Mozart and The Devil’s Music

Years ago I remember a song called “Rock Me Amadeus.” It really had quite catchy chorus. So catchy that I often found myself singing it. I honestly had not idea who Amadeus was or what the song was about. I just knew that it had a nice rhythm to it. One day, while mindlessly singing it my dad told me that I needed to stop singing that song; that it was talking about the DEVIL. Wow! I certainly did not want to be singing a song that said, “rock me Amadeus” if Amadeus was the devil. I certainly did not want to be singing the devil’s music.

Amadeus is NOT the Devil. Turns out Amadeus is not the devil. Which means that this song was not about the devil. Rather it was talking about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. More commonly known simply as Mozart. You know, the famous composer. It was my mother that pointed out that Amadeus was probably a reference to Mozart and not the devil. On looking back at the lyrics to this song it’s actually about what a ladies man Mozart was, perhaps even a womanizer. Not a wholesome topic, but hardly a song about the devil.

He was probably thinking of Asmodeus. Is said to be a king of demons. This is probably what my dad was thinking of when he cautioned me not to sing that song. Certainly singing about be “rocked” by a king of demons would be a bad thing. His intentions were good, but he didn’t have all the information. As a result he turned an unwholesome, but probably harmless song into something much worse.

We must be informed. As Christians we often do just what my dad did. We jump to conclusions without having all the information. We then begin to speak out against things that we know little about. Just like my dad, our intensions are good. But, we need to take the time to learn about things before we make decisions about how we feel about them and, certainly, before we speak out against it. When we jump to conclusions we make ourselves look bad and we run the risk of harming the relationships that might give us the chance to show people the love of Jesus and share the gospel with them.


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More Than Bacon

BaconFor several years I served in or led a team of men that did most of the cooking for the youth camp that my church hosted. I have cooked more hamburgers than you can imagine. When I say I have cooked thousands of pancakes I mean it. I have cooked a great many things and in great quantities. Among the many things that I have cooked in crazy quantities is bacon. We would cook 15 pounds EVERY MORNING. I have cooked more bacon than most people have seen in there entire life. The best part of cooking bacon is that we get to eat some. I don’t think it would be exaggerating to say that a couple pounds of bacon never made it out of our kitchen. There is a lot work, planning, and organization that goes into preparing three meals a day for 200 people or more. But, at the end of the day the experience is about more than bacon.

More than bacon. As I mention above there is much work that goes into getting ready to cook for this many people. Every year my wife and I spend several hours looking at the menu, determining portion size, looking at the number of people we will be cooking for and deciding what we need to buy and how much. We then spend an entire day, the Saturday before camp, buying all of the food and getting it to the church. Plus, we have to figure out how many plates, forks, spoons, etc we need and make sure all of that is taken care of. Then my crew arrives at 5:30 each morning to start cooking. As soon as we finish preparing one meal and take some time to eat its time to start preparing for the next meal. In the midst of all of this, it can be very easy to become so focused on the tasks that we forget that what we are doing is about something much bigger than the tasks that we are doing.

There’s a bigger picture. With all that has to be done to get ready for camp and all the work that has to be done during camp it can be very easy to forget that there is more going on. The truth is that camp really isn’t about the bacon or the hamburgers. It’s not about the lake activities or boats. It’s not about the spirit teams or games. Camp is really about bringing kids into an environment where they can encounter Jesus. It’s about creating an environment where some kids might begin a relationship with Jesus and others may grow in their existing relationship. All these other things are part of this, but this is ultimately the goal.

It’s not just a camp problem. This problem does not just exist at camp. This is the kind of thing that we can all fall into if we are not careful. Any of us that serves in church can come to the belief that the “little” thing that we do doesn’t really matter. But, the truth is that everything that any of us does to serve the church, to serve God, to serve the people that come to church, to serve our community matters. It’s not, necessarily, about the exact thing that you are doing, but about helping people move closer to Jesus.

More than hand shakes, bulletins and smiles. I grew up in the church. So, for me church is a fairly comfortable place to be. But, even for me when I show up at a church that I have never been to before it’s a bit intimidating. Having a friendly person there to greet me can make all the difference in the world. I have worked for almost 20 years in an emergency room. Time after time I have seen the power of something as simple as a smile to make people feel more comfortable, to help calm their fears, to bring them some degree of peace. Never underestimate the power of the simple smile.

More than orange vests and cones. Research shows that people decide if they are coming back to your church within the first seven minutes of arriving. That means before the first song has been sung or the pastor has spoken a word. This means that even the person helping them find a good parking space may be the difference between that person coming back, or not. When you put on that bright orange vest you may not see your part in the bigger picture. Your help in finding a parking spot may be what makes that guest decide to give the church another week. Your smile and friendly greeting may be what encourages that guest to stay for the service, or come back for another one. Your involvement may be what gives that guest a chance to hear the gospel, maybe for the first time. Maybe that guest receives Jesus on that day.

You see, no matter what your role is. No matter how you serve in the church. No matter how insignificant you think your role is. You matter. What you do matters. What you do, no matter how little or how far removed from what seems to be important, it is all part of God’s plan. YOU are part of God’s plan. Every Sunday when you show up and you serve, you are part of God’s plan for someone.


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Jesus Would Visit Santa

Santa ClausThis is my favorite time of year. I just love it. The tinsel and lights, and the presents are nice. All the carols and bells make the holiday swell. Ok, that was a bit tongue in cheek. But, I really do love Christmas. It really is my favorite time of the year. I especially love how all kinds of church people start to debate over whether or not Santa should be invited into your home, church, or even into your community. Ok, actually I DON’T love that part. Actually, while I think that there is room for healthy discussion on this topic, most of what I see online is NOT healthy. At the end of the day, I think that Jesus would visit Santa.

I don’t lie to my kids. This is the argument I have often heard. My brothers and I grew up believing in Santa and didn’t grow up feeling lied to or betrayed. However, I do know of at least one person whom I am very fond of and have a lot of respect for that did, in fact, feel that way. He then chose not to “propagate that lie” in his house. Since that is how he was convicted, I applaud him for that. Still, we do Santa in our home.

Harmless fantasy. I often call my little girl my princess. The TRUTH is that I am not descended from royalty and she, therefore, is not a princess. Does this stop me from calling her that? Does this stop her from dancing around the living room in her princess dress and pretending she is a princess? No. The truth is me calling her my princess or her pretending to be one are just harness fantasy. I feel the same way about Santa. The whole Santa thing is just harmless fantasy. Paul, in the book of Romans, encouraged us to stick firmly to the convictions that God has given us. However, he cautioned us not to hold others to those convictions that God has given just for us. For this reason I would say if you feel convicted to not do Santa in your house, then go with it, but don’t hold others to that conviction.

Jesus would visit Santa. Because of all the controversy among church people and because of the confusion it could possible cause non-believers, I have always chosen to keep Santa out of the churches I have served. But, I do think that Jesus would have gone to the mall to visit Santa. Why do I think that? Because it matches the pattern of how He lived His life. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day called Him a drunkard and a glutton. They called him this simply because He chose to send time with lost people. Jesus had dinner in Matthew’s house, even though He knew the party was full of “sinners”. Heck, He probably went there BECAUSE it was filled with sinners.

So, would Jesus visit Santa? Well, let me ask you this question. Are unchurched people arguing over whether or not to have Santa as part of their Christmas celebration, or do they just accept it as part of the season? Do unchurched people go to the mall to see Santa? Do unchurched people stand in long lines so that their kids can sit on Santa’s lap and have their picture taken? The answer to all of these is, YES. For this reason I think Jesus would be there too. From the information we have on Jesus’ life we can see that over and over again He sought out opportunities to be with lost people. So, I think that Jesus would visit Santa. I think He would go to the mall or other places where Santa is. I think He would go there to connect with people. I think He would go there to serve people.

We should visit Santa, too. For the same reason that Jesus sought out lost people wherever they were I think we should seek them out where they are. If this means going to the mall to connect with people waiting to see Santa, then that is what we should do. Follow your own convictions within your home, but don’t expect others, especially unchurched people to follow those convictions. Instead, meet them where they are. That’s what Jesus did.


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I’m Starting a Church

250px-Japanese_Map_symbol_(Church).svgThose that have followed me know that last summer I relocated to central Alabama to serve as Children’s and Preschool minister. After just over a year we had to come back to Florida, due to difficulties related to trying to sell our home. While I was in Alabama, and perhaps a little before, God began to change the sorts of things He was saying to me in my quiet times and Bible study. I became more and more convinced that the next thing God was sending me to was to pastor a church. At the time I figured I would be in Alabama for a few years then return to central Florida to pastor an existing church. Obviously, God had a different plan.

After returning to our home in Florida and taking some time to get settled in I began to focus my prayer and Bible study on seeking God’s direction for the next step in my life and ministry. As I did I began to think that God might be calling me to plant a church. I pushed back against the idea for a number of reasons: it’s scary, it may mean being bi-vocational again, I have no experience or training, I had no idea where to start. In spite of all of these things, the more I prayed and read and studied, the more I became convinced that God was calling me to this.

When I left Alabama I felt that God was calling me back to this area for a specific reason. I felt that He had a plan for me, my family and my ministry in this area that has been home to all of us for most of our lives. I didn’t know just what that plan was, but as I’ve sought answers I have come to believe that God wants me to plant a church in this area. At this time I still don’t know exactly what that is going to look like. I don’t know exactly how that will progress or when we will start holding public worship services. But, I know that this is what God is calling me to.

So, what’s next? Honestly, I don’t know exactly what comes next. I don’t know what God has planned. One thing I do know is that nearly my entire ministry has progress in unconventional ways. I’m convinced that this new work will be the same. For right now I am diving deeper into study to find what God wants to tell me about this new direction. I am also working to learn more about the area that God is sending me to serve. I am praying and searching for the people that God has selected to be part of the launch team. I’m also beginning to connect with a variety of people that I believe God wants to use to help me reach the people He is sending me to.

How can I help? Certainly as this thing progresses there will be many needs. As of right now I have a few ideas, but I have no way of knowing what all the needs will be as we move forward. But, here are some ways that you can help now:

  • Pray: This one is a no brainer and can seem kind of cliche or even trite. But, I know that without prayer this venture cannot experience success. Here are some specific ways that I would invite you to pray at this time.
    • For me: That God would continue to guide me and show me HIS vision for this church. That God would protect me and help me stay focused.
    • My family: Pray that God would protect them. Pray that this new work would be a blessing to them and not simply a burden. We know it will be hard work, but I pray that it will also be a blessing.
    • The team: I know that God has already chosen a group of people that will serve alongside me to lead this new work. Pray that God would:
      • prepare them.
      • encourage them.
      • help me see them.
      • help me lead them.
    • The people: I know that there are specific people that God is sending us to reach with this new work. Join me in praying for them, that God would:
      • begin to call them to Himself.
      • show us where they are.
      • send people to plant seeds and prepare their spiritual soil.
      • prepare me, and those He has chosen to help me,  to reach these people
    • The Community: My desire is that this new work would have a real connection with the community. This will occur in a number of different ways. Pray that God would soften the hearts of the people and leaders in the community to welcome us as we seek to connect with and serve them. Also pray that God would show us where He is already at work so that we can join in that.

Want to do more? If you would like to do more than pray, subscribe to our email list using the form below. I will be sending periodic email updates to this list to keep people informed about what God is doing and what our specific needs are. If your interested in some of the needs that I see coming in the next several weeks feel free to email me at mnormancarguy@gmail.com.

Thanks for your willingness to pray for us as we step out in faith to reach this community for Jesus.

Stay tuned. I will continue to post updates on my blog as things progress. Still, the best way to stay up to date will be to subscribe to the mailing list.

 

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