In my last blog, I pray that I was successful in proving that having a faith community is not naturally desired, however it’s an  essential need to our innermost being and more importantly not optional.

One of the hurdles that we must manage to have an effective community is “offense”. Versions of Luke 17:1 translate Jesus
declaring that offense is unavoidable, it will come. In the book, The Bait of Satan by Jon Bevere, he says that the word offense can be translated as a trap. In other words when you have offended someone you have laid in front of them an opportunity to walk advertently/ inadvertently into sin.  
Now offense carries with it a different type of weight other than sin or sin issues. Not that offense is a greater degree of sin but
scripture teaches us that offense has a much larger impact. Proverbs 18:9 “A brother offended is more unyielding than a strong city, and quarreling is like the bars of a castle.” When of our brother is offended gaining his trust and confidence in the
community has suffered a tremendous blow. 
So… there are two nuggets that I would like to leave you with, in an effort to build more efficient communities. We must slow both the propensity to offend and to be offended. You are either guilty of one or both. Let us examine ourselves. 
First, those who easily offend are guilty of, quite frankly, laziness. Ephesians 4:29 says,” Let no corrupting talk come out of
your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” Offenders are refusing to calculate the potential consequences of their words and/or actions. When we are intentional about saying and doing things that would benefit our brothers, there will be fewer offenses committed.

Second, those often offended are just as cancerous as those who offend. Ephesians urges us to “bear with one another in love” or make allowance for one another’s faults. We are all sinful people whether by omission or commission when we fail to acknowledge that we have also failed to acknowledge the sinful behavior we are prone to. We must allow our brothers grace when they fail to meet Christ’s standards and we must prepare ourselves to meet sinful actions with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Meaning we must only respond to wrong with right, we must be committed to Christ’s way above how we feel, we must be gentle with our brothers even as we correct wrong and we must train ourselves to be able to
endure wrong without sinful response.
So, whether you are someone who easily offends or one who is easily offended, we must come up to the level of Christ. We must trust that the grace of God is enough to keep and bridle our words and actions. We must also trust that the grace of God will be able to protect us and keep us and we don’t need to defend ourselves. We must continue to commit ourselves to God’s idea of community and not relinquish it!
Oh the blood of Jesus…. It washed us! It cleansed us! It made us whole! It paid our pardon! How precious the blood of our Christ! Out of all of the wonderful things that the blood did, how often do we think about the fact that that blood birthed us into a brand new family. 

Yes, I know that you are a “Jones” or a “Robinson” but when you admitted that you were your own worst enemy and  abandoned your will for the“call of Christ”, something else happened. You joined and army of hopeless, wounded and forgotten warriors, who’ve found life’s meaning in Christ! You weren’t the first and you won’t be the last! This new family, organism and body has infinite importance and is precisely the mechanism Christ will use to announce His rule and reign on earth. Dietrich Bonheoffer says, “If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ.” 
Allow me to provide three truths about community that will bring greater awareness to its role in our faith walk.

First, it’s not optional! In the same way that you were born into your biological family and could not choose your siblings, you were also born into a new spiritual family. This family is not an organization, you can’t vote people in and you can’t vote people out. To choose to disassociate yourself with other members of your new family is equivalent to gauging your eyes out, as we are now one body. We can’t function without each other. 

Second, it’s a necessity! God said in Genesis, “it’s not good that man should be alone.” If you have convinced yourself that you don’t need anything else but God then you are boldly standing in opposition to the perfect decree of the father. Think about it, we can’t enjoy a new flavor of ice cream without each other. We can’t even be miserable by ourselves without calling some one to express our concerns with. Let’s face it a part of us has been wired to need other humans, more importantly other  believers.

Third, it’s not natural! “Even though community is one of the deepest needs of our heart, there’s a force field in the world that make it so hard”-- (Tim Keller). We have been socialized to more easily discern what we don’t have in common than what we do. We’ve been taught to take pride in our heritage and our gender and make sure that we don’t allow others to devalue it. We have been taught to look out for ourselves above all costs, even if that comes at the expense of others. 
We might not be willing
to acknowledge it right off but community is what we need and what we probably
  long for. “Christian Community” is the place that you will be comforted when
  hurting, where we’ll share in your triumphs. It’s the place where you find
  correction when you’re wrong, where you’re encouraged to grow. Without it you
  will not survive and your decision to live outside of it is a decision to live
  outside of the fellowship of our Christ. Keller also says, “Christians come
  together not by other commonalities but a common salvation to which Jesus is
  owed a common allegiance.” I beg of you brother/ sister take your place next to
  the rest of your family. We’re not perfect and neither are you but we’re much
  better together than we are apart!

I finally have had a chance to sit down and reflect...And, there is no better time than this, to write my first blog and make it about my first, national tour experience. 
Every time the phone rings I can guarantee that it's someone I know, getting ready to ask, "How's the tour going?" in their most excited voice. I have to be careful when I respond though, to not crush anyone's genuine excitement for me or misrepresent the truth. So, I respond with my most positive tone, "It's better than expected and yet more challenging than I could've ever anticipated." This usually leaves people dazed and confused. 

With the first quarter of the tour behind me, I am so thankful for the opportunity to the people in Phoenix, Amarillo, as well as other cities to be "Automatic". It's very exciting to see the twitter feed and to see people being blessed by my music. I'm so excited for my next project! I literally think I might have two features a song! I am also excited about the connections I've made
and the alliances I've created that will last a lifetime.
However, I believe that it was through my challenges that I've actually experienced the most fulfillment. For those who don't know, I was approached with this opportunity to open up for the Move Tour, but that opportunity cost a significant amount of money. Money, I didn't have! But then God has moved the heart's of people to believe in the grace that He has placed on my life and that was nothing short of humbling. Not long after being approached, I was off to new cities where I hoped to be greeted as a brother in the Lord, but I very quickly realized that Christ like behavior is powerfully suppressed with the desire to be entertained and hear the next best thing. So,the mental anguish and questioning began which few artists are prepared to handle, though my mentor did a good job trying to prepare me. Often I experienced questions like: Will they like me? Am I
good enough? Should I even be doing this? just to give a few. At some points I longed to be in my wife's arms and to see my boys look at me as if I was the coolest person on earth. After experiencing a couple of broken promises and hearing the green room stories from the "Headliners", I quickly realized that just because the genre is called "Christian Music", Christ-like behavior is sometimes seldom seen.
My young industry friends and I talk long and hard about the state of the industry. We spend a lot of time analyzing what's wrong with the industry and what direction it's heading in.  Of course, just like any good Christian boy would, I tell myself and my other young industry friends that, "I would never do that." I vow to never become a slave to the art of music. I vow to make sure that Christ is always clearly seen in my music. I vow to never allow myself to be aligned with individuals, even professed Christians, who do not exhibit the character of Christ. I vow to never let success and fame change me. However, one of my worst fears is knowing that sinful desires deeply seated in my heart are waiting to call my bluff on all those wonderful vows I so confidently professed. 
Looking back on the first leg of tour life I realize I absolutely don't have a shot without Christ. I'm sure when people see"shot" they immediately think that means having a shot at success but that's not it all. I don't have a shot of making it out of this industry without being torn to pieces, compromising all of my values, and embarrassing my faith and family unless Christ is strong in me.  I don't care what I sell or don't I just want to be found faithfully exalting Christ and encouraging God's people to place their hope and devotion in Him. (I say this with the utmost humility and knowledge that every time I minister, these convictions will be challenged and sometimes I may buckle under pressure.)

I heard a message on the way back from Columbia, South Carolina where I sold a whopping 2 cds (good enough to pay for two meals at Chic-Fil-A). Lol!!! The message arrived at a place where the speaker said that for the people who are the closest to God they've almost all said that there were long periods in their lives where God seemed totally absent. The preacher said that at these times where God seemed unresponsive that their motives, dreams and love for Christ were purified. Embarrassed I ask myself, "Why am I doing this? For them or for Him? The song says,  "What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life, is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy..." So, I thank God for reminding me that this industry can't satisfy me! I also thank God because as he purifies me, my motives and desires He becomes clearer, His touch more warm and He becomes altogether sweeter as the days go by! Stay tuned for my blog on the second half of the tour and if you feel led sow into what God is doing in me, if not I love you!

 Grace and Peace