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Beginning With Nothing

November 14, 2014

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:3).

As a young youth pastor, one of my youth sponsors gave me a calligraphied copy of this verse. The word “nothing” was done in gold ink to make it stand out. The message was clear. My effectiveness as a pastor would forever be connected to my reliance on God’s resources. My talents and giftedness  would be insufficient for effectiveness in God’s work. This framed reminder remains in my office forty years later and is my focal point as I approach each day.

Beginning with the knowledge that apart from Him I have nothing valuable in my life, is the pathway to fruitfulness in God’s kingdom work. God is the source of all of who I am– my personality, my giftedness, my talents. He is the one who directs my path and causes me to know His shaping me through every experience and encounter of my journey here on planet earth. As I yield daily to His leading nothing lies beyond His shaping it for my good and His glory. The key is daily to remain fully connected to the Vine and draw my subsistence from Him alone.  I cherish this written reminder in my office every day. When tempted to rest in my own strength and resources I lose the energy and vitality intended to flow through me as His child. Beginning with a clear assessment of “nothing” is a great place to start.

Personal Application: Do you have something to remind you where your faith and effectiveness come from? Your spiritual fruit is an indicator of your connectedness to Him. Where do you observe God’s work in you?

Home Application: Discuss ways to remind yourself and each other of your need to fully depend on the Lord.

In what ways have you observed the difference in things done in your own strength and those things done in total reliance upon God?

Devotional written by Chuck Davis

Are you my neighbor?

April 2, 2014

Until now you have asked nothing in my name.  Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.         John 16:24 (ESV)

A couple of weeks ago when Pastor Ryan asked us to fill in the chart with the names of the five neighbors that live closest to us, I have to confess I only knew a few. Some of them I was confident I had met when we first moved in but couldn’t remember their names. So that Sunday, I purposely began praying that God would give me opportunities to meet them. My pride stood in the way of just going up and introducing myself. I desired a comfortable, casual, meaningful encounter.  Only God, could use spring cleaning and a garage sale to provide a perfect scenario in which to not only meet my neighbors but to a engage in real conservation. That is the God we serve, always doing abundantly more than we can ask or imagine! So this past weekend, with all my junk spread out on my driveway, I not only met three of my neighbors, I got to know them. As each of them stopped by I asked them to remind me of their names. It wasn’t awkward! But the amazing thing is they came and just visited. I believe our neighbors are desperate for community.  I learned more about them in the last two days than I have in the last five years. I know it is because I ask God to do something only HE could do.

What I learned this weekend:

  1. We don’t have to overthink meeting our neighbors. We just need to be available.
  2. We don’t need to have everything planned. Be spontaneous!
  3.  We don’t have to produce something artificial. Take advantage of everyday living.
  4. We need to ask God to let us see others thru his eyes and perspective.
  5. We need to surrender, our plans, agendas, and schedules.

The best part of this weekend, was the absolute JOY that I felt in connecting with my neighbors.

Have you taken the first step in meeting your neighbors? If not, think simple.

Step out in faith today and ASK God to show you opportunities to meet your neighbors. Then do it! One Neighbor at a time!

Brainstorm as a family on ideas to engage your neighbors. How about an egg hunt, pot luck, outdoor movie?

Today’s devo written by Kathy Spade





Does Unity require the Holy Spirit?

March 12, 2014

“I, therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, urge you to walk worthy of the calling you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, accepting one another in love, diligently keeping the unity of the Spirit with the peace that binds us.”  (Eph 4:1-3 HCSB)

I hope that all of you got to enjoy the Pastor’s sermon on “The gift of Unity” last Sunday.  If not, you can still listen to it by going to our website at this link:  During that sermon, the Pastor mentioned the passage listed above in reference to the need for the Holy Spirit.

Why would we need the Holy Spirit to produce unity in the church?  Can humans be united for a common cause without spiritual help?  Are there not companies and sports team that unite for profit or the goal of winning a championship?  If they do unite, then why do we need the Holy Spirit in the church to help us unite for God’s purpose?  I believe the reason is all about the goal of unity.  Is the goal about us or about Him?

Notice that Paul, in his appeal, uses the word “diligently”.  He recognizes that the individuals in the church will have to work hard to accomplish unity.  We must have help to accomplish this unity and that help comes from reliance on the Holy Spirit.  We must rely on Him corporately and individually to create the oneness that exceeds human efforts of unity.  While humans can become united for a common cause, it is often for an earthly reward.  The unity of the church requires the work of the Holy Spirit because the church, in fulfilling the Great Commission, looks for a heavenly reward!

Personal Application:  Reflect on a time in your life you were united with a group of individuals to accomplish a goal.  While you might have sacrificed for the team, was their an earthly reward in accomplishing the goal?  Would the team have stayed united if there was not an earthly reward?

Home Application:  Discuss with your family the motivation behind being united with the family of God.  Ask them to discuss where they will be rewarded for this unity?  Discuss with them the importance of relying on the Holy Spirit to remain united.

Today’s devo written by Mike Stevens

Who are you relying on to “diligently” remain united with the church?

Guatemala Ladies Program

March 10, 2014

Here is a short video from Miriam and Tati about the ladies program in Pueblo Modelo

Cedar Pollen and The Holy Spirit

January 14, 2014

I know, I know….what do the two have in common. Good question.

I despise cedar pollen. For several weeks this time of year I want to scratch my eyes out. I want to sleep a lot. I have no energy. Everyone around me is sneezing, wheezing and generally full of snot and miserable. I stay in a six week antihistamine induced semi-coma.

So what does this have to do with The Holy Spirit??

As I was driving around today there were clouds of pollen being blown by the wind from our dear friends…cedar trees. It was so powerful at times that the trees looked like they were on fire…smoldering…just waiting to be ablaze. The pollen that they spread…by wind…affects so many…but not in a positive way.

Just then an old song came to mind: Light the Fire in Me. We used to hear it all the time at youth camp. The verse that struck me was:

I feel Your arms around me
As the power of Your healing begins
Your spirit moves through me
Like a mighty rushing wind

The mighty rushing wind of Holy Spirit affects people. And He wants to blow through us to affect people…for the good! What is we were to “pollenate” others with Christ? What is the church felt the mighty rushing wind of Holy Spirit and let it blow us around and affect others?

Is this a stretch for an analogy? Probably so. But hey….its antihistamine induced.

A Simple Personal Worship Plan

January 9, 2014

I wish I could take credit for this but I can’t…but I use it. Maybe it will help you too in 2014.

Find a quiet place to be alone with God (Matthew 6:6). All you need is a Bible and a way to record your thoughts. As you begin, pause to praise God and express your desire to know Him more (Jeremiah 9:23-34). Then open your Bible and ask Him to teach, correct, and train you in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). Make sure that this time does not become mechanical or monotonous. Focus on being with God, engaging in His Word, and responding to His Spirit (Psalm 63:1-8).


Typically, you will read two chapters of Scripture each day. You may walk through the steps below after reading one or both of the chapters. Either way, read each chapter slowly, carefully, prayerfully, thoughtfully, humbly, and joyfully. As you read, look out for verses that you may want to memorize, and begin memorizing. Also, periodically review verses you have already memorized.


After you read the Bible, spend time reflecting on what it says and means. Ask the following questions and write down some of your thoughts in response. You don’t necessarily have to answer every question. Just use them as a guide to help you examine what you have read.
• What is happening in this passage?
• What words, phrases, or ideas seem particularly important?
• What does this text teach you about the gospel?
(Character of God) What does this text teach you about God?
(Sinfulness of Man) What does this text teach you about man?
(Sufficiency of Christ) What does this text teach you about who Christ is and why we need Him?
(Necessity of Faith) What does this text teach you about trusting and following Christ?
(Urgency of Eternity) What does this text teach you about the hope of heaven or the horror of hell?


After examining the Word, apply it to your life. Ask the following questions based upon the text(s) and write down your thoughts in response. Again, you don’t have to answer every question.
• What sin(s) do I need to repent of and/or avoid?
• What truth(s) do I need to believe?
• What command(s) do I need to obey (what do I need to give up, stop doing, start doing, or continue doing)?
• What principle(s) need to change the way I think, speak, and/or act, and how will I implement this change?
• What relationship(s) do I need to establish, strengthen, or change?
• By the power of God’s Spirit, what can I do today to apply God’s Word to my life?


Pray according to your examination and application of the text(s), asking God to change your heart, mind, attitudes, actions, and relationships based on the time you’ve spent in His Word. Let this specific praying lead you more generally to…
• Praise—Worship God for who He is.
• Repent—Confess your sin to God and acknowledging your need for Jesus.
• Ask—Intercede for particular needs in your life and other’s lives.
• Yield—Surrender your life to following Jesus wherever and however He leads you.

Conclude your time alone with God by committing to share what He has taught you with at least one other person (your roommate, spouse, child, coworker, friend, small group, etc.). Specifically pray through your schedule for the day (or the following day if you are spending this time at night), asking the Lord to direct you by His Spirit in everything you think, say, and do. Finally, ask the Lord for opportunities to share the gospel with others, ask Him for courage to obey, and then be ready to take advantage of the opportunities that He provides.

High Yield in God’s Market

October 9, 2013

One of our core values at Bannockburn Baptist church is “Leadership With Multiplication”. With guidance from scripture we prioritize building servant-leaders for the purposes of expanding the God’s Kingdom through the work of the local church in our community and beyond.

But select capable men … as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. …That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. Exodus 18:21-22

We’ve seen this core value at work in the worship ministry as we have expanded Bannockburn’s one church body into multiple sites, where members of our choir and orchestra have stepped up to take critical roles in the formation and operations of these new worship sites. It’s awesome to see what God does through His people as He equips an obedient spirit for His work. Therefore, consider your talents and experiences and how they might be developed and applied for greater service in your area of ministry. Perhaps you might pick up that musical instrument you haven’t touched in a while and join our orchestra!

There is another amazing aspect to God’s economy with respect to return on investment. When you tithe and give offerings of your time and talent (i.e., practicing, rehearsing, serving during worship services, etc.), God takes it and multiplies your investment, yielding high dividends for all eternity. Our role in worship-leading has such an impact that we cannot afford to invest unwisely, so we must nurture and grow the portfolio of talent The Lord has entrusted to us.

Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!…  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.  Matt 25:21 & 29

 Don’t think your contribution is too small!!

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matt 17:20

Whether turning water to wine, using mud to heal blindness, feeding the multitudes with a few crumbs, or using simple faith and obedience for miraculous healing in other cases, Jesus has proven He is willing and able to take small offerings and do mighty things with them.

So, what does it mean for our orchestra at Bannockburn or the Kingdom at large? Spend a little time each day preparing spiritually and physically for worship services. Even if you only have a few minutes to practice, doing so on a regular basis is infinitely more usable in God’s economy than giving no effort. For tips on maximizing your practice time see my blog: Practice Tips For Amateur Church Orchestras.

Can you think of examples in your life how God has used you unexpectedly through some seemingly insignificant contribution of yours? Maybe The Lord used someone else’s small offering to do a great work in your life. Please share in the comments below.

Practice Tips For Amateur Church Orchestras (part 3)

May 23, 2013

Now that we’ve discussed prioritizing and increasing practice opportunities, it’s time for the rubber to meet the road in terms of what we do while actually practicing. Sometimes you have more time to practice than others, and since I want encourage you to practice even if you only have a few minutes, I won’t specify exact lengths of each segment, since each of us is in a different place in terms of musical achievement and have different scheduling challenges; however, there is a hierarchy of priorities, so your practice sessions should include:


Prayer –It’s a good idea to invite God to your session, give the time to Him, and ask for His help and blessing. Remember your practice time is a devotional offering to Him.

“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” - Prov. 16:3

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”Mat 6:33


A Warm-upso important. If you only have a few minutes, a solid tuning and warm-up is the first and most important thing you should do – even if that’s all you do.


-       Tune. Check several notes in several registers with a tuner to get better acquainted with your instrument’s pitch tendencies.

-       Play long tones at different dynamics for tone quality and pitch. Try crescendos and diminuendos. Do you go sharp or flat as you increase or decrease volume.

-       Play through some scale and technical exercises in different keys, increasing tempo over time. Use a metronome. You will gain facility, rhythm, and confidence.

-       Try playing songs you know, like “Amazing Grace”, in more than one key without printed music. Over time, move on to other songs in other keys. This will train your ears and give you a sense of phrasing.


If you stop right there your practice has been a success. If you do only that much most days of the week, your musicianship will be transformed in no time, and if everyone in the orchestra did the same, the overall performance level of the orchestra will improve greatly.


Practice difficult passagesIf you have some more time, get out your church orchestra folder and practice the more difficult passages. Focus first on those segments of your music that present technical, rhythmic, pitch, or other challenges. Using a metronome, practice small bits at a time, starting at a slow enough tempo so that you can play the passage correctly with good pitch, rhythm, and phrasing. Then bump the tempo up on the metronome and try again. Repeat the process over and again until you can play that part perfectly. Don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t happen for you in one practice session. Some parts need time to come together. After you’ve worked on the most troublesome parts, then it’s ok to play through whole pieces.


Listen! – If you have recordings of the pieces you are to perform, spend some time listening to them and playing along with them. This will help with phrasing, musicality and familiarity. You can only produce the correct sound on your instrument if you have the correct sound already in your ear.

Of course, this is just an outline and not meant as a detailed practice regiment. Do some research on your own online or with a private lesson instructor regarding resources to use for studying your particular instrument. If each of us in the church orchestra committed to a course of practice like this, imagine how worship services would be more engaging and enhanced with opportunity for deeper emotional connection. The sacrificial offering of a practicing church musician will lead to greater spiritual blessing for all during worship services.

 2 Praise the Lord with the harp;
    make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre.
Sing to him a new song;
    play skillfully, and shout for joy. Psalm 33:2-4


As always, feel free to chime in with comments or suggestions of things that have worked for you to help you grow as a musician, particularly as a church musician in service of the Lord.

Practice Tips For Amateur Church Orchestras (part 2)

May 16, 2013

In the last post, Practice Tips For Amateur Church Orchestras (part 1), I emphasized the need to practice individually as an offering to the Lord. This is a fun way to give time and talent back to Him.


“Do not neglect your gift… Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.” - 1 Tim 4:14-16


Time is precious in our busy modern lifestyles, so this week I want to share ways to help find and maximize time on your instrument.


“Be careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity… be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” - Eph 5:15-19


Your practice sessions don’t necessarily need to be long. You can get something accomplished in 10 minutes. Even if all you do is a good warm-up, you will have gone a long way to improving your technique and sound. Therefore, with efficiency and efficacy in mind – more so than time management – here are some things to consider:


Prayer - first and foremost. We want to ask God for direction and blessing over our endeavors, for He gives a promise if we do.


“Commit to the Lord whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” - Prov. 16:3


A dedicated practice space - you are more likely to practice if you have a space specially set aside for that purpose. Ideally it should be somewhat private, so you can close the door and not bother family members or be self conscious; however, if a dedicated room is not available, you should still carve out a special corner of your world for practicing. This space should contain:


your instrument

a chair

a music stand

your music and a pencil

a tuner and metronome (they have apps for that)

a music player – portable stereo or mp3 player

computer, smart phone, or tablet – would be great since it can play music and videos from a variety of media, including websites like planning center online. You can also use it to read music in pdf form, search musical terms, find info about your instrument or the music you are playing, etc.

It works best if you are able to leave most of these items in place. This way whenever you have a few moments you can start practicing instead of taking time setting up or skipping it all together.


Leave your instrument and music out - again, you are more likely to practice if your instrument is already put together on a stand, just waiting… wanting… willing… for you to pick it up. Also, you can’t practice your music if you don’t take it home.

These are some of the things you can do to increase your practice opportunities. Next time I’ll write about making the most of your time during practice sessions. What are some ways you have found to carve out some practice time in your schedule? Let us know in the comments.

10,000 …And Much More

April 17, 2013

Last week I was inspired by the Matt Redman song “Heart Of Worship” to write about stepping back  – in spirit at least – from the trappings of a well designed and executed worship service in order to focus on the essential and fundamental reasons we worship by asking the questions: Who is God? What is true? Why are we here? Another Redman song, “10,000 Reasons”, inspires a follow-up. The chorus paraphrases Psalm 103 in which David instructs his soul to worship.


Bless the Lord, Oh, my soul.

Worship His Holy name.


Verse 1 speaks of reasons for daily worship, maybe even in spite of circumstances encountered in any particular day. Verse 3 speaks of a life of lived in worship, even until the end – especially at the end, since for the believer in Christ it is the beginning of eternal worship in the full glory of Heaven. It is Verse 2, though, that deals with our three questions.


You’re rich in love
and You’re slow to anger.
Your name is great
and Your heart is kind.
For all Your goodness
I will keep on singing
ten thousand reasons
for my heart to find.


What answers did you come up with last week to those questions? What reasons for worship did those answers produce? This week, read Psalm 103, make your own list, and share some with us in the comment section below. The song seems to say we should have no trouble finding 10,000. By the way, there is no rush to complete your list. Giving a nod to the hymn “Amazing Grace”, Redman’s song also points out, those whom Christ has given eternal life have “10,000 years and forever more” to work down the list.

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