intro to jazz

i am so thankful for the congregation at spotsylvania presbyterian church. every once in a while they let me –  the resident young guy on staff – wear my fancy sneakers and preach. that says two things to me:

one) “we are investing in you” – we like to give our money, our attention, our focus to the guys who are already established, the churches that have 2000 people at them, the organizations we know have a track record for success. it is rare for a group of people to say, “hey, we’re okay if you screw up” or “take this time to grow.” our human nature is to want things prepackaged for us, nice, neat, fluid. what our hearts want is a place where we don’t have to give effort. spc giving me an opportunity to preach consistently says that they are interested in my long-term career in ministry.

two) “you are a part of this body” – a little over fifteen months ago, i had no idea who you people were. i knew you to be a church where my best friend grew up and where a tall guy was a youth director at. since then, we have gotten to know each other a little bit. you’ve had me over for dinner. we’ve had good conversations. we’ve prayed and laughed together. thanks for pulling me in and making a single guy from PA a part of this church family.

getting back on track – yesterday i preached about how we are called to advent: how while there are good things in the Bible that we are called to do and commandments that we are called to keep, the Bible is kinda freeing on how we apply the gospel to our lives.

i likened it to jazz music. whether you like jazz music or not, hit play on the video and listen to some as i explain a little more

in jazz music, there is more improvisation and applying techniques than notes on a sheet of music. jazz music can tend to sound a little chaotic, but the basic idea in jazz is key and rhythm.

when musicians know the right key and as they pick up the rhythm, jazz music happens. improvisation is key. using skills, talents, and techniques, the jazz musician plays to his/her ability and in their surrounding with the accompaniment of other musicians to create jazz music. they come together to have jam sessions and play together for the enjoyment of jazz.

so too is the christian life.

you – christian –  are a jazz musician.

you have been brought in and given a key and a rhythm on how to live your life.

your key: “do all to the glory of God” (first corinthians 10:31, colossians 3:17)

your rhythm is: “love God, love neighbor” (matthew 22:36-40, mark 12:30-31, luke 10:27)

as you start to live – like any new musician – you’re going to stumble. your going to play some wrong notes. your rhythm will be off. but as you start to look at other christians your in community with, you’ll start to see the rhythm played out in life. you’ll start to hear how the key sounds. you’ll start putting yourself under the teaching of the Word to grow as a christian. you’ll start to develop techniques (turning the other cheek, tithing, service/missions, worship, telling others about Jesus).

but all of it is freeing.

this is the christian life. you are called to apply the gospel – our salvation and restoration to God through Jesus Christ in the cross and resurrection – to your daily life/schedule/routine/etc. you apply it in every situation with the goal to love God and love your neighbor. it can look different for everyone and but it has the same underlying features:

 love God and love neighbor and do it all to the glory of God. 

it differs between professions because of people’s skills and passions. it looks different between family members because of gifts and abilities. it will differ in generations, races, genders, and location. and hey, are you start to grow, you’ll see some more nuances and guidelines to help live our your faith (read your BIBLE!) but how you and i live the christian life comes down to these two factors:

love God and love neighbor and do it all to the glory of God.

enjoy the music.


pt 1: the things they take in – a seven-week series on youth and media

i didn’t have a smart phone until my last week of college and even then, it was the worst smart phone ever.

i could barely get emails and load the scorecenter app to check basketball scores for the day. it took eight minutes to view a twenty-second youtube clip. it was pathetic.

but i had it and i had free access to the internet at any moment in my life. anyone could use various methods to get in contact with me. i bought into the social media hype. my friends were with me and i was with them. through facebook, twitter and instagram (and many others) i could catch up with my friends without putting in any effort. they could do the same.

but over the past numerous years, studies have shown that our social media communities are destroying us … and in more ways than we might assume. a friend passed along this video, which better communicates what i mean. you need to watch it.

no one knows how to be social anymore. no one knows how to ask a question and to get to know someone. no one knows how to build deep and meaningful relationships with people anymore. we build up walls, presenting a person we want people to see.

we are becoming isolated from any real hope for community.

moreover, the youth are being fed so much more information and seeing examples of people who they emulate that are not godly men and women. they have their eyes focused on what the world believes will lead them to success, happiness, beauty and life.

so, starting in January at youth group, the leaders and i are going to be addressing these issues, but i need to start now with you. i believe leading you to sites and applications that your teens are using is beneficial for you. I am hopeful that you will have the tough conversations with them on what leads to success, where do you find joy and happiness, what is true beauty, and where is life truly found. join me as i discuss facebook, twitter, instagram,, youtube, other websites and i will end with any other site that you bring to my attention.

my first post, this post, is on the access to the internet.

we know the issues that our teens are facing: pornography and sex, identity issues (confidence, worth, value) , body issues, relationships, underage drinking and drugs.. any others that i am missing? these pleasures and desires become an addiction that we crave and feed.

i need to have the perfect body.

i need to be with someone who has the perfect body.

i want to have fun.

i want to be wanted.

i am not good enough.

through pictures, songs, and movies, the world is attacking your sons and daughters with lies. the sad part of it all is that it happens right under our noses.

it is stunning that parents give teens unrestricted internet access on their phones, tablets, computers, etc. and wi-fi access is just as bad. parents don’t know what their children are posting, what they are receiving, what they are looking at, what they are commenting on, who is commenting on a post and what are they saying. most parents aren’t on twitter or instagram. it might seem a bit extreme, a bit controlling, but to have unlimited, unfiltered, unrestricted and un-monitored access to the internet is causing kids to sin.  but let me point you to scripture, where paul is appealing to the church in corinth:

“all things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “all things are lawful,” but not all things build up. first corinthians 11:23

the internet is lawful and you are free to use it for the glory of God (11:31) but not everything on the internet is helpful. facebook, twitter, instagram, and other smart phone apps are lawful and you are free to use it, but rarely do these things build up your teens.

it doesn’t make sense to have a desire for our kids to know God and yet allow them to have unfiltered, unrestricted, full-access to the internet without any oversight. the enemy is not out there in the world, outside your home. he is in the palm of your son and daughter’s hand. so what can be done?

one) prayerful commitment- parenting starts with commitment to the Lord. it starts with parents knowing that God has given them the blessing of children to lead and point them to Jesus. parents. please, make the commitment to lead your kids in all areas of their lives, confess when you make mistakes, and repent of them.

two) – the internet continues s to change and evolve to better serve the user to gain whatever amount of information they want. it is challenging to figure out all the places that kids are on and what they are posting and seeing, but this is no reason to give up. uses these applications to see what is out there.

three) ask fellow parents to help – are we not the body? do we not share the same goals? should we not work together to inform one another with what is going on? find those within the church who are fellow parents and connect with them about what they do. start an email group with other parents to talk about these issues together.

four) set up boundaries – a couple in our church takes their daughter’s cell phone each night and reads texts. another takes their ipods after a certain time. whether or not you bought them their devices or if they pay you for its service, you have authority to teach them and lead them in discipline and spiritual growth. have restrictions. use blocking software (covenant eyes is one of the best). tell them “you let me follow you on twitter/instgram or you don’t have it”.

five) talk to them about the why? – i guarantee you this is not going to go over well. one day, they will realize you follow them on instagram and they will tell you to stop. they will have eight different accounts to try and cover up and hide from you. they will yell at you. but in love, you need to tell them why you are doing it. in love, they need to hear that you want to be smart about what you let them see. in love, you need to teach them and encourage them and pray for them. tell them why they have restrictions. talk to them about idols and sin. communicate the gospel to them. lead them in application of the gospel.

six) pray – parents. you love your kids. you want the best for your kids. you continue to encourage them and build them up in so many great ways. now, i ask you to remember that you are being led by a Father who lovingly cares for you and your children. you have a Father that wants you to experience true joy and deep pleasures but he shields away from you the bad. turn to Him in prayer and trust him.