Random guitar riffs, bass runs, and drum licks echo throughout the large room in a cacophony of band noise. Occasionally John will kick off a pattern on the drums, Luke will pick it up on his bass, and they’ll run with it for a few bars, but for the most part it’s all random bits left-over from everyone’s former band days, none of it in the same key or rhythm. (Since I’m the odd man out as far as having no former band days, I’ll occasionally throw a little Beethoven piano sonata into the mix, just to add to the joyful noise.)
Six of us—Kenny, Kurtis, Mark, Luke, John (all we need is a Matthew) and I, the “Band of Brothers”—rehearse every Tuesday night in the same room where we’ll be leading in worship the following night for the Wingman men’s Bible study. Once sound levels are finally set and everyone settles down to practice, we do the most important thing we can do to ensure a good rehearsal…
“Let’s pray it up.”
Luke’s hat comes off and any picking, plunking, and pecking stops as Kenny, the group’s singer, leads in prayer. Although it’s obvious he doesn’t miss many mornings at the gym, Kenny’s real strength comes, not in his muscles, but in his deep faith in his heavenly father. Once he finishes praying and rehearsal gets going, he typically sets the agenda: “Let’s do ‘Great Are You Lord.’”
I riffle through my stack of homemade chord charts and lead sheets—the only member of the band with anything remotely resembling printed music—to find the right chart. (The rest of these guys can listen to a song a couple times and perform it; this old dog, however, needs crib notes. Plus, I start this particular tune, so I ain’t trusting my elderly memory.)
After dialing up the proper setting on my keyboard—a sustained string-like sound—I slip into the simple three-chord progression that underscores almost the entire song: D flat… F minor… E flat…
Four bars later, Mark is in on guitar, adding rhythm to the slow-moving chords as he strums. Although I’ve only seen pictures, Mark is nothing like that long-haired head-banger from his days with “Talizmen,” a heavy metal band whose music fueled many a mosh pit. Today, he’s married with two young boys and is a fine Christian husband and dad. (Although I imagine life with two young boys can sometimes feel like a mosh pit.)
Next in are Kurtis and Luke – Kurtis on rhythm guitar and Luke on bass.
Luke is the baby of the group and stands over my shoulder calling out the chord changes when we rehearse a song from the band’s past repertoire that I’ve never played. Peeking out from under every cuff and collar opening are his tattoos—each one, I’m sure, telling a story from his former life. Now, though, Luke has a new story, a story of redemption. Maybe there’s a tattoo under there for that, too…
As far as Kurtis, I personally think he missed his calling—he should have been a Christian counselor or a life coach. In addition to his enormous musical abilities, he has a compassionate, calm demeanor and definitely embodies Romans 12:8:
If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. (NLT)
He’s also full of esprit de corps, always right in the middle of the camaraderie and group text messages—which can take on a life of their own with these guys.
John comes in next, his creative percussion skills driving the gentle but powerful number forward. While John also has some rock-n-roll roots, he loves jazz and can play any style of music. He and I have played in various church groups together on and off the past few years. He once learned an entire 90-minute, choir-and-orchestra-driven Christmas production totally from memory. (Turning pages while playing the drums? Just say “no,” bro…)
Kenny (Mr. Biceps) leads out on vocals, his smooth but powerful tenor voice elevating the music to worship, even though it’s just the six of us…and even though it’s just rehearsal…
You give life, You are love, You bring light to the darkness;
You give hope, You restore every heart that is broken.
The chord changes are simple, so we can concentrate on the One we’re singing and playing for and about.
It’s Your breath in our lungs so we pour out our praise…
Soon the room is transformed, just like the lives of these guys—including this one writing…
Eyes are closed, hands deftly finding guitar strings, keys, or cymbals… Hearts are open, spirits deftly engaged in thanksgiving and praise for the one who selflessly died to redeem the life of every man on the stage.
…we pour out our praise to You only…
Great are You, Lord…
Before we leave for the night, we’ll no doubt be circled up again in prayer, with Kenny leading.
Almost all of Kenny’s prayers for the band ask God to help individual egos give way to a single-minded desire to serve the Lord as a group. These guys are all tremendously talented, and the temptation to let ego get in the way can be strong. But that doesn’t happen—everyone functions as a unit.
The band has many members, but those members make up only one band when they’re all put together.
I can’t really claim any credit for that last sentence—I stole it from Paul (the Apostle, not the Beatle). If you substitute the word “bodies” for “band” and the word “parts” for “members,” you’ll get 1 Corinthians 12:12:
Our bodies have many parts, but the many parts make up only one body when they are all put together. So it is with the “body” of Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12 TLB
A good band like Band of Brothers is fluid and organic, with each man playing his own instrument while also being aware of what everyone else is playing—sometimes leading, sometimes fading into the background, always giving generously to support the effort—so that the end result is not just a bunch of guys singing and playing guitars, drums, and keyboards, but a bunch of guys leading in worship.
Many members, one band—the only way to make it work; and when it works, it’s powerful.
The body of Christ—the Church, capital “C”—is also fluid and organic, with each member doing what the Lord has called him or her to do—sometimes leading, sometimes fading into the background, always giving generously to support the effort—so that the end result is not just a bunch of Christians using individual gifts and talents for personal satisfaction or to accomplish one-off acts of service, but a bunch of Christians working together to accomplish something so big it can only be attributed to the might and power of God; in other words, functioning as the body of Christ.
Many members, one body—the only way to make it work; and when it works, it’s powerful.
And lest you think this post isn’t applicable to you, the Bible is pretty clear about one thing: we all have some sort of gift…
Each of you has your own gift from God… I Corinthians 7:7
…and we’re expected to use it…
If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. Romans 12: 6-8
…period. While there probably aren’t a lot of openings for prophet these days (although the Psychic Hotline may be hiring), there are plenty of areas in which to serve and teach and give (and give some more).
While the Lord has given me lots of opportunities to serve Him using the gifts He’s given me—playing for worship, teaching Sunday School, testifying to His grace and mercy by writing about my experience as His follower, or going on a mission trip and/or funding others—recently He decided it was time for me to “kick it up a notch” and take my service for Him to the next level.
Has that ever happened to you? You just feel like He’s ready for you to graduate from where you are today and move up to where He wants you to be tomorrow? And you know that if you do that and give Him all that He asks of you, He will also give you more of Himself in return—which makes whatever He wants from you worth any and every sacrifice you may have to make.
Paul knew this to be a given in his Christian journey. He never stopped growing and never settled for less than what God had for him…
I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. Philippians 3:14
…and neither should we. (Plus, there’s a prize.)
Back in June in my post, Walking on Bare Concrete, I wrote about feeling as though I was at a spiritual fork in the road and would have to make a choice at some point to either a) man up and be totally committed to serving the Lord with no reserve, no retreat, and no regrets, heart, soul, mind, and strength or b) not.
“B” was not an option.
I also confessed that, at the time, I didn’t know what that choice would entail. I kept thinking it was going to be something scary, something that would take me totally out of my comfort zone (which could be any number of things), but it wasn’t. Over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve finally gotten that answer. And I’m actually doing it—right now. (Right now being Monday, Nov. 14 at 10:34 p.m. sitting in my comfy chair from Pier One with the fan blowing in my face typing on my laptop.)
As it turns out, the choice for greater service the Lord is asking me to make is—wait for it—to testify to His grace and mercy by writing about my experience as His follower. (Wait… Didn’t I just say this a few paragraphs back? …*scroll up*… *scroll back down*… Yep—I did.)
So, basically, I’ve stood there at that fork in the road for months now, waiting for the Lord to tell me that what He wants me to do to serve Him is what I’ve been doing to serve Him all along.
Kind of anticlimactic, hmm? Maybe, like me, you were thinking He was going to send me to outer Mongolia or make me sell all my possessions and live under a bridge and preach to the homeless (both wonderful and noble callings, by the way). But, no: He wants me to continue to use the gift He’s given me to serve Him—but on His terms and on His schedule.
If you look at the dates on my blog posts, you’ll see that my publication schedule is kind of really erratic: sometimes once-a-month… sometimes every month-and-a-half… sometimes I’ll just re-post something I wrote years ago to fill in the gaps. And don’t get me started on the book that’s been languishing on the back burner unfinished for, like, months—many months. (OK—more like a couple years.) I tend to procrastinate, waste time, live in some sort of fear or the other, and prioritize other things above the Lord.
Imagine if Jesus did that when He was completing the mission for which He came to earth…
From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life. Matthew 16:21
“You know what? Verily I think I’ll wait and go to Jerusalem next month,” Jesus replied, “or maybe next spring. Lo, I need to check Facebook first, just for a second… Oh, look—Martha posted a picture of last night’s dinner of lamb and bitter herbs. Gotta ‘Like’ that. Ooh—and another cat video. Cats are sooooooo funny…” Distractions 14:18 GofD (Gospel of Dusty)
You can’t, can you? Jesus—my example, the one who died to save me, the author and perfecter of my faith—would have never done those things…
- In spite of an exhausting ministry schedule.
- In spite of the task of turning a bunch of blue-collars, cheats, and hotheads into spirit-filled and -led Apostles.
- In spite of setting out on a journey that He knew from the outset would end up with Him hanging from and dying on the most brutal implement of torture that could be dreamed up at the time.
So since Jesus would have never done those things…
…neither can I…
- Not if I’m going to take that next step in the journey.
- Not if I’m going to be totally committed to serving the Lord with no reserve, no retreat, and no regrets, heart, soul, mind, and strength.
- Not if I’m going to know and trust Him in a way that I have as yet to experience—a way I can’t even begin to imagine, but one that will result in an intimacy with Him that will be eclipsed only by the one I’ll experience when I finally come face-to-face with Him.
Neither can I. I won’t. (Boy—putting that in writing scares me a little…)
There’ll be sacrifices—there have to be. The fears have got to be overcome and prayer and Bible study have got to take a place of prominence. But mostly, the fun, but time-sucking, pastimes will have to take a back seat. If He’s to truly be Lord of my life, then I can have no other gods before Him.
So that’s me right now—thrilled to have definite direction from the Lord, but a little apprehensive about how that might look. How about you? Are you faced with a choice? Or have you been faced with one—maybe some time ago—and not acted on it yet or in the way you knew the Lord wanted you to act? What is your calling, your gift, the thing God has for you to do?
Each of you has your own gift from God… I Corinthians 7:7
There are no dearth of spiritual gifts surveys you can take to find out where your natural abilities tend to lie; most likely, though, you have a pretty good idea where and how you should be serving the Lord. If not, ask Him—but be prepared to get an answer you weren’t expecting, or one that will require some sort of sacrifice. Or both. And when you get that answer, trust that He has a plan, a plan that may include an, as yet, unknown choice that He will make evident to you.
For me, I don’t really know what “kicking it up a notch” looks like yet—I haven’t gotten all those answers from the Lord. Maybe I am going to have to go live under a bridge. (That would definitely leave me with a lot of time to write.) Maybe my days with the Band of Brothers are numbered. (Those guys deserve more than I may able to commit to moving forward. They deserve someone who, like each of them, is able to be all in, heart, soul, mind, and strength.)
And, like I said seven sentences ago, maybe there’s an, as yet, unknown choice that the Lord will make evident to me.
No matter what the future holds, I know I can’t do it without His guidance (and neither can you). You can bet there’s some serious praying going on around the Lizard Lounge these days.
At any rate, I’m no longer standing at that spiritual fork in the road waiting on the Lord to give me guidance and direction. My choices are clear: a) make the necessary sacrifices, overcome the fears, and make Him truly Lord of my life or b) not.
“B” is not an option.
Just ask the boys in the band…
• • •
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