Welcomed To The Manger


And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:8-20‬ ‭NIV‬‬

Have you thought about the significance of the shepherds’ introduction to Jesus? The angels proclaim the good news to these humble workers, these nobodies, and then the young parents of the savior open up one of the greatest moments in history to total strangers. Mary and Joseph welcomed the shepherds into the intimate first moments of their precious child’s life. The coming of the King was shared by the most ordinary of people.

In the same way, all of us have been invited to meet and know and worship the Son of God. As we remember the humility and meekness of the birth of Christ this month, let us take full advantage of the closeness that Lord has made available to us, His children. We live and worship in another season of waiting, calling for the Kingdom to come in full. But we wait with the presence, the nearness of God eagerly delighting in our friendship.

Lord, let us accept Your invitation to great and precious moments in Your presence. Help us to rejoice like the shepherds in Bethlehem, spreading the news of the great love we have seen. Convict, call, and draw us to Your comforting embrace. We thank you, Jesus. We long to be close to You.

The Secret


Happy Tuesday, everyone!  As we start the month of December, we’ll be shifting our devotional focus to our worship value of INTIMACY.  And once again, we’ll be looking at an encouraging word from Dan Wilt.  Check out this small passage from Dan’s post, “An Open Letter To My Fellow Worship Leaders: The Secret To The Most Effective Worship Leading On Planet Earth”

“My simple thought is this. After 25+ years of watching worship leaders, spending time with them, and seeing them lead thousands and thousands of people in worship (including me), it’s become glaringly obvious from where I sit that there is a Secret the most effective of them are unlocking.

It results in a gravitas, a weightiness, to the leadership of some. Conversely there is a lightness, or a less substantial authority, in others.

I think the difference is real, intuited, and perceived by communities even if it’s not clear “why” they sense the authority they sense.

That Secret is not just experience, musical giftedness, or leadership calling. Its definitely not about popularity. It’s more than all of that. Something far more powerful is at work.

That Secret is, from my vantage point… the secret.

I.e. The Secret is what is happening in secret.

More specifically, the Secret is in what is happening in the secret place.

The secret place is that private sanctuary where we meet with God alone, and He meets with us.

Like Moses in the Tent of Meeting, the secret place is where we are fed by a regular, ongoing encounter with Christ – then carry authority into the world because of it.”

I can’t say this enough, find some time today to read Dan’s full article here.  If we hope to lead God’s people well in public, it is imperative to spend time training ourselves in the secret, personal space of worship.

New Song: “You’re Beautiful”


Hey there, Maryville Vineyard!  Our new song for the month of November is ‘You’re Beautiful’ by the one and only, Phil Wickham.

As we’ve just finished up the Say What You Need To Say sermon series, this tune gives some fantastic first-person praise language to sing to the King.  Each verse celebrates a different part of who God is and what He’s done, so let the lyrics lead you to meditate on His creation, His sacrifice, and the joy of eternity with Him.

Check out these incredible words from verse 4

When we arrive at eternity’s shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We’ll enter in as the wedding bells ring
Your bride will come together and we’ll sing
You’re beautiful

This song also has one of my all-time favorite melody lines (EVER), so guitar players and singers alike should get super familiar with those sweet ooh melodies 🙂

As we sing and play this epic of a worship jam, remember this verse:

The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing. – Zephaniah 3:17

The Lord dearly loves His children and delights over us with singing, and in response we sing of His grace and beauty. I pray that this song gives us the words to praise Him in a deeply thankful, and personal way.

Check out the chord charts on planning center.




Worship In The Space


“People need open spaces to converse with God. Those spaces can be created with songs, but also with simple music played repetitively and without flourishes, and with silence.” – Dan Wilt

The quote above is from an article by Dan Wilt, an incredibly wise worship pastor and teacher in the Vineyard USA community. The article, titled “Kill The Music: When Music Gets in the Way of Worship” has tons of pertinent insight about one of the most important aspects of worship leading: opening space.

As members and leaders of a music ministry, we walk and worship along a narrow line. We balance artistic beauty, in response to the beauty of God, with a high value placed on space and simplicity, facilitating deep conversation with Jesus. Our hope and our call is to lead our brothers and sisters into spacious moments arranged for Kingdom encounter.

“It’s in those moments prayer can occur – a woman struggling with depression can taste God’s nearness, a man who’s mistreating his family can hear some straight talk from the Spirit, or a desperate soul who needs physical healing can be prayed for by others.”

It is critical, if we wish to facilitate this kind of worship space, to practice and study the art of listening. Just like learning the right guitar lead or having consistent drum set tempo, the ability to lean into a worship moment with keen awareness comes with training. And it is in the personal pursuit of Christ that we grow this skill. As Wilt writes, “We can never replace leading from the heart with leading from the music, and the heart can only be cultivated in the secret place – when no one but God is listening.”

Dwelling in the presence of God, learning to imitate our Father in the way He makes time and space for us, must become our delight and our priority.

If you would like to meditate further, I encourage you to read all of Wilt’s incredible article here, as well as any of the multitude of resources found all over www.danwilt.com. Dan is a wonderful teacher, seeking to help others pursue Christ and lead their communities well.

Speak with Christ this week. Ask the Lord to grow your ability to recognize what He desires in each moment of worship. Practice listening in holy space by listening in holy space.

Peace to you,
In the name of Jesus.

Vision Of Christ


Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” (‭Acts‬ ‭9‬:‭3-6‬ ESV)

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” (‭Acts‬ ‭9‬:‭10-12‬ ESV)

The Lord appeared to Saul with a personal revelation and call to obedience. What does this teach us about the way Jesus pursues people?

Jesus intervened for Saul’s good and while Saul was still a dangerous enemy of the Church. What does this say about Christ’s heart for the lost? How can we imitate this character of Jesus in our ministry to those around us that do not believe?

Christ called His disciple Ananias to be an active part of Saul’s healing. Reflect for a moment, do you ask Jesus to use you for the faith of others? Do you take time to listen for the Lord’s instructions when you think of others or spend time with them?

Take time to pray today. Pray for those you love that do not know Christ, who may even be known as active enemy’s of the Church. Ask, with kingdom expectation, that Jesus would reveal Himself in a way that changes everything. Be obedient and ready to partner with the Father in pursuit of hurting people.

The Good Portion


Read the following scriptures and meditate on the reflection questions that follow.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” (‭Luke‬ ‭10‬:‭38-42‬ ESV)

According to this passage, where does Mary find “the good portion, which will not be taken away from her?” How do we invite people into that space?

Does anything resonate within you when Jesus tells Martha, “you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary?” In your ministry? In your view of yourself?

Have you, like Martha, ever found yourself frustrated with someone like Mary?

It is so easy for ministry leaders to repeat the well-intentioned failure of Martha. We invite Jesus into the house, our brothers and sisters enjoy sitting with Jesus, but we miss the good stuff while we’re serving the good stuff. How do we make ourselves sit at the feet of Christ? How do we balance preparation and participation in the presence of Jesus?

Spend some time practicing this. Sit at the Lord’s feet for awhile. Ask Jesus to teach you and disciple you, listening for His will and heart for you.

Being Knit Together


that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ (‭Colossians‬ ‭2‬:‭2‬ ESV)

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. (Colossians 2:6-7 ESV)

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (‭1 Peter‬ ‭3‬:‭8‬ ESV)

What does it look like for a community to “knit together in love,” as Colossians describes?

Why is it so important to reach “full assurance” and “the knowledge of God’s mystery” ? Why does scripture instruct us to do this in the context of community?

As believers, how does Colossians 2:6-7 tell us to remain disciplined and diligent, both individually and in a community?

1 Peter 3 instructs the Church to have “unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind.” How do these things “knit us together” as a body of believers?


Remain In The House


Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ (‭Luke‬ ‭10‬:‭5-9‬ ESV)

In this passage from the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is giving instruction to the 72 disciples and sending them out for ministry. The disciples were told to “remain in the same house”, sharing fellowship and proclaiming the kingdom of God. Why is it so critical to eat, laugh, and live with the people of peace God leads us to? What makes this so different than approaches to ministry that focus on quickly making “converts”?

Jesus also told the 72 to eat and drink what was provided by the people of peace. The believers were told to give AND receive well. Why is this important? How can we humbly and thankfully receive from those we minister to?

In corporate gatherings of the Church, how can we declare “the kingdom of God has come near” to our brothers and sisters? From the congregation? From the stage?

The Lord wants us to love those around us with consistent, sincere, and intentional fellowship and discipleship. Take some time to pray. Ask Jesus to teach you and grow your heart for the people in your “house”.

Sifting Through The Noise


And he said, “Go out and stand on the mount before the Lord.” And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind tore the mountains and broke in pieces the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. And after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire the sound of a low whisper. (‭1 Kings‬ ‭19‬:‭11-12‬ ESV)

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, (‭1 John‬ ‭4‬:‭1-2‬ ESV)

He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. (‭John‬ ‭10‬:‭12-15‬ ESV)

The deceptions and temptations in these scriptures manifest in various forms. Reflect for a moment: what are the winds and voices that distract you from hearing God?

Do misconceptions or specific expectations cause you to miss the Lord’s quiet whisper?

Elijah was in a cave when he heard the Lord’s whisper. Jesus often retreated from the crowds to pray alone. Where and how often do you take time to intentionally listen for God’s voice?

The most effective distractions often appear in the form of something that seems like a good or potentially effective use of one’s time. Do you ever feel your attention pulled toward things you could do instead of the thing you should do?

1 John 4 tells us that the Spirit that comes from God will confess Jesus as Lord. Reflect inwardly: is the authority of Jesus the filter you use to make decisions?

Jesus said that His sheep will know Him like He knows the Father. What can you be doing in your daily walk to recognize the voice of Jesus more easily?

Ask the Lord to guard your heart and mind as you follow Him this week. Pray that the noise of the world would be drowned out by the Shepherd’s voice.

New Song: “Great Are You Lord”


Tomorrow we’re introducing our next new song to our church family: “Great Are You Lord” by All Sons and Daughters. Our friend Dan Wilt always says “songs are a place we go,” and this will quickly become one of our favorite comfy spots.

Like most of our new songs, this one has been on our wish list for quite a while, and if you’ve heard it you know why. It’s one of those songs that provides vocabulary to something we all feel and know. As a result, it instantly connects and sticks with you. The lyric is short and easy to learn, and you find yourself singing it the first time through and the next day too.

It starts with some reminders about what God does:

You give life, you are love
You bring light to the darkness
You give hope, you restore
Every heart that is broken

Just as these incredible facts sink in, the song facilitates our response to God:

It’s your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise to you only

The simplicity of this verse & chorus provides plenty of space… I could hang out here for quite a while. And then the bridge gives a new feel and dimension.

The original arrangement is piano-driven, but this one will work with just about any instrumentation. It’s propelled by the melody, and in keeping with All Sons and Daughters tunes, it gets a huge boost from a strong tight harmony.

I can’t wait to sing this with our family, and encourage everyone on the team to spend time exploring and personalizing it.