Don’t forsake the Assembly

I used to be a full time Student Minister. I had my own office with my name on the door and everything.

It was pretty spiffy.

Some of my responsibilities were to organize, plan, and lead youth group events. I was to lead special events as well as regular weekly youth group times.

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Ive always loved the church. She’s not perfect by any means and there have been plenty of people in a congregation who I have not liked at all.

But the Church, I’ve never understood not wanting to be a part of one.

When we were traveling home from Thanksgiving this last week we drove sixteen and a half hours on Saturday. I made a comment about how I was surprised by the small amount of traffic.

My wife replied, “your family may have made it home for Sunday when traveling but most other people don’t start going home until Sunday.

It was true. My parents did get us home in time for church. If we didn’t, chances are we were finding a church while we were on vacation.

And I grew to love it.

I missed gathering together with other believers and getting into God’s word together. I missed the discussions and the questions. I missed the passion that others bring to the table and the ideas that they have about putting God’s word into practice.

But it got me thinking about why going to church is important. What’s so important about going to some building we have made or picked out and meeting with all these other people? Here are some reasons why going to meet with other believers, going to church, matters.

We were not meant to be alone

In the very beginning God made Adam. Yet the creation was not finished. God saw that it was not good for Adam to be alone, so He crafted for him a mate. Now I know this account is used for marriage, as it should be, but the message is clear: we are not meant to be alone! Even if we are married, we still need other relationships; relationships with likeminded poeople living with the same purpose. The church provides those kinds of relationships.

We cannot figure it all out on our own.

The Bible is a book that people have been trying to completely figure out for roughly 2000 years. As we read it there may be times we come across a passage that we do not completely understand. This is where a preacher or even another Christian friend comes in handy. They can come along side us to explain a verse. They can also help us to discern what it is God wants for the next stage in our lives. They can pray for us and with us. They challenge us to trust in God.

The early church was doing it.

In the book of Acts we are told of the activities of the early church. One verse that stands out is Acts 2:46. It says, “Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart”. They actually were meeting in the temple and in each others houses on a daily basis! Can we really not get up to meet with others one or two days a week? How selfish!

The Bible commands we do it.

In Hebrews 10:25 we are told to not stop meeting together. It is really quite straight forward. Meeting together at the assembly is something that the writer of Hebrews commanded that his readers do. When we do something that the Bible commands us not to or when we don’t do something the Bible commands that is called a sin. So by forsaking the gathering together we would be sinning. To give up church because you don’t think you need it week after week would be a habitual sin.

I know a lot of people who claim they do not need to go meet with other believers. They can be great Christians all on their own. So rather than spending Sunday or Wednesday going to gather with other believers they spend it sleeping in or doing an activity that they just want to put above God.

It’s funny how people who say and do this are really just showing a lack of discipline.

I understand that no church is perfect. When you get a group of people to meet together regularly there is going to be conflict from time to time. There are going to be sins found out.

I am also not discussing missing a week of meeting. Sickness happens. Traveling will take place. Occasionally sporting events may fall on a day designated for gathering (which I have my own opinions about).

This post is discussing the habitual neglect of meeting together with other believers. That’s where the problem is found.

For us to look at a command in the Scriptures and turn our noses up to it because we just don’t want to listen is wrong. There is a book by Joshua Harris called Why Church Matters. If you are struggling with this issue I would highly suggest you read it.

The Church is the Bride of Christ. He loves it so much. I cannot get along with someone who loves me but hates my wife. How can we hate the Bride of our Savior?

What other reasons do you have for going to meet with other believers?

List of Thankfulness Part 4: Community

I’m one of those guys who thinks I can do things on my own. I’ve never been much for working in groups.

Mostly because I always seemed to get stuck in a group with others who didn’t want to work.

And I liked good grades.

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I like to joke with my wife that I do not need people.

“Brandon, we are getting together with friends this weekend.”

“But why? We don’t need them. What’s wrong with sitting in a dark house in complete silence?”

“We are going out.”

Most conversations go something like that. I’m mostly joking in those situations but there’s some truth in the feelings.

You see, I’m introverted. It has taken most of my life to accept this fact. I tried fighting it for a long time but it just left me feeling exhausted.

Peopling can be difficult.

As an introvert it takes me a long time to build meaningful relationships with people. It is difficult to open up. Although I’m quite the listener. That may have something to do because I really do not feel like replying.

A lot of people have thought I’m just quiet. I’ve also come across as indifferent.

It’s not really either of those things. It’s simply having conversations is legitimately difficult. It’s a challenge everytime.

If you are not introverted I do not think you can relate. Just as I cannot relate to extroverts being fueled by large amounts of time spent with others.

All of that said to say this, community is a blessing. It is a belessing of which I am very thankful.

It takes a long time to get there, but I really do appreciate the people I consider friends and the journey of friendship.

I value the companionship of my wife and the ability to be completely myself with her.

My heart is full when I think of the friendships I have cultivated over the years. I value the people who have stuck with me over time and waded through the awkward stages of friendship with an introvert.

We were made for community. We need other people. Some of us need more people than others, but all of us need at least one person in our lives to help push us forward.

We desire companionship with others, a friend to lean on and go through life experiences with. It is a wonderful thing to find that companion.

So thank you to those I have been able to confide in. I don’t go around sharing parts of my life with anyone.

thank you to those who have come along side me and helped me feel comfortable enough to share.

I appreciate those relationships with people who take the time to slow down and listen to this slow speaking, awkward, mess of a man.

community is a beautiful and complicated thing.

It is a thing I cannot live without, no matter how much I joke about not needing others.

Get Rid of What Kills You

During the warmer months my wife does quite a bit of yard work and she loves it. She enjoys telling me each day of the bushes that she has trimmed or the vines she has torn down. She also does a fantastic job at keeping the lawn mowed.

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This is the pile of vines and dead branches Jenny cut off that sad looking bush.

Sometimes I find out about her accomplishment when I see a huge pile of clipped branches in a few places in the backyard. It really is impressive.

Jenny discovered her love for yard work when we were living in Southeast Missouri.

One day we were driving home and she was telling me of the bush she had trimmed down.

“You know, sometimes when you clean away all the junk, what’s left isn’t pretty.” When I asked her to explain she only said, “You will see when you get home.”

When we pulled up, once again I saw a giant pile of branches in the driveway. When I looked where they had been I saw what used to be a bush. It was a sad excuse for a bush now. There was one lone branch sticking up with a few leaves on it and some greenery along the ground.

What’s funny is, while the vines were choking the life out of that bush, it didn’t look that bad. The vine was green and leafy. It even had some flowers on it. But the truth is, the vine was killed the bush underneath.

How often does this happen in the lives of people around us? How often does it happen in our own lives?

We surround ourselves with situations or people that literally choke out the life that God has given us but we pretend everything is fine. Nobody around knows the death we are going through because we have hidden it behind flowery smiles or the greenery of “success.” All the while we are allowing sin, distractions, or other people to choke us out.

The Bible tells us to “throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.” Get rid of whatever it is that is keeping you from living the life God desires for you. Doing anything other than what God wills is sin and it is killing us slowly.

It can be a complicated process. What we have allowed into our lives will not separate easily.

There will be hurt feelings. You may be left feeling exposed because everything you were using to hide behind is slowly being cut away.

I understand that when the vines areremoved, what will be left may not be pretty. There will be scars and bruises. Relationships will have to be mended, people forgiven. But even though the mess may be viewable to everyone around you now, at least you will have the opportunity to grow and thrive.

It is scary to remove sin, distractions, or toxic people, but it is necessary for growth. It is so beneficial and the rewards will be worth it.

The rewards or a life in tune with God’s desires. A life of not feeling by the presence of harmful things or people.

We can finally breathe easily.

We will start off looking a bit rough but we will finally be able to grow.

 

List of Thankfulness Part 3: Taking Time To Slow Down

I love Saturday’s because of the time that I get to spend with my family. Since working my current job (which I’ve been doing for over two and a half years) I have only had to work one Saturday and I have been incredibly grateful.

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On Saturdays our family gets to slow down and just be together. Sometimes we plan to go out, and other times we just lounge around the house.

If it were up to me there would be less plans and more lounging.

One of the things our family likes to do is go on walks. It’s good to get the fresh air. We can all do it together and it’s good free family fun.

One of the issues I have discovered is I like to keep a forward motion while on a walk but my kids do not always share this sentiment.

The kids like to stop to check out some leaves, pick up sticks, touch different spots in the sidewalk, watch truck go by, watch a motorcycle go by, watch another truck, and wave at every person they see. They are on an exploration and take it all in.

There are times when I find myself placing my hand lightly on the back of one of their heads to keep them moving forward. It was just a little reminder saying, “hey those things are cool but let’s keep moving.”

But why?

It’s Saturday. We have no schedule. There’s no need for me to hurry these little explorers along.

When I think on these moments I cannot help but think about how we do the same thing. Society, our parents, or our friends all have ideas of what our lives should be like. Everyone seems to have a plan, not only for themselves but also all those around them.

When we start doing a little exploring or taking our time there is always someone around to place their hand on the back of our head to gently (or not so gently) encourage us back onto the path “we should be walking.”

But if everyone always took the path people thought they should, where would the great people or accomplishments come about?

Refreshment happens when we slow down.

We gain clarity from while taking a rest.

Taking a step back from the business helps us to refocu when we get back to the grind.

There are so many stories of people who have gone off the beaten path, or maybe taken time to slow down and see what others have looked at their entire live but never noticed, and then gone on to do great things.

I don’t want to find myself just going through life thoughtlessly. I don’t want to find that I have passed up opportunities with family or friends because I was too busy doing what everyone else thought I should be doing. I want to shake the hand off the back of my head and find where it is God would have me go; and do what He would have me do.

I am so thankful for the reminder from my little kiddos. They teach me so much that I need to learn about myself.

What are ways you can slow down or get off the beaten path?

Take Time to be a Positive Influence in the Life of a Child.

“Every kid is one decision away from being a statistic.”

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As a parent sometimes the responsibility of raising other humans can feel a bit overwhelming.

Before we had kids (and let’s be honest, many times since) my wife and I joked about the responsibility of parenthood.

We discussed what a fun social experiment it could be to teach at least one of our children all the wrong things.

We could teach him that the color red is actually blue.

Thr wet stuff in the ocean is the sky and it’s not an ocean, it’s called a rose.

The scenarios went on and on.

I think we joked, in part because, come on, that’s hilarious. but we also joked because we were working through what a huge responsibility we were undertaking. This kid is going to be our responsibility. And there are no do overs.

That’s heavy.

We have been blessed with four wonderful sons and each day has its ups and downs. If we are honest sometimes every five minutes has tremendous ups and downs.

These boys have been given to us to take care of and raise into good men.

So my wife and I envest time and energy into them. We show them love.

And we mess up a lot.

For the children’s program at our church they work through the Orange curriculum. One big idea behind the orange curriculum uses marbles to show how much time as parents we have to invest in our children.

They take a jar of 936 marbles to demonstrate each week we have to influence our children from birth to the time they are 18.

It is pretty sobering to see how small 936 looks when they are just marbles in a jar, but it also brings hope.

If we have really messed up this week that’s only one marble. There are still 935 more.

Being a parent is a big responsibility. It can be scary, but there’s room for grace.

Every kid is one caring adult away from being a success story.

Kids thrive when they know they are loved. They soar when they know an adult cares for them.

Some kids do not have that kind of support at home which means others may need to step in. There are so many places for you to step up and be the caring adult in the life of a child.

After school programs, being a teacher, church, camps, foster care programs, and more.

Whether you have children of your own or not I would encourage you to seek out an opportunity to be a source of support to a child.

We have enough kids growing up making bad decisions which are destroying their lives. In the process it also tears apart a society. Kids are not learning how to be a value in society because they are growing up believing they have no value.

But we can put an end to this epidemic.

Seek out opportunities to invest in a child both for their future and for yours.

List of Thankfulness Part 2: My Kiddos

“You have four kids?” The question always carries a tone of disbelief.

Then I get to answer in my best Phineas and Ferb impression, “Why yes. Yes I do.”

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It is always humorous to me to watch people’s reactions when they discover I have four children. I guess since I look so young (some may refer to me as childlike) it is difficult to believe I have four.

After people get passed the initial shock of me having “so many” kids I often hear words of remorse.

“Wow, I’m sorry.” That’s an actual phrase which was uttered by a customer of mine in reference to my preexisting condition of children.

“I could never do what you do.”

“Boys huh? I’m sorry.”

I get the priveledge of hearing people offer words of sondolence to me all day long.

Another situation I get to listen play out is fathers talking about how they don’t want to go home. It appears at times it pains men to go home and spend time with their little ones.

Look, I understand it is good and healthy for parents to spend time away from their kids. I just posted recently about having a date night. We need time away. That’s not the problem.

What I do not understand is why having kids seems to come with so much sorrow. I look forward to my evenings at home and the weekends I get to spend with my family. They are among my favorite moments.

Today we are looking at a list for why I am thankful for my kids.

They make me laugh.

Each of my boys brings laughter to my life. Our one year old makes some amazing faces and his laughter is infectious.  The three year old catches me off guard with his outlandish comments. The five and seven year olds will quote lines from shows back and forth or incorporate them into everyday life and it is the best.

These kids bring amazing joy to my life. I would not laugh nearly as much if not for them.

Their love is pure

Each of these boys demonstrates a fierce love in a different way. One may be all about hugs and kisses. Another accepts and gives love through his words. With so many people in the house there are rarely times when I am not receiving love from someone and it is great!

Upon arriving home I have at least one kid rush up to me daily to greet me.

I am never lacking in cuddle time.

Each kid enjoys being cuddled. Obviously not all the time.

Sometimes I’m not feeling very cuddly but someone pops up to do it. In those moments I mentally have to remind myself they are not always going to want to cuddle.

it makes those moments that much better,

Then, when I want to cuddle someone is around to snuggle up and watch TV with.

They have a sense of adventure

From an obsession with American Nina Warrior, to climbing to the top of our porch, to pretending to be great heroes, these boys have an adventurous spirit and I love to watch it grow.

It fills me with excitement to imagine where that adventure will lead them in their own lives.

They make me into a better man.

Much like their mother does, these boys make me want to be better.

As they grow, I know I am one of the first men they will be looking to in order to see what it means to be a good man. It fills me with a bit of fear, but also a drive to be better.

I want to be someone they can be proud to call their dad and I want to be someone they can look to and say, “I want to be like him.”

Because of their little eyes, I am always striving to be better.

It is not easy being a dad to four boys so young, but I cannot imagine my life without them and I would have it no other way.

Thank you boys, for allowing me to try this parenting them out on you.

Excuse me, it’s bedtime which means I’m getting to read some Star Wars to some awesome kids.

Look for the Good in Life and Be the Good for Others

It seems like everyday I see or hear about a terrible evil happening somewhere in the world.

It can be so overwhelming knowing about all the bad going on at any given moment.

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During our weekly small group a couple weeks ago, we talked briefly about giving up one form or media during the coming week. The idea behind the action was media in all its forms tends to promote and push negativity.

Crimes grab the attention of the consumer a lot quicker than heartwarming stories. Because the media is not just into getting out stories, but also making money, they will push and promote the thing which will help them to that end the most.

Negative stories.

We are told stories to illustrate it is a terrible world in which we live. Story after story of the same evils fill our screens and papers. It’s enough to make a person numb.

That’s actually the reason my wife and I stopped watching the news several years ago. We began to realize we had heard so much about death, hatred, violence, rape, and everything else which sells that we had begun to find ourselves emotionally detached.

Oh look, another kid was senselessly murdered.

Hmm, more rape happening. What’s for dinner?

Alright, it never got that far, but the stories were not pulling on our heartstrings as they should.

As Christians we believe each person was made in the image of God. He loves every single person on the planet. When we hurt, so does He.

Should we not also hurt for those who are hurting?

But what can one person do? Even if I spent my entire life trying to right wrongs I would never be able to compensate for all of the evil.

The evil will beat me out every time.

So I guess I should just sit back and do nothing then huh?

Not at all!

It is true that as one person I cannot change the entire world on my own. But as one person I can change SOMEONE’S entire world.

I have the responsibility and preivelege of being a light in someone’s dark world.

How?

Use Your Words

It can be as simple as offering an encouraging word. I am not always the greatest at reading social cues. I cannot always see when someone is in a bad mood or having a bad day, but I can offer encouragement to everyone regardless of their current mood.

At work I can let others know they are doing a great job (and offer a specific example).

At home I can lift up my wife letting her know I love and appreciate her.

I should be encouraging my children.

The list goes on.

Actions Support Our Words

Another way we can be a light is through actions.

With the holidays coming up there are organizations which are in a rush to meet quotas so they can help others.

Find items local food pantries need and donate.

Spend time putting together shoeboxes for Opperation Christmas Child.

See if the community has a list of families which need help with finances this time of year and donate.

Obviously we should not just be seeking out opportunities during this time of year, but since this is the time of year we are currently in then let’s start there.

Find a cause.

There are so many great causes out there to get behind. Whether is helping put an end to sex trafficking, assisting single moms, getting food to the hungry, helping in the foster system, or so many others, we can all find a cause to get behind.

My actions alone will not stop the evil, but if we all work together and focus on the positive we can make a change.

How can you make a change this week to focus on the positive? What can you do to bring light to someone’s life?

List of Thankfulness Part One: My Wife

Since it is November, the month of thanksgiving, I thought I would do a few posts on things for which I am thankful.

What better place to start the list than reasons I am thankful for my wife? So without wasting anymore time, here we go.

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She’s beautiful

Lets start with an easy and obvious one. Jenny is gorgeous and I probably do not tell her enough. She has these amazing blue eyes and a smile which causes them to shine all the brighter.

When this lady dresses up to go out, she rocks the dress she’s wearing. I must say, I married up and I’m thankful she “settled.”

Jenny is driven

I am tremendously thankful for the drive behind my wife’s actions. Here’s just a small list of some of the things she does each week:

Homeschools our kids.

Does the grocery shopping.

She helps teach at a weekly homeschool group.

Works out at least fives days a week.

She takes care of the laundry.

She even cooks dinner at least five days a week.

That’s just a sample list of the things she plans to do each week. That does not include all the pop up activities or add ons, or things I’m simply forgetting because I never have to take care of them.

Our home would fall apart without Jenny.

She is encouraging to me

I am not sure how this woman does all she does everyday and still finds the time to be an encouragement to me, but she does. She has encouraged me when I feel down about work.

She lets me know she appreciates what I do to make money for our family. She has also encouraged me to continue writing. If I did not think she was behind this endeavor I know I could not keep it up.

She takes interest in my interests

Some of the times these interests are genuine. For example, when we started dating and we made plans to go see movies we had to alternate a little between movies she really wanted to see and movies I really want to see.

Fast forward to now, and this woman makes plans to go see whichever big superhero movie is out during the time of our anniversary. She is excited for the upcoming Justice League movie as well as Star Wars.

It doesn’t get much better than that.

She has made me a better man

I could joke about how she has made me a more refined man. I’ve always been a ranch dressing sort of guy when it comes to salads. I just want to lather those green leaves in the heaven which is ranch. But Jenny introduces me to more, “adult” dressings and I have to say, some have grown on me.

She has also helped me be better in more serious ways.

Because of her continued love, forgiveness, and grace I want to be a better man.

I wake up each day remembering the amazing person she is and it makes me want to do better for her. I could not complete that journey on my own. She has been there for me and I am not forgetting it.

Thank you, Jenny, for being you and for your love.

Heres to many more years of discoving more to be thankful for.

Where would you start your list of things for which you are thankful?

Even Pharoah Doesn’t Always Get What He Wants

The audacity of some people surprise me.

Here I am Pharoah of Egypt, ruler of this great country. I have everything a man could possibly want.

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What an interesting concept: “wanting.”

Typically I am never left in that state very long. I like to think of my wants more of commands. If there is something I see and want it, that thing is then mine.

A continued state of wanting is left for those of a common birth.

All I see in the land of Egypt is mine for the taking.

Which is why I never thought anything about taking the beauty which was Sarai.

I knew nothing of her coming into my land. Many people travel to and from this beautiful land, and who can blame them. I am surprised the entire world does not move to be under my command.

The land is fertile and beautiful. It provides for my people in the way I command it.

Anyway, Sarai, Abram, and their possessions came into Egypt randomly one day. I am still unsure of their plans but my men began to praise the woman to me.

They told me of her captivating beauty and her sweet gracefulness. When she left my men’s presence they were left in wanting.

I had to have this woman as my own. She would come alongside me and if all went well she would become my favored bride.

When I first laid eyes on her I knew I would never let her go. Abram introduced her as his sister, that arrogant beast of a man. All the things my men had told me of Sarai were true so she came into my home.

It felt odd, the departure of Abram and Sarai as she grasped his hand until they reach was extended to the max. But I was too enthralled with her to be concerned with the parting of siblings.

I gave the man many gifts which would appease any man of his standing. But for the woman I granted any of the treasures of my kingdom.

It was true what my men had said. Whenever I had to leave her presence I only thought of when I could see her again.

Then the plagues began.

Sickness and death spread quickly throughout my palace. The only one not affected was Sarai. I called her to my bedside to explain what curse she had placed on us.

With tears streaming my face, I asked her why this was happening.

“Great Pharaoh, it is not of my doing, it is of God’s.” Her words caught me off guard.

Even as her voice spoke of treachery, it still sounded as music to my ears.

“Abram is my husband. He had me lie so you would spare his life.”

Even in my weakened state I felt the urge to kill the man right then and there. It was only by the sweet words of the beauty beside me and her hand on my hand that Abram’s was spared.

I made them all leave. I sent them from not only my presence but from my land.

It pained me to see Sarai go. But I would have no other great power working against me in my kingdom. There is no god but Pharaoh here and I will not have that undermined.

It was not easy sending her away, but the object of my desire would have undone all of my greatness, and I would not have that.

I hope the man Abram either dies a dishonoring death or he becomes a more dignified man for his own sake.

And for the sake of the great blessing he has in his wife.

It’s Okay to Not “Feel” the Music During Service

I’m pretty sure the love of music is universal. There may be different musical tastes but I would say there are very few people who would say they hate music in any of its forms.

I have always enjoyed listening to or playing music. One thing I have rarely enjoyed though is going to a concert. I do not really care to watch a band perform music that I can just listen to on the radio. I’m not real sure what the appeal is to actually going to a concert.

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That being said, I have enjoyed the few Relient K concerts I’ve attended. Recently, I also attended an orchestra which I thouroughly enjoyed.

I was actually moved to tears during the first song.

Music has a way of taking what we feel and expressing those feelings when we are finding it difficult to do so. Listening to the right song at the right moment can be quite liberating.

Music has become a large part of our church services as well. I believe the allure to it is it gives the congregation a way to express in words the wonders of God and to thank Him in a new way.

People often refer to how moved by God they have been during a church service. I probably hear more about how moving and powerful certain songs are than I do the preaching.

But in thinking back on my life I can only think of really being “moved by the Spirit” a couple times during a service.

Its an odd realization. During the music portions of our services I find myself trying to listen to the different parts being played.

I listen for certain beats being performed by the drums. I listen to see if I can hear the bass line or the guitar parts. I like to tune my ear to the different vocal parts.

I also find myself evaluating the words of the songs. Do they make any sense? Are they based in Scripture or are they more emotionally driven? What is the point of the song? Is the focus on God? Jesus? My own personal perceptions?

I guess some people may feel I’m over evaluating. But I have come to the conclusion over my short 29 years this may be the way God has designed me.

I tend to not get caught up emotionally in the music in our services. I break them down. I still find beauty in them, but I rarely feel extra close to God as a result.

No more than I do listening to any song on the radio which reflects my current place in life.

I used to think it was a problem. I felt like I was not as spiritual if I did not feel the Spirit moving every time a beautiful guitar solo swept through the hall where a musical worship was happening.

But I’ve met others who “feel” the same way I do. There are others who evaluate and come from more logic and less feeling.

Its cool to know there are others in life who may not leap for joy at the idea of an all music worship service.

You know what I would leap at? An all sermon service. Or a sixty minute lecture. How cool would that be?

It’s alright if you absolutely love music and feel the presence of God at every Christ centered song.

It’s also okay if you just aren’t feeling it ever.

Just know God is present and working. Keep following him. One day we will be standing in His presence and then we will all be swept away,

What is your favorite part of a worship service? What do you look forward to the most?