Author: Jay LeBlanc

Thankful

As I write this, we are coming off of a wonderful weekend of worship that concluded with the Alanna Story concert on Sunday evening, November 20th.  As I reflect, I can’t help but feel so overwhelmed with gratitude for the many worship team members who put in so many hours making sure the concert was as professionally done as it was.

“Worship Team” is anyone who serves in a musical or production role at White River.  This could be a vocalist, band member, camera operator, graphics operator, lighting operator, etc.  Each one of these positions are crucial when it comes to creating an environment that attempts to create a distraction-free environment for worship.  Our vocalists and band members want to remove distractions as they lead by having a heart that John the Baptist spoke of – “He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” (John 3:30)  Our production team strives to make sure what they do is distraction free by limiting mistakes that would take people’s attention off of Christ and the moment being created to honor Him.

Each weekend, over 30 worship team positions are needed to do a Thursday evening service, two worship center services and two cafe venue services.  For those who help set the sound/lighting/video up in the cafe on Sunday, that is a 6:15am start time.  I mention this because on a Sunday with a concert like Alanna Story or a Night of Worship, this is a very long day for everyone.  I think of one particular team member yesterday who helped set up cafe tech at 6:15am, served in a morning position, grabbed some lunch, came back around 1:00 for a 2:00 Alanna Story rehearsal start time that lasted until 5:30, served in a position for the 6:30 concert that lasted until 8:15 and was still at the church serving at 10:00 as the band was loading their gear.

I am so thankful for the team that I have the privilege of serving with.  Each member gives so much of their time and talent to put a smile on the Lord’s face and so that those the Lord brings through our doors can say, “God is truly here among you.” (1 Cor. 14:25)

Paul was right when he wrote about the Thessalonica church in 1 Thessalonians 2:19&20 – “19 After all, what gives us hope and joy, and what will be our proud reward and crown as we stand before our Lord Jesus when he returns? It is you! 20 Yes, you are our pride and joy.”

Sons and Daughters of God

Not too long ago, Chris Chrismond, our NextGen worship pastor, introduced me to the song, “Sons and Daughters”.  We have recently introduced it in our worship services, and it has become one of my favorite songs that we use to worship together.  I’ve attached both the lyrics and the mp3 of the song.

I need to create more space in my meditation place for the title “son of God”.  Throughout scripture, we see the heart of God desiring to be with His people.  God met with Adam and Eve in the garden.  He “tabernacled” among His people on the way to the promised land.  The temple was a magnificent reminder of God’s presence among His people.  Jesus, of course, is the most beautiful and intimate expression of God’s presence.  John 1:14 states – “14 So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.  And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.”  “Made his home among us” is the same expression as being “tabernacled” – He took up a temporary residence.

However, when I accept Christ as my Savior, the Spirit of the living God makes His residence inside of me…permanently.  I become an adopted son of God and I am now an heir with Christ.  Romans 8:10,11&17 states – “10 And Christ lives within you, so even though your body will die because of sin, the Spirit gives you life because you have been made right with God. 11 The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.”

All of this because THE Son of God gave up everything.  So, next time we sing the song “Sons and Daughters”, let the lyric “we are the Lord’s and He will never forsake His own” penetrate your heart.  As sons and daughters of God, we will never experience being forsaken of God…because Jesus did.

– Jay LeBlanc

Sons And Daughters – lyrics

Why a Night of Worship?

Once again, I am looking forward to coming together this Sunday evening and worshiping together with a Night of Worship.  When we approach an evening like this, it’s interesting how many opinions can exist as to the “why” behind it.  Is it just another something that gets put on the church calendar?  Is it to create an opportunity to invite someone to church?  Is it so that we can sing and worship without more of the time constraint that we experience during a normal weekend worship experience?

1 Chronicles 29:11 states – “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things.”  This verse is part of a prayer that David prayed as materials were being collected for the building of the temple.  This temple would attempt to express in its construction the greatness and glory of the Lord and be the central place where His people would congregate to worship Him.  The very first word of this verse is what should focus us for a night of worship…”yours”.

Sometimes, I’m afraid that we approach a corporate time of worship solely focused on finding and experiencing that emotional high that corporate worship often brings.  I know that I certainly do.  I want to “feel” the presence of the Lord.  I want to “experience” His presence in a powerful way.  The Lord created our emotions, so there certainly isn’t anything wrong with desiring these feelings when we worship.  However, what happens if the expectation of the level of emotion that we thought we would experience is not met?  I need to remind myself that when I approach any worship experience this way that I am not focued on “Yours”.  I am focused on “me”.

When I pay my wife a compliment, I am not looking to get something out of it.  I am looking to GIVE her something…to express to her my sincerest appreciation for who she is and what she’s done.  I don’t believe that I’ve ever walked away from paying anyone a compliment and thought, “You know, I just didn’t get anything out of that.”  Our private and public worship is to simply express to Lord how amazing He is and how in awe we are of what He has done for us through His Son, Jesus.  While we can and do experience much emotional satisfaction from this, the ultimate satisfaction is putting a smile on His face…lavishing our praise upon the One Who is worthy of everything we could give and so much more.

As we approach this Sunday’s Night of Worship, let’s focus on “Your”.  If we walk away from the experience having done that, the “why” will have been significantly answered.

– Jay LeBlanc

How Do I Respond?

In Chapter 26 of The Story, we looked at the sufferings of Christ. I truly believe that if we recover from the cross, we will cease being the worshipers we can and should be. Fundamentally, worship is “the believers’ response of all that they are – mind, emotions, will, and body – to what God is and says and does.” Warren Wiersbe provided this great definition in his book Real Worship.  So, the question that I want to ask myself and the reader today is, “What is my response to Christ’s suffering?”

Not too long ago, I stumbled upon a study note that stated it was very likely that Christ was actually whipped two times during his passion. A “flogging” is a lesser form of whipping, where a “scourging” is the most severe. The gospels use both words. If you remember the movie The Passion of the Christ, think of the sticks the Roman soldiers used as a flogging and the whips made with pieces of metal as a scourging. A scourging was only given to those already condemned to die, since many died as a result. Since Pilate really wanted to free Jesus, he probably had him flogged first. This is when the soldiers would have mocked him, placed the crown of thorns on him, etc. Pilate wanted Jesus punished enough to appease the crowd. But they were not appeased. They called for his crucifixion, so Pilate would have had Jesus scourged before sending him to the cross.

Hebrews 5:7-8 states, “While Jesus was here on earth, he offered prayers and pleadings, with a loud cry and tears, to the one who could rescue him from death. And God heard his prayers because of his deep reverence for God. Even though Jesus was God’s Son, he learned obedience from the things he suffered.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t wrap my head around the fact that Jesus learned obedience, but what I do gather from these verses is that he had many Garden-of-Gethsemane moments where he pleaded with his Father to be rescued from the cross.

When we think about what Jesus suffered for us, may we respond with a life of worship. My we respond in adoration, knowing that while we were still sinners, Christ responded to our condition by giving his life as our ransom.

– Jay LeBlanc

Becoming What God Is Seeking

John 4 is one of the best chapters in the Bible when it comes to the topic of worship. Jesus meets a Samaritan woman by a well and begins a dialogue with her. He explains to her that he can offer water that will never leave one thirsty again. After Jesus reveals to her that he is aware of her personal life, she perceives he is a prophet and asks him this question:

“So tell me, why is it that you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place of worship, while we Samaritans claim it is here at Mount Gerizim, where our ancestors worshiped?”

Preferences. Even back in Jesus’ day, when it came to worship, people had preferences. If this dialogue was happening today, she would have asked, “Is it hymns or praise songs? Is it contemporary or traditional? Is it upbeat or slow? Is it loud or soft?” 

What is interesting about this passage is how Jesus answers her question — what really matters is what the Father thinks. The Father calls a true worshiper one who worships in spirit and truth — everything I am for everything he is. In fact, God is actually seeking those who will worship him that way. That’s it.

So, if that’s it, I need to ask myself if I am simply becoming what God is seeking. Do I come to a worship service with my list of preferences or do I come desiring to bless the Lord?

My hope and desire is that only one word can describe White River worship — authentic.

– Jay LeBlanc

How Much Have I Been Forgiven?

One of my favorite stories in the gospels is in Luke 7:36-50. Take time to read that entire passage. It’s where a “certain immoral woman” anoints Jesus’ feet while he is a guest at Simon the Pharisee’s home. There is so much packed into these few verses. John Ortberg, in his book, “Everyone’s Normal Until You Get to Know Them,” has a chapter entitled “Gratitude” that opens up this passage in an amazing way. It is certainly worth your read.

Within this story, though, Jesus tells Simon a simple story: ” ‘A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?’ Simon answered, ‘I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.’ ‘That’s right,’ Jesus said.”

Jesus was pointing out to Simon through this story that the woman who was anointing his feet realized that she had been forgiven of much. Jesus even says that her sins were many in verse 47. Because she realized she had been forgiven of much, she loved Jesus much. What is interesting about the story that Jesus shared, however, was that neither of the people in the story could repay their debt; the amount, in essence, was insignificant to the story. It really doesn’t matter at the end of the day if you owe a bazillion dollars or one dollar. If you can’t pay it, you can’t pay it. If the debt you owe has been canceled, you have been forgiven much.

Whether you and I have been forgiven of much or forgiven of little is all in the way we view our own sin. If I could live my entire life and only commit one “little” sin, that sin would still have nailed Jesus to the cross, and I would need his redeeming power to free me and bring me into a relationship with him. The way I live my life in worship to the One Who has set me free will reveal my answer to the question, “How much have I been forgiven?”

– Jay LeBlanc

God, My Father

We live in a time where the concept of “father” is significantly flawed. Shows on television paint a horrible picture of what a father should be, and certainly, many fathers today do not help the matter. Single moms are prevalent, and many dads, even if physically present, are very much absent from the home. Ask someone what images they have when they think of their dad and many times the answer is overwhelmingly fear, abuse and neglect.

It is no wonder when God calls himself Father that many do not want anything to do with him. If their earthly fathers were at best neglectful, why would someone think that God could be any different? However, the prophet Isaiah helps paint a beautiful picture of a God who is the epitome of what a father should be. In Isaiah 9:6, God gives himself the name “Everlasting Father.” Wow. This is truly an oxymoron for today, yet in his wisdom, God knew exactly what what we would need in the here and now from him. He is a Father who will never abandon, neglect or abuse. Isaiah continues painting this picture with verses like Isaiah 41:10 – “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand.” God, our Father, will hold us with his right hand – his strong hand. And again, Isaiah 41:13 – “For I hold you by your right hand — I, the Lord your God. And I say to you, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here to help you.'”

Can’t you see the picture of a dad and a small child, hand in hand, walking together? This is the relationship that the Lord has designed us for. This is the relationship that he ensured we could have when he let go of the hand of his precious, only begotten Son and allowed it to be nailed to a cross. The only, begotten Son of God cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” so that we would never have to.

– Jay LeBlanc

I Bet David Had to be Thinking…

I would love to know what was going through David’s mind when Samuel anointed him king in front of his father and all his brothers. We are not told much in Scripture about this event other than it happened, and we aren’t told much about David’s life prior to this anointing. We can certainly assume, however, that most of his days were consumed with the monotony of watching sheep.

1 Samuel 16 records the event. Samuel comes to town on a mission from the Lord to anoint the next king, and he is told by the Lord to find a man named Jesse. One of Jesse’s sons is the chosen one. Verse 5 states that Samuel then invites Jesse and his sons to a sacrifice, performing a purification ceremony for them first in preparation.

Now, I think it is safe to assume that when Samuel found Jesse that he asked him to bring his sons to this ceremony and sacrifice. It is interesting that Jesse did not think to call for David. David was watching the sheep. Maybe Jesse was worried that his sheep wouldn’t be cared for if David came. Maybe it was a temporary lapse of judgment since such an honored guest as Samuel was in town. You would think, though, that a father would want all of his sons to experience this event. You would think he would send someone else to watch the sheep so David could also participate. David, however, was not thought of. He was not invited. I can’t help but wonder if this was a common occurrence in his life since he was the youngest and seeing how easily Jesse did not think to call for him.

I am not sure when David wrote Psalm 37 in relation to this event, but it is out of life experience that David writes:
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you your heart’s desires.
7 Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for him to act.

As David watched his father’s sheep day after day, maybe he wondered if the Lord really had a plan for his life. Maybe this non-invite was one in a long line of others. Maybe this is where you find yourself today — someone who is overlooked and uninvited, wanting to be faithful to the Lord, but having a hard time believing that he has a plan. David would encourage each of us who feel this way to make our highest delight the Lord himself, to be still in his presence and wait patiently for him to act.

On an ordinary day in David’s life, he got up just like he ordinarily did and watched his father’s sheep as an ordinary shepherd. Then, out of the blue, he went from shepherd to king. I bet David had to be thinking, “My heart’s desire could never have dreamed this big.”

– Jay LeBlanc

Provider & Provision

Do you ever stop to really think about the fact that the God of the universe wants an intimate relationship with you? I know that more often than not, I certainly take this wonderful truth for granted. The Lord not only desires this, but he provided the Way for it through the death, burial and resurrection of his only Son. When I question the Lord’s goodness and purpose in my life, this truth helps center me.

Psalm 103:7 is a short verse, but one that contains a glimpse into the heart of God and the desire he has for an intimate relationship with us. It states, “He revealed his character to Moses and his deeds to the people of Israel.”  Moses had the privilege of getting to the know the Provider intimately, where the people of Israel only knew the provision.  Moses got to know the character of God – who he is and why he does what he does. The people of Israel only knew what he did.

This verse convicts me so much. Am I content with only receiving the things God provides, or do I want, more than anything, God himself?  Do I love the Lord more for who he is, or do I love him because of what he gives me? As a dad, if my girls only wanted to spend time with me and get to know me because of what I provided them, I know I would not feel loved. I would feel used. How the Lord must feel the same way.

Yes, what the Lord provides is wonderful and worthy of our praise and thankfulness, and he does take great delight in providing everything that we need. However, if I am only focused on this, I will be like the people of Israel and only get to see the deeds. The Lord created us for so much more – an invitation to know him intimately. May this be our life-long pursuit!

Jay LeBlanc