUNY Cortland students have never even heard of Pitcher.
I found the gate with his help and boarded the plane. As I did I looked twice at the stewardess. I'd seen her somewhere before. When she brought the drink cart by, I asked her, "Are you from Ithaca?" "How did you know that?," she asked. "I'm from Ithaca. You look familiar." She said, "Oh, well I actually live in Cortland." "That must be where I've seen you!", I said, "I work in Cortland!", thinking to myself, this is just a little weird. I told her where I work, but still couldn't figure out why she looked so familiar. Later, she came by again and looked at me and said, "I'm a member of the Elks Lodge in Ithaca." "Really?", I said, "My husband is a member of the Ithaca Elks Lodge." I gave her his name and she raised her arms and rolled her eyes in disbelief.
Crazy, huh? What are the chances that I would meet an employee at the airport in Newark who owns land in Pitcher, of all places, and a stewardess on the plane going to Nashville who is a member of the lodge where my husband is a member? My first thought was, "Thank you, God, for providing people to give me comfort on a stressful day." And, I'm sure that was the reason they were there.
Later, though, I was thinking more about this and it occurred to me that I had been dumbfounded by these two seeming coincidences (really, purposeful "God incidents"), yet there are so many who easily overlook the 351 Old Testament prophecies that Christ fulfilled and dismiss them as mere coincidences. I mean, really, what are the chances?
March 16, 2013
Recorded live at the Waverly Christian & Missionary Alliance Church on 3/10/13, this is an original Copper Coins song written by Todd Garrity and Dale Campbell titled "Coming Back".
March 7, 2013
Reminder... We are playing at the Waverly Christian & Missionary Alliance Church this Sunday at 6:00 PM. Please come! It will be a blast!... I mean, we can have good fellowship! I think it's going to be LOUD!... I mean, I don't think it will be too loud. We've been working hard on our set. Okay, maybe "work" is not the right word. See you there!
- Footer (Donny)
February 28, 2013
"Worship is why we are born, and why we are born again" ~ A.W. Tozer
Worship is an important word to us as Christians and in recent times we use it mostly as an adjective – worship service, worship music, worship center etc. But is that all it is; a word used to define places and things? When I read this quote by A.W. Tozer today, it brought my mind back to worship. It is what we live for – to worship and glorify God. Worship should be part of every moment of everyday for those of us who are Christ followers. Worship should not be relegated to a certain time, place, or activity. These are thoughts easy to put on a page, but much harder to live. Do I live worship? My kids wouldn't say so. I mess up on a daily basis, losing my temper or having moments that are less than worshipful. Thankfully we have a God who gives us grace! I challenge you to live your days in worship – giving extravagant respect, admiration, and devotion to God. It is after all why were born again!
February 27, 2013
We just accepted an invitation to join the great lineup of bands at Godstock 2013 in Beaver Dams (hosted by the Chambers Wesleyan Camp) on Saturday, June 1st! Check out our Schedule and see where else we're planning to be so far! If you are in the Waverly, NY area on March 10th, Sayre, PA area on June 8th, or Barker, NY area on September 1st we'd love to see you! Stay tuned for more dates to come!
February 19, 2013
At a recent practice we were talking about the fact that God is so powerful, awesome, mighty, holy, above all other things and yet still loved us so much that He chose to come down to us in human form. Why? ...so that He might die in our place, pay our penalty, and restore us to Himself because He desired to have a personal relationship with each of us. It reminded me of the passage in Philippians which says "...who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." - Philippians 2:6-11
Later, this past Sunday, Pastor Daniel Stegeman of my home church continued a message on suffering and how we as Christians should not only expect that we will have to suffer for Christ but take joy in it because ultimately our Lord is glorified through it. My mind put those two thoughts together as I considered that we, like our Savior Christ, may have to suffer and humble ourselves for His name as we seek to spread the gospel message to those around us. If we endeavor to reach the lost and glorify Him, we need to become obedient like Christ and put aside ourselves, our own thoughts and agendas, our pride and be willing to suffer or inconvenienced if need be.
Am I willing to do that as often as I should? Are you? That's something for all of us to think about and chew on this week. I pray that you'll join me in endeavoring to serve Christ well, regardless of what that requires.
February 11, 2013
Just thought I would share a little behind the scenes info... Whenever the band plays in practice or at an event I never get tired of singing the same songs. I say it's because I was blessed with short term memory loss... just kidding... I think... What was I saying? I will never get tired of singing praises to my God. The band has been working on our set list, you know, how to sing/play, when to sing/play, where to sing/play... We are waiting to see what our director has for us to do. Oh, yes, that would be Christ. I can't wait to see what He is going to do. I hope you can join us sometime as we worship our Lord together.
- Footer (Donny)
February 10, 2013
I've been pondering lately the blessings God has provided to me in the midst of ongoing struggles. We all have something that we sometimes think will never get better even though we remind ourselves to have faith: health concerns, family issues, work stresses, finances, marriage problems, wayward children, etc. But, in the midst of all of that, He provides more than "coping skills"; He provides inner peace. For me, over the past several months, it has been hiking in the woods. An acquaintance I met through craigslist of all places (which is how I found out about Copper Coins come to think of it) told me about Shindagin Forest, a place of wonder near my home that I never knew existed or had forgotten about. I find myself there whenever I have an hour or two of light in my schedule to spare. Hiking there alone, talking with God, and just absorbing all the sights and sounds of the woods has brought such inner peace. I encourage each of you to find a place where God can speak to you and where you can have uninterrupted time with Him: more than a few minutes between times of activity, but real purposeful designated time with the Creator. For me, it's being in nature. For you, maybe it's going for a drive or exercising at the gym listening to praise music or taking a walk in your neighborhood. Whatever it is, make it a part of your life. Be mindful of your desperate need for Him and His overwhelming desire to be with you. You will be blessed in the midst of struggle and will find that He gives you all that you need to overcome fear and hopelessness. Be blessed.
February 6, 2013
MY SEVEN PILLARS OF FAITH - a short essay by Steve Hoover (Part 7 of a 7 part series of posts)
7. Your own personal experience will reinforce your faith. The more I admit that I am not in control of my life, that I need help, that I believe God knows what is best for me and I allow him to take the wheel, the more God rewards my faithfulness and further strengthens my faith by demonstrating his presence and faithfulness in ways that are very personal in nature. He lets me know that I, as an individual, have been heard and he answers my needs in ways that I could never have orchestrated. These are deeply personal and individual experiences that all believers can experience. Some would say these experiences are not "hard evidence" for God's existence but to those who experience them they are additional pieces of evidence that reinforce all that came before. Your strengthened faith will lead you to share the Gospel and draw others to Him, telling your own story of redemption so that they can begin their own personal journey, and so it goes. This is how the Holy Spirit grows Christ's church. You are a player in this grand story and we will all be reunited through our faith in the great playwright, producer and director of this story. He exists in the three persons of God, the creator and ruler of the universe, his son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit who dwells with us always unto the ends of the Earth.
So, that's a quick overview of how I got to this point in my faith. There are many details even within my overview story, just as there are many Biblical details within the overriding story. I hope my words fuel some additional thinking for you and that they help start you down the path of curiosity that leads to faith or strengthens the faith you already have. Either way, God intends for us to share His Gospel and our own personal stories. Thank you for reading mine.
February 5, 2013
MY SEVEN PILLARS OF FAITH - a short essay by Steve Hoover (Part 6 of a 7 part series of posts)
6. We can put it all together to actually believe and then move forward on faith. Once an intelligent and logical person examines enough aspects of the big questions and sees them pointing to the same answer they can begin to believe it to be true. Compared to any other explanation of how we got here, why we exist and where we are going, one will eventually accept sufficient evidence to actually allow themselves to believe. Once we say to ourselves that this makes more sense than anything else we can start to place ever increasing amounts of faith in the truth of God's Gospel. Even though we may still have some unanswered questions remaining, we know enough to proceed based on Faith. If you don't have faith you can't gain it just because someone says you should have it. Everyone gets there in their own unique way but, for me, real and abiding faith came after a long process of searching for answers that made the most sense. Faith is not just for the simple and weak minded after all. God gave us a brain and likes us to use it, especially when it leads us to him.
(Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 7!)
February 4, 2013
MY SEVEN PILLARS OF FAITH - a short essay by Steve Hoover (Part 5 of a 7 part series of posts)
5. There is no other sensible explanation of why Jesus' tomb was empty on Easter morning. There is plenty of historical evidence and corroboration that assures us that He lived, preached, performed miracles, was sentenced to die on the cross, actually was dead, laid in a tomb/cave secured by a large boulder that was marked with a Roman seal and had armed Roman guards in front of it. Historical record even outside the Bible tells us that the Romans went to great lengths to ensure that that tomb would not be robbed of Jesus' body by his followers or others because that would be evidence that Jesus had risen from the dead just as He said he would. Later, to squash the disciples' claims that He had risen, all the Romans would have had to do is produce the dead body to squash such rumblings, but they could not. The Romans therefore did not take the body. The hundreds of witnesses to the resurrected Christ did not all have a simultaneous hallucination that was so real they were willing to die to tell others what they experienced. No normal human being would hang on a cross until they had no vital signs, be stabbed until their blood all poured out on the ground, be laid unattended in a dark cold hole in the rock from Friday afternoon until Sunday morning then get up, fold their clothes neatly in a pile, push aside a huge rock without the guards noticing and just stroll away in the wee hours of the morning, then travel pretty good distances to visit friends to let them know he was fine. The only explanation that holds water is that Jesus was who he said he was and he actually was resurrected from the dead. Tying back to the notion of prophesy, Jesus fulfilled hundreds of old testament prophesies in this way. It just all hangs together too perfectly to dismiss as impossible. Who are we to say what is possible for God? Once I accepted that resurrection from the dead was the most satisfactory explanation all the way around, then many other aspects of the Bible fell into place. Other miracles performed, prophesies, existence of God the creator, etc. etc. all make sense if I can accept this singular event of Jesus' death and resurrection. If that point is true then all the rest falls perfectly into place within the context of the big story.
(Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 6!)
February 3, 2013
MY SEVEN PILLARS OF FAITH - a short essay by Steve Hoover (Part 4 of a 7 part series of posts)
4. Israel exists today as a reunited nation exactly as prophesied thousands of years ago, lending modern credibility to Biblical prophecy. This is just one prophesy fulfilled among the hundreds in the Bible. However, I had been smart enough to know that it would be easy for a book to say after the fact that something that happened had been foretold just by adding the prophesy earlier in the story. But the restoration of Israel in 1947 is a modern miracle, not a centuries old tale. Israel's destruction and restoration were prophesied in Biblical times but the fulfillment of prophesy happened within my parent's lifetimes. Now that's making the Bible really real. What other ancient civilizations that have been destroyed and scattered have had their histories so well documented and preserved that there are documented prophesies stating that the nation would be reunited and then it happens virtually right before our modern eyes? The whole concept and importance of promises and prophecies that are later fulfilled is woven throughout the Bible. If we can believe these prophesies to be credible then we can believe that Christ will return to eradicate evil forever and usher in his new Kingdom on Earth.
(Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 5!)
February 2, 2013
MY SEVEN PILLARS OF FAITH - a short essay by Steve Hoover (Part 3 of a 7 part series of posts)
3. Faith can grow out of intellectual study of evidence. Strong faith is not restricted to the weak minded, the desperate, or those who were brainwashed by church and parents since birth as I previously believed completely when I was "enlightened" by modern science and knowledge. We need only to have someone share the big picture of the Gospel with us, then we can understand the Biblical details within that context. Wait, there's more. Not only does the Bible tell one big amazing story that holds together from start to finish (any good epic will do that) even though written by many authors over many millenniums (not many other instances of this elsewhere), but it is actually set in the context of the real world, real history, real people and over vast spans of time. There is no "once upon a time" or a singular point in time when one individual was given some wisdom to spread to his followers. The difference between myth and real history could not be more well differentiated than a real comparison of Judeo/Christian with other religions. Jews and Christians share the same historical story except the non-Christian Jews missed a major turn in the story when Jesus showed up. They are sort of stuck in the scene just before when the story developed in an unimaginably perfect way to an awesome new level of thickened plot.
(Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 4!)
February 1, 2013
MY SEVEN PILLARS OF FAITH - a short essay by Steve Hoover (Part 2 of a 7 part series of posts)
2. The Biblical story is distinctly NOT mythological or from the imaginations of men and women. In my teens and twenties, I could not differentiate between the other ancient religions or myths that seemed to all have some form of God(s), some forms of worship ceremonies, some form of leader who spewed words of wisdom that helped people live their lives and get along better. They were all based in very ancient times that made it hard to see the difference between a myth and any other story that had been handed down for hundreds of generations like the Bible. I realized that humans could never have conceived of the Gospel story since it is unimaginably contrary to our notion of how a God would do things. The Bible provides intricate details of a very long, but completely coherent account of God's interaction with mankind and with us as individuals. I was raised by a strong Lutheran family, Sunday schooled, attended catechism classes as a 7th grader and confirmed into the body of the Church. But, looking back, I know that that I had no view of the big picture of God's overriding story of the Gospel. I had only some building blocks in the form of hundreds of Bible stories that were learned over time but did not seem to fit together in any meaningful way. The stories all had different characters and life lessons. I did not grasp the fact that these were are all small scenes in the grand story of God's creation, redemption, salvation and restoration of mankind as well has the story of how he chose to reveal himself and his plans to mankind and to each of us as individuals. I did not really get until much later that these were real people in real towns and places that played out roles in real historical life. I didn't get that the story is still being played out today and I am one of the players. The Gospel has the power to transform people once His story is shared and understood. The burden of saving someone is not ours. The Holy Spirit will do that for those who sincerely seek the truth. Our job is to share the story of the Gospel and why we believe it to be true. God's power lies within that story, not in our ability to tell it well. The Holy Spirit will do the heavy lifting if we do our part to share the story with others.
(Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 3!)
January 31, 2013
MY SEVEN PILLARS OF FAITH - a short essay by Steve Hoover (Part 1 of a 7 part series of posts)
I had been pondering the question of how is it possible to give a person who has either abandoned their Christian faith or never learned the Gospel at all enough understanding so that they can become a believer. How do I explain why I believe what I believe? I mean, there are a lot of steps in the journey that got me from my beliefs of my 20's, to accepting God's gift of salvation and grace in my 30's, to the things I understand much more deeply today. Heck, I'm still learning more all the time myself.
I decided to start by listing the reasons I was saved, at around age 33 (twenty years ago). After all, I was a tough sell when I was called back to the Lord. If it can happen to me it can happen to anyone. A co-worker and others helped me with suggested reading that kept things moving along. My curiosity continued to grow and I was asking my parents some questions that should have exposed some fallacies of their Christian beliefs. Ex: Why would a good and loving God demand that his people slaughter animals and spread their blood all over the place when they worship him? Sounds like the volcano gods of the Incas or something. Why were people condemned to hell after hearing the Gospel if they reject it? Don't we risk condemning them simply by exposing them to the Gospel? I was not surprised that my parents could not answer a lot of my questions. I WAS surprised that they decided to get me hooked up with their pastor who spent a lot of time researching my questions and then recorded a series of audio tapes specifically spoken to me which he mailed to me. It was enough to demonstrate that if we earnestly look hard enough for answers we are likely to find them and they may be surprisingly logical once understood.
What follows is a brief summary of the main reasons I believe in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior and in the Bible as the actual inspired Word of God. I did not force the list to be seven items. I just wrote down the major areas that supported my eventual proclamation of Faith in Jesus Christ and there turned out to be seven. I thought about trying to compress it to three or stretch it to ten until I realized that seven is God's number of completeness so I decided maybe that is how many there are supposed to be!
1. There are more answers to the tough questions than one might assume. Ask them and keep digging in books, internet, with experts and with friends until you find an answer that makes the most sense to you. Seek and you will find Him because he is not hiding. He desires, even promises, to be found by those who earnestly seek the Truth. Step #1 is moving past your belief that there is not enough evidence to draw any solid conclusions. You probably just have not tried hard enough to search for answers so get started. Read and ask about different explanations for how we came to be and why and start to sort out what makes sense and what doesn't. Begin the journey and stick with it until you know you are on the right track.
(Stay tuned tomorrow for Part 2!)
January 25, 2013
I am so thankful for the chance to worship with this group of people and the opportunity to be part of leading worship wherever we go. I am still amazed that at this stage of my life that the Lord is using me at 51 years old to play the drums in a contemporary Christian praise band! What an awesome God!!
Music is one of God's greatest gifts to the world. It has the power to move someone to tears or to get people up on their feet and dancing. When couples fall in love they have a special song that becomes "their song". It is the universal language that touches all tongues and nations. Even the creatures in nature sing out to God the creator. We were made to worship God and music was given to us as a way to worship Him. Unfortunately, many times it has been twisted to worship the world. Music in and of itself can not be evil, but the content of the lyrics can certainly be. Most of the lyrics of secular music do not reflect the things of God. They many times celebrate the kind of attitudes and behaviors that displease God. On the contrary, the lyrics in worship music are about praising and thanking God for who He is and what He has done. They celebrate the things of God. I want to encourage anyone who has never been to a worship service before and those who have, but need to be uplifted, to come and join us at our next event.
January 18, 2013
While listening to Max Lucado this week on the livestream of "A Night of Hope and Healing", something new struck me. Mr. Lucado was focusing on the first line of the 23rd Psalm - "The Lord is my Shepherd" and all that those 5 words mean. As he was talking about sheep and why they need a shepherd so badly, he stated that sheep are the only animal that are not able to clean themselves. I thought about how filthy sheep can get with their coats matted and caked with dirt and mud. It occured to me that, just like those sheep, my soul also gets filthy and I am hopeless to get it clean. Then, in steps God to provide a way for us not just to be clean but white as snow. How awesome is the God we sing about! As the Psalmist also said, "Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit in me" Psalm 51:10.
January 12, 2013
"Read Matthew 24:32-36. Watch the NEW BUD that is coming forth! See what the fig tree teaches! How will what has dried up and not blossomed in the past begin to bear new fruit in your life? This month, press into the blossoming that will produce the fruit and the oil for your future. List on a sheet of paper what you wish to see blossom in your life. Review what has dried up and ask the Lord to show you a new 'bud.' Also read Isaiah 35 and Haggai 2. Be willing to be shaken and pressed so the latter glory will be greater than the former. Feel the weight and pressing of His glory that will produce the oil for your future. Finally, read Psalm 92. Declare that a new anointing will begin to manifest in you in the next several months. A nine month process is necessary for the olive tree to blossom, for its harvest to mature, and to be harvested for the production of oil. Decree that this month your blossoming begins. Expect the pressing and pouring out of your new anointing. Rejoice over the Latter Glory." - Chuck Pierce
This short message reminds me that real change usually takes time. In our American fast delivery and Sesame Street-like culture, we expect things to happen quickly and our attention span is limited to a few seconds at a time it seems. When we trust in God, our faith must be willing to wait for His time. He made the seasons and the time it takes for flowers, fruit, vegetables, and trees to blossom and bear fruit from seeds. Change in our lives also takes time. Like a flower it may appear overnight, but behind the scenes and through the years much has happened to prepare for the bloom. Rest assured that He is doing the work through the power of the cross as we trust and obey.
January 11, 2013
"And never forget that happiness is when His Word and your walk are in harmony. Never stop keeping company with Christ- and all the sinners, tax-collectors and cast-offs. Be an evangelist and use your words with your hands because you're part of a Body and never stop loving God with all your heart, mind and soul, and loving others as yourself. Make that your creed." - Ann Voskamp
Anyone who knows me well, knows I love God's Word and knowing it and living it is of utmost importance to me. When I read this blog post by Ann Voskamp today, the above line jumped out at me and I asked the question, "Is my walk and His Word in harmony today?" So far today, yes, but that is not always the case and an hour from now, I may have to answer differently. I am reminded of the line in From the Inside Out by Hillsong United – "a thousand times I fall still your mercy remains. Should I stumble again, still I'm caught in Your grace" I stumble often and fail to walk in harmony with His Word, but His mercy and His grace are there for me when I fall, setting my feet back on the path and helping me to walk again. So thankful today for a God who loves me, and desires to walk with me through life! Praying for you that God would make Himself real to you today and you would know the Joy of walking in harmony with His Word!