Book Review: In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson


This is one of those rare books that has an absolutely ridiculous sounding name but is actually very good to read.  In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day is all about seeing your daily struggles as God-ordained opportunities to mature your own faith and grow His kingdom.  The title is a reference to the Biblical character Benaiah, who is found in II Samuel 23:20-21.  Benaiah (for those of us who have never heard of him) was a man who literally killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day – hence the name of the book.

Batterson introduces his thesis by sharing the story of Benaiah and examining it in some detail.  Then he sets out seven skills needed to properly view obstacles as God-ordained opportunities to thrive, spending a chapter examining each one: Overcoming adversity, Unlearning fears, embracing uncertainty, calculating risks, seizing opportunities, defying odds, and looking foolish.  The irony of reading this book for me is that I’ve got a couple of challenges I’m facing now in my jobs, and just last week (before I even picked up the book!) I was sharing with Melissa that while the challenges seem to be great in many ways I also feel that God has placed these in my path for a specific reason.  In short, I feel they are God-ordained opportunities for me to guide and help others while at the same time growing in my own faith.

The only complaint I had about the book is that at times I felt like I was re-reading Soulprint because there were some sections that seemed as if they were verbatim from his previous book (which I reviewed).  Batterson’s style is easy to read and enjoyable yet at the same time he raises some great points which require careful and deep consideration.  I’m going to recommend reading this book if you need help seeing your every-day circumstances as God-ordained opportunities to grow in Him, giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

One disclaimer, I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review, but am not required to post a complimentary review in exchange for it.

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What Do You Worship? (3.19)


The last two devotionals have shared insights from Soulprint by Mark Batterson.  Let’s continue with looking at another quote from his book:

“The Creator has hardwired you to worship.  In fact, you can’t not worship.  The question is not whether you will worship.  All of us worship all the time.  The question is, who will you worship?  And you have only two options: either you will worship God with a capital G or you will worship god with a lowercase g.  And if you choose the worship the god of you, you’ll become a disappointing little god to yourself and all who worship you.  Ultimately, all identity problems are really worship problems.  Identity issues are the result of worshiping the wrong thing.”

Last week’s sermon reminded us that we all struggle with idols in our lives, not man-made statues that we bow down and worship, but things that we put in front of God.  Go back and read the first five sentences of the quote above.  We all worship – even non-believers worship.  Yet are we worshiping the true God?

You’ve probably heard this before, but worship is giving worth to something.  More specifically, includes the following definitions:

  • adoring reverence or regard;
  • to feel an adoring reverence or regard for (any person or thing);
  • to feel an adoring reverence or regard.

Notice that it doesn’t specifically say “God” or even the more general term “Deity” in any of those definitions, but it does say it can apply to “any person or thing.”

How do you know what you worship?  Look at what is important – what you are unwilling to give up – and that’s what you worship.  And we can even worship worship!  Too often we talk about having to have a certain style of music, or a particular order of worship, so that we can worship.  I’ve heard people say things like, “I can’t go to a church service that doesn’t include the Lord’s Prayer!” or “If they’re not playing with a praise band I can’t worship.” or “We gotta have more hymns – can’t worship without a good, traditional hymn.”

Notice how I worded those statements – I’m not addressing preferences here (such as, “I worship more through hymns than praise choruses, but I can handle some praise and worship every now and then.” or “I prefer praise & worship music but hymns don’t I’m able to worship even when we sing some traditional hymns.”)  What I’m referring to above are those people who try to say that worship is only possible if “X” happens (whatever “X” may be).  And when we cross the line from expressing a personal preference to making a mandate that is not found in Scripture we have replaced God as the object of our worship and put in his place our own idea of what aught to be.

And that is a dangerous place to be – it is a place we can refer to as “idolatry”.

Next week I’ll begin to transition this into a look more at style in worship, but for this week take some time and ask yourself the question (or, better yet, ask God the question): “Is there anything in my life that comes before Him, particularly in how I worship?”   And then be prepared to hear His answer.

Cross Posted on I Respond to Jesus

What Do You Worship?


The last two devotionals have shared insights from Soulprint by Mark Batterson.  Let’s continue with looking at another quote from his book:

“The Creator has hardwired you to worship.  In fact, you can’t not worship.  The question is not whether you will worship.  All of us worship all the time.  The question is, who will you worship?  And you have only two options: either you will worship God with a capital G or you will worship god with a lowercase g.  And if you choose the worship the god of you, you’ll become a disappointing little god to yourself and all who worship you.  Ultimately, all identity problems are really worship problems.  Identity issues are the result of worshiping the wrong thing.”

Last week’s sermon reminded us that we all struggle with idols in our lives, not man-made statues that we bow down and worship, but things that we put in front of God.  Go back and read the first five sentences of the quote above.  We all worship – even non-believers worship.  Yet are we worshiping the true God?

You’ve probably heard this before, but worship is giving worth to something.  More specifically, includes the following definitions:

  • adoring reverence or regard;
  • to feel an adoring reverence or regard for (any person or thing);
  • to feel an adoring reverence or regard.

Notice that it doesn’t specifically say “God” or even the more general term “Deity” in any of those definitions, but it does say it can apply to “any person or thing.”

How do you know what you worship?  Look at what is important – what you are unwilling to give up – and that’s what you worship.  And we can even worship worship!  Too often we talk about having to have a certain style of music, or a particular order of worship, so that we can worship.  I’ve heard people say things like, “I can’t go to a church service that doesn’t include the Lord’s Prayer!” or “If they’re not playing with a praise band I can’t worship.” or “We gotta have more hymns – can’t worship without a good, traditional hymn.”

Notice how I worded those statements – I’m not addressing preferences here (such as, “I worship more through hymns than praise choruses, but I can handle some praise and worship every now and then.” or “I prefer praise & worship music but hymns don’t I’m able to worship even when we sing some traditional hymns.”)  What I’m referring to above are those people who try to say that worship is only possible if “X” happens (whatever “X” may be).  And when we cross the line from expressing a personal preference to making a mandate that is not found in Scripture we have replaced God as the object of our worship and put in his place our own idea of what aught to be.

And that is a dangerous place to be – it is a place we can refer to as “idolatry”.

Next week I’ll begin to transition this into a look more at style in worship, but for this week take some time and ask yourself the question (or, better yet, ask God the question): “Is there anything in my life that comes before Him, particularly in how I worship?”   And then be prepared to hear His answer.

Cross Posted on Grace Notes

Authentic, Engaging, and Responsive Worship


Note: Based on a devotional I wrote for my church choir, which is posted on Grace Notes

Last week I introduced you to Soulprint by Mark Batterson.  I’m going to continue sharing some insights I’ve gleamed from his book today. Last week we specifically looked at what I called “Undignified Worship”, so let’s pickup where we left off…

I asked the following question: “Why are we so afraid to demonstrate our love, praise, and worship of God in physical actions?”  and I also asked what it means to look desperate for Christ (remember the song we sang this morning?)  This morning at my church we sange Breathe, which contains as it’s chorus, “And I, I’m desperate for you.” I found it ironic that as I stood up on the stage this morning and looked over the congregation there were a good number of people who actually did not sing that particular song (many who do normally sing), yet the song was one of the louder songs that was sung this morning by the congregation – even though fewer people sang!  Now there are many reasons people won’t sing, including not knowing the song, and I’m not judging their choice to sing or not sing as right or wrong or good or bad. What I want to focus on is the physical posture people took as they sang (or didn’t sing) this song.  There were people in the congregation with their hands up, others had their hands out in front of them with palms up, some were sitting, some had their eyes closed, and some just stared and looked forward.

While I can’t judge people’s hearts and attitudes in regards to the words they sang, I can ask the question, “Does your physical posture reflect the words you are saying (singing)?”  And for some the answer will be “No”, and for some (but not all) of those whose answer is “No” the reason is fear.

Remember the reference last week to 2 Sam 6:22 when David was caught dancing in the street in response to the return of the Ark of the Covenant?  Some people didn’t really appreciate how he demonstrated his excitement regarding what God had done for Israel – they even ridiculed him for it.  Batterson writes,

“When you get excited about God, don’t expect everybody to get excited about your excitement.  Why?  Your intensity confronts their passivity.  When you completely yield yourself to God, it convicts the unconsecrated by disrupting their spiritual status quo…After all, it’s much easier to criticize others than it is to change ourselves.”

Here’s the point…  I have noticed a marked – and I mean a marked – transformation in my church choir over the past several months.  We’ve spent a lot of time looking at what it means to worship individually and as a choir, moving towards becoming a worship leading choir instead of a performing choir (some of the devotionals I’ve written for the choir can be found by clicking here or here).  They are beginning to truly worship during the service, at least when I can see see them (only the Call to Worship and choir anthem, since the rest of the time they are behind me as I lead my congregation).  The looks on their faces as they sing communicates more about the message of Jesus than any words in any song I choose.  When they look up (instead of down), when they smile (instead of frown), they communicate a love and passion for Jesus that goes beyond the words you say.

As choirs model worship for their congregations people will follow, and the same is true for worship leaders.  Don’t be afraid to smile, get excited, or even raise a hand now and again.  Put down the music/hymnal and don’t worry about singing in parts – just look up and sing the words.  Let the congregation see a choir of worshiping musicians and not just a choir of performing musicians – for there is a huge difference.  This whole worship thing starts with us.

Don’t be afraid to allow your posture to reflect your heart – even if it might seem a little uncomfortable at first.  And don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel like people are following you.  Remember whom you worship and sing for – and it’s not the congregation.

Here’s what I believe: as the choir leads in authentic, engaging, physically responsive worship, others will follow.  And God will smile.

Authentic, Engaging, and Responsive Worship (3.18)


Last week I introduced you to Soulprint by Mark Batterson.  I’m going to continue sharing some insights I’ve gleamed from his book today. Last week we specifically looked at what I called “Undignified Worship”, so let’s pickup where we left off…

I asked the following question: “Why are we so afraid to demonstrate our love, praise, and worship of God in physical actions?”  and I also asked what it means to look desperate for Christ (remember the song we sang this morning?)  I found it ironic that as I stood up on the stage this morning and looked over the congregation there were a good number of people who actually did not sing that particular song (many who do normally sing), yet the song was one of the louder songs that was sung this morning by the congregation – even though fewer people sang!  Now there are many reasons people won’t sing, including not knowing the song, and I’m not judging their choice to sing or not sing as right or wrong or good or bad. What I want to focus on is the physical posture people took as they sang (or didn’t sing) this song.  There were people in the congregation with their hands up, others had their hands out in front of them with palms up, some were sitting, some had their eyes closed, and some just stared and looked forward.

While I can’t judge people’s hearts and attitudes in regards to the words they sang, I can ask the question, “Does your physical posture reflect the words you are saying (singing)?”  And for some the answer will be “No”, and for some (but not all) of those whose answer is “No” the reason is fear.

Remember the reference last week to 2 Sam 6:22 when David was caught dancing in the street in response to the return of the Ark of the Covenant?  Some people didn’t really appreciate how he demonstrated his excitement regarding what God had done for Israel – they even ridiculed him for it.  Batterson writes,

“When you get excited about God, don’t expect everybody to get excited about your excitement.  Why?  Your intensity confronts their passivity.  When you completely yield yourself to God, it convicts the unconsecrated by disrupting their spiritual status quo…After all, it’s much easier to criticize others than it is to change ourselves.”

Here’s the point…  I have noticed a marked – and I mean a marked – transformation in the choir over the past several months.  You all are beginning to truly worship during the service, at least when I can see you (and that’s during the Call to Worship and the anthem).  The looks on your faces as you sing communicates more about the message of Jesus than any words in any song I choose.  When you look up (instead of down), when you smile (instead of frown), you communicate a love and passion for Jesus that goes beyond the words you say.  And you need to continue doing it.

As you model worship for our church, our congregation will follow.  Don’t be afraid to smile, get excited, or even raise a hand now and again.  Put your hymnal down and don’t worry about singing in parts – just look up and sing the words.  Let the congregation see a choir of worshiping musicians and not just a choir of performing musicians – for there is a huge difference.  This whole worship thing starts with us.

Don’t be afraid to allow your posture to reflect your heart – even if it might seem a little uncomfortable at first.  And don’t be discouraged if you don’t feel like people are following you.  Remember whom you worship and sing for – and it’s not the congregation.

Here’s what I believe – as you, the choir – lead in authentic, engaging, physically responsive worship, others will follow.  And God will smile.

Undignified Worship (3.17)


Cross posted on I Respond to Jesus

This past week I read a book entitled Soulprint by Mark Batterson, a pastor up in Washington, DC (for a review of the book click here).  While worship is not the focus of the book, Batterson shares some great thoughts on the subject which are relevant to our work as a choir.

Let’s begin by reminding ourselves that one of the main purposes of our choir is to lead people in worship.  Now I’ve said before that worship isn’t limited to the music that is sung and performed on Sunday mornings, but for the purposes of our discussion today I am going to limit it to that.  In the back of our minds, though, let’s remember that we worship all the time in many ways – not just via music.  Music is a tool of worship, but it is one tool among many.  Our job as a choir is to model the use of this particular tool in an effort to lead people to worship as well.

This morning as we sang a congregational song that made a reference to “lifting my hands” I was struck by the fact that I only saw one or two people in the entire congregation lift their hands.  And, shame on me, I wasn’t one of those few.  It struck me that here we were singing to God that we loved him so much we were willing even to lift our hands up, yet all we (and I say “we” because I fit in here, too) had were hollow words that were not backed up by concrete actions.  Batterson writes in his book that,

“Religion is about protocol.  Following Jesus is all about desperation.  It’s about a God who is desperate for us and a people who are desperate for Him.” (emphasis mine)

Would you describe your relationship with Christ as one where you are “desperate” for him?  Next week we’re going to sing a song in the AM service as a congregation that cries out, “I’m desperate for you.”  But what does desperation look like?  While I might not know exactly what it looks like, I can tell what it does not look like, and what it does not look like is what most of us were looking like this morning.

Why are we so afraid to demonstrate our love, praise, and worship of God in physical actions?  I’m not suggesting here that we need to be “more charismatic” or  “Pentecostal” with jumping and dancing and speaking in tongues (I’m also not saying there is necessarily anything wrong with any of that, either – don’t get distracted by the reference).  What I am asking is why we are afraid to worship God in ways that sometimes take us out of our comfort zone.  One comfort zone for our church (as a whole) is an unwillingness to “raise our hands” in worship and/or surrender to God.

I’m going to suggest here that one main reason (maybe not the only one, but a large one) is found in both our insecurity and our pride (now that seems like an oxymoron!).  Insecurity because we are afraid of what others may say or think, or maybe we even struggle with truly believing God is there, and pride simply because we don’t want to look foolish (again, being afraid of what others may think or say about us).  But here’s the real question: Why does it matter what others think or say?  Isn’t God the only one who matters?  Do we worship through song and lifting of hands for others or for Him?  Batterson writes, “Pride is simply the failure to praise.  And the lack of praise always gives rise to pride.”  After being accused of making a fool of himself by dancing “half-naked” in front of all Israel, David replied, “I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.” (2 Sam 6:22).

Now, again, I am not suggesting we all get “half-naked” next week during the service and start dancing around the sanctuary during the worship service.  What I am suggesting is that perhaps we do need to be a little less afraid of what others think of our worship and more focused on what God thinks of our worship.  I am suggesting that we be more willing to be so excited about what God has done for us that people can see it in how we act.  It’s been said so many times it’s almost cliché, but it’s still true: too many of us get more excited about our favorite team winning a big game than we do about our God winning us salvation….   What does that say about what are we worship?