Einfach beten.

Einfach beten.

After a restless 9.5-hour flight from Houston to London, I was ready. With a stamp-less passport in hand, I couldn’t wait to step foot on ground across the pond for the first time.

Our first night in Berlin was the perfect kickoff. People from countries all over the world met in a home to have a meal and hear stories about how Jesus had changed their lives. The gospel spoken in different languages echoed across the house, and it felt like a snapshot of the Revelation 7 throne room.

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The first full day consisted of some very “touristy” sightseeing mixed with prayer-walking. Our long-term team tour guide combined the history of the city with statistics about the spiritual health of its people. We came to realize that most of the people with whom we brushed shoulders had most likely never had anyone intercede for them. In such a dark, hurting city, Jesus is the only relief.

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Day two began more of a normal rhythm for our team. We would meet each morning for the next five days with the long-term team in Berlin for training, prayer, and worship. After leaving their home, we had to struggle through navigating the German public transit system to reach the parks, restaurants, and homes where we would be engaging Berliners across the city. This was the first major stretch for our team.

We had all the head knowledge, but actually approaching a complete stranger and directing a conversation toward the gospel proved to be more uncomfortable than most anything any of us had ever done. When your first question is, “Do you speak English?” you never know what will happen next.

A few hours into the day, I met a man from Gambia, a small country on the coast of northwest Africa. He admitted to me that he felt lonely in Berlin, and was trying to find ways to cope with his problems. I got to share with him that the things of this world will always run out, but God will never leave him nor forsake him. I gave him a Bible to read for the first time, and we connected on Facebook to keep up.

Would you pray for my friend now that God would reveal his love to him through the Word?

Over the next two days, some of my team and I had the opportunity to meet with a man I’ll call ‘Z’ for this post. Z left Syria a few years ago as a refugee when his home became unsafe. He traveled all the way up through Eastern Europe with a woman and her two young daughters that he met along the way. Z sacrificed his time, money, energy, and safety to care for these strangers on his way to Berlin. He was one of the most respectable men I have ever met.

He had tons of heavy questions about the Bible the first time we met with him in his home.

“Has the Bible been corrupted? It has been translated so many times. If God is loving then why do innocent children in Africa starve? Why does religion start so many wars?”

We answered all of his questions to the best of our ability, but had to admit to him that, at some point, our answers would not be enough. He ended our time with him by describing to us a dream he’d had 14 years earlier of a man dressed in all white. He knew this man was Jesus, and we knew we had to meet with him again.

The next day, four Texans, a Palestinian, and a Syrian met in an Indian restaurant in Germany to talk about Jesus (I promise this isn’t the first line of a joke). Our translator took this time to lay out the gospel from Adam and Eve to the resurrection of Jesus. He did his best to put all the pieces together for Z. His dream, the favor on his trip to Berlin, and the gospel all weaved a perfect picture of Jesus coming after his lost sheep. Z told us that he would continue reading the Bible and searching for truth. I believe that Jesus is going to make Z a fisher of men.

Would you pray for Z right now, that he would trust Jesus with his life and share the good news with his friends who have never heard it?

Something that stuck out to me about the trip was the overwhelming hospitality and kindness of the refugees. Many of them were willing to sit and talk, share their stories, and eat meals with us. One man that I met shared his experience with war in his Syrian hometown. He proceeded to show me the scar on his back from a bomb that decimated his home. He was just getting by in Berlin. Later in our conversation, I told him I liked his jacket. He immediately took it off and said, “I give it to you.”

Would it change the way people view Christ if we showed others the same generosity this Muslim man showed me?

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Later in the week, we got to meet with more people from all over Europe and the Middle East at different events we held throughout Berlin, sharing the gospel with everyone that we could.

Each morning, as we debriefed the previous day, many of us admitted that we “just prayed” all day. One of our leaders pointed out our flaw immediately.

What a small view of prayer we had! Even if the only thing we had done in Berlin was pray, it would have been worth the trip. The eternal God, creator of the universe, heard every one of our prayers that week. “Just pray” (or “einfach beten”) became our mantra for the rest of the week.

One thing that has stayed with me is a quote that I read in the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

“What is my life worth even if I remain alive? Whom to return to in my old home town of Warsaw? For what and for whom do I carry on this whole pursuit of life, enduring, holding out — for what?”

It reminds me of a question Z asked us. “Why do people stay on earth when they become Christians?”

What is our purpose? Why are we here?

It’s all for the glory of Jesus. Would we be conformed to his likeness, would people see our good deeds and praise our Father in Heaven, and would we make disciples of all nations. Would the worship of God cover the face of earth.

-ABD

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Adopted.

Adopted.

As I think back to my childhood, I remember waking up early on Saturday mornings to watch cartoons. Because my family didn’t have cable TV (still a little bitter), I cherished the time I would spend at my grandparents’ house after school a few times a week to get my hit of Dexter’s Laboratory and Hey Arnold.

Something that didn’t register with me until later on in life was this consistent, dramatic theme found in television of a child finding out he or she was adopted. In a strange way, I developed this idea that there was shame in being adopted. Recently, the Lord has been teaching me how wrong I was.

In the Spring of 2013, as I was about to finish my freshman year at Texas A&M, I was introduced to something called the Shalom Project. Each year, Breakaway Ministries, a weekly worship gathering on Texas A&M’s campus, gives students the opportunity to fund a humanitarian, gospel-centered project to change the lives of people they will never meet. At 19 years old, in a basketball arena, God began to break my heart for the brokenhearted.

The Shalom Project in 2013 partnered with Show Hope, an organization that fights on behalf of the orphan. As an ambassador of Show Hope, Emily Chapman Richards traveled to College Station and provided me and a few thousand other students with stories and statistics on orphans and the difficulty of the adoption process. In an hour, the Lord began to chisel away at my comfort idol. For the first time, He allowed me to truly see suffering.

I was amazed to find out a few weeks later than a bunch of twenty-somethings in Texas had raised $124,000. Those funds eventually provided care for 20 orphaned children with medical disabilities in China and provided 14 families with grants to adopt 14 kids who seemed to be out of hope. You can watch a recap video here.

Little did I know, even through a spiritual drought in my life, God would grow my passion to love the seemingly unloveable and eventually place me on a volunteer team with Breakaway where I got to work on the front lines of Shalom giving for the next three years. Praise God.

Teaching at The Austin Stone on God’s sovereignty, providence, and election has taught me how truly beautiful the process of adoption is. What an amazing picture of what Jesus did for us on the cross. It’s no coincidence that in the past few months since moving to Austin, I’ve seen this process played out in my family, my supervisor, and dear members of my team. When I see these children taken in, I hear God saying, “I did this for you. You are adopted.”

John 1:12 tells us that when we believe in God we become his children.

Galatians 4:7 tells us that we are no longer slaves, but children and heirs.

In Psalm 27:10, hundreds of years before Christ stepped foot on the scene, even David acknowledges that the Lord will take us in when we are forsaken.

The eternal, omnipotent God, who created the universe, who needs and lacks nothing, looked at us in our puddle of shame and disgrace and said, “I love you.” Though we were still hopeless by our own power in sin, he sent his perfect, sinless son to die a death we deserved. That is love. That is adoption. We offer nothing, but we are given everything.

This love propels me toward the broken. This love produces a love flowing out of me for the orphan, for the homeless, for the refugee, and for the unreached.

This love has compelled me to travel to Germany for 10 days this summer to engage people that meet all of the above criteria. This love urges me to share the hope of my Savior with those that have exhausted all other hope.

16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. 17 But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him? 18 Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.

-1 John 3:16-18

We have nothing that we can offer him. Even our best deeds are as filthy rags. We cannot earn our righteousness. It was purchased by the blood of Jesus. Our judge has said, “Not guilty.”

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

-Romans 8:14-17

I pray that these truths lead you to worship today.

-ABD

 

You can’t lead people to a place you aren’t going

You can’t lead people to a place you aren’t going

Since my time at the Stone began, this is the most intriguing thing I’ve learned about worship leading. What a simple truth it is. Despite being behind the camera for this message, this bit got to me:

“You can’t lead people to a place you aren’t going.”

– Stephen Crawford

Crawford is our St. John PM Campus Pastor, and he said this as he was speaking to our worship team and many other worship leaders from cities around Austin at an event we host monthly known as Worship Leader Huddle. Many worship leaders around the world are beaten down and exhausted, plagued with responsibilities all over the church solely for being the “artistic staff member”. Worship Leader Huddle is something we do as a worship team to build up the bride of Christ by encouraging these laborers and giving them a chance to worship and be honest about their struggle with brothers and sisters who understand. Go hug your worship leader this Sunday and ask how you can serve them.

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After being a worship leader in some capacity since I was 12 years old, this quote is something I wish I would’ve heard earlier on. If your goal is to lead others to worship, but you’re worshipping your own musical ability or idolizing what the girl on the front row thinks of your new haircut, naturally the church body is going to follow you there. It is so important to humble yourself and prepare your mind and heart for worship before you ever set foot on stage. Likewise, if you are worshipping with all you have as you lead, it is easier for the church to worship also. What a joy it is to be in this position.

The past month has been a busy season for Austin Stone Worship. Specifically, this past week was a myriad of 12 hour days for us. Going into it, I was anxious and a bit overwhelmed, but there is something cool about being in ministry. Busy seasons in ministry mean that more people are being loved, cared for, and pointed toward Jesus. Grateful for the craziness that this job is, but also for a team that cares enough for us to make us rest well.

In other news, our team released a KIDS WORSHIP ALBUM this past Friday called Only Jesus. For the past month, I’ve spent my weekdays learning about green screens, Adobe Premiere Pro, and patience through the process of creating video resources for some of these songs. Hours of YouTube tutorials and liters of Dr. Pepper later (sorry other staff at the office), it started to come together.  fullsizerender

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All of that work finally culminated into this:

It’s been such an incredible experience to learn these things and produce something with the knowledge that it is being used to hide the truths of God in the hearts of children. On one particular day, I was frustrated to the point of pumping Underoath (that’s loud screaming music, parents) through my car speakers on the way home from work, but later that night I was tagged in an Instagram video from a father in Livingston, TX of his daughter losing her mind dancing and worshipping Jesus alongside these videos we were releasing. I may or may not still get choked up about this. The impact this work could have on the lives and souls of kids everywhere creates a grateful and joyful spirit in me, because God has allowed me to be involved in His work. Praise the Lord.

We also had an INSANE album release party with families from all over Austin, and I’m hoping to get a video out of that soon! Meanwhile, the rest of the Only Jesus resources are available here: http://www.austinstoneworship.com/onlyjesus/

Other than that, I’ve been helping out with worship for students at our Downtown AM campus and occasionally the Longhorn BSM, and doing things Austin people do – which for me means concerts on concerts on concerts.


I’ll leave you with this scripture that is super irrelevant to this blog but super relevant to our world.

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.”

-Romans 13:1

Don’t be afraid. He is still sovereign.

-ABD

 

 

 

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What a summer.

The past three months were full of snow-capped mountains, new brothers and sisters, learning experiences, and a whole lot of Jesus. They were void of internet availability, Chipotle, and the craziness of the “real world.”

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The morning after I walked the stage and received my diploma from the greatest university in the world, I overpacked my car and embarked on a 16-hour journey from Pasadena, TX to southwestern Colorado where my second home dwells for my second summer as a family camp counselor at Sky Ranch Ute Trail.

Ten married couples and their children graciously invited me into their families for a week at a time as I had the chance to learn from their wisdom and experience while I served them meals and led them up a grueling hike to a ropes course.

I witnessed different characteristics of Jesus in each of the members of my team, and I left Colorado changed because of what God showed me in each of them. I saw the Lord’s patience while living in close quarters with the same 50+ staff day in and day out all summer while getting less and less sleep each night to stay up and fully know these people that I wouldn’t get to see again soon.

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Soon after some “not goodbye but see ya later”s, I made a 22-hour trip through Denver, the never-changing scenery of central Kansas and Oklahoma, down to my new home in Austin, TX, with nothing but the nonsensical things I took with me to camp. Sleeping on the floor in my half of my barren apartment bedroom for a few days was good for my character, I’m sure.

This first week on the job as a worship resources resident has been incredible, even through days of orientation. There is something really special about the way the people here lean on the power of the Holy Spirit to change the city of Austin as well as the nations for the advancement of the gospel and ultimately the glory of our God.

On Thursday, I got to be a part of something we do here called Worship Collective, which seeks to serve those that serve the church on Sundays in various capacities, from production to kids ministry. We spent all day setting up an in-the-round area for worship as well as tables and decorations that would host fellowship over Tex-Mex hours later. It was an incredible way to kick off my first real day of work and serve the community that I’m now a member of.

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Additionally, the Lord has been so good to provide throughout this summer to help me reach the minimum amount of support that was necessary for me to begin at the Austin Stone. However, I am still below the target amount that I set for myself in May, so you can click here if you would be interested in helping me reach that goal.

I’ll leave you with some scripture that caught my attention recently:

Among the gods there is none like you, Lord;
    no deeds can compare with yours.
All the nations you have made
    will come and worship before you, Lord;
    they will bring glory to your name.
For you are great and do marvelous deeds;
    you alone are God.

Psalm 86:8-10

-ABD

Missions exists because worship doesn’t

Over the course of the last few months, the Lord has done some crazy things in my life. While I had all these plans made up in my mind for post-college life, God was gradually showing me something completely different (you’d think I would’ve figured out this trend by now).

In mid-August, I will move to Austin, Texas to serve the Austin Stone Community Church as a Worship Resources Resident. My main job will be to oversee content for http://www.austinstoneworship.com, where resources such as Worship Leader Development Courses, blogs, and interviews are available for musicians to develop into worship leaders through biblical theology. I’ll also be serving by facilitating collective worship events and video editing.

Additionally, I’ll go through a 9-month Men’s Development Program where I will have the opportunity to grow in my understanding and love of God’s Word through theological teaching and mentorship.

The biggest obstacle to overcome in order to participate in the residency program is that my position is support-funded. The Austin Stone staffs about 75 residents at a time, but it is difficult for a church with a large college student population to provide a salary for all of these short-term positions.

The thing is, I don’t want “supporters” to feel like they are simply giving money to me for something that I want to do. I am looking for people to partner with me in ministry as I move to a county where about 50% of the population does not affiliate with any religion and an increase in homeless population of 20% from 2015 to 2016. If you would be interested in financially helping me reach these people as well as those around the U.S. through online resources, you can do that by clicking here.

However, I don’t believe the adventure stops there. Since the beginning of 2016, the Lord has brought up in me a real passion for the lost unlike I’ve ever felt before. My hope is that through my time at the Austin Stone, I will become involved with programs that will prepare me for missions overseas. I’ll write a blog post about that journey later. I want to take what I learn about God’s Word and how to develop worship leaders and use those things to take the gospel to places it has never reached – to people that have never heard the name of Jesus.

“Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. Worship is ultimate.” – John Piper

I’m excited to continue sharing my story with you as I prepare to make Jesus known to every tribe, tongue, and nation.

-ABD