An Update From Me

So far 2017 has been a year in which I have spent over a month total in East Africa!  I've been home for a couple weeks now, with the second of two trips done and I am happy to stay put for a while!  Travel is amazing but it's always nice to be home! The first trip I took was a family trip that Lyn and I have been dreaming about for years!  We partner with an organization called Kids Alive International and have sponsored a child in Kenya with them for years.  Lyn and I were fortunate enough to be able to travel and meet her in 2012, and dreamed of one day taking our three boys on a trip to Kenya, where they could meet her and we could all serve together in the various Kids Alive Kenya homes.  

It was such an amazing time to have as a family and we cannot say enough good things about Kids Alive.  They do not just provide relief from poverty but have a wholistic view when it comes to vulnerable orphans, impoverished families and broken communities.  Wherever there is a Kids Alive home you can be sure that the community there is a better place because of them, that families are being kept together and supported where possible, and that the most vulnerable children are being cared for while having their physical and spiritual needs met!  [If you currently do not partner with a global organization, I would urge you to consider saving a life with Kids Alive!] 

We pray that this trip impacts our boys for the rest of their lives, and gives them a giant view of this world and our God at work in it...AND if you'd like to hear more about it, you can listen to my wife Lyn tell more about it on her podcast, By Design, Episode #34.

Us with our precious Judy at the Mitaboni Kids Alive home.

Us with our precious Judy at the Mitaboni Kids Alive home.

Leading worship with the Nairobi Chapel team.

Leading worship with the Nairobi Chapel team.

Our boys with newly made friends at the Mitaboni Kids Alive home.

Our boys with newly made friends at the Mitaboni Kids Alive home.

The boys at Karundas Kids Alive home with Mt. Kenya in the background.

The boys at Karundas Kids Alive home with Mt. Kenya in the background.

Lyn, hanging with the kids and the Kids Alive, Hall Mead school.

Lyn, hanging with the kids and the Kids Alive, Hall Mead school.

The second trip I was able to take two weeks after the return of the first was a trip with Sevenglory, in partnership with Calvary Church and the Nairobi Chapel.  I am the Worship Leader for Calvary Church in Valparaiso, IN and as a church, we partner with The Nairobi Chapel to plant churches on the African continent.  We have partnered to plant churches in Liberia, Rwanda and now Uganda.  We help support the pastors as they begin the church-- and we also send teams to go and serve as well as to encourage.  We believe in true partnership in missions and that means not only sending funds but showing up as well.  It also means that we believe very strongly that the best people to plant churches are people that are native to the country or area in which the church will be planted. It makes so much sense culturally and very practically.  We then play a supporting role and serve in whatever way we can that makes the most sense for that local church.

All that to say, that this was a trip where the plan was to visit two of the church plants that we partner with, (Trinity Chapel in Kampala, Uganda and Trinity Chapel in Kigali, Rwanda) to play concerts and also to lead worship in partnership with some friends from Nairobi Chapel. We were able to be there for the launch of the church in Kampala!  Over the course of the two weeks we were able to play in Kampala, Kigali, and in Nairobi and it was an amazing time!  We saw people come to Christ, we were able to worship alongside brother's and sisters from around the world, we played concerts, did a little dancing, and hopefully were able to be an encouragement to our partners!  They truly blessed and encouraged us!  God did some amazing things on the trip and it was such a privilege to be able to go!  

It never ceases to amaze me at just how BIG our God is and how He is at work around the world.  When you travel around the world and get to worship with other believers you really get to see first hand that we truly are ONE in Christ and that God is at work in His church!  

Concert at Kampala International University

Concert at Kampala International University

A little worship practice that just simply turned into worship.

A little worship practice that just simply turned into worship.

Visiting a home in Kigali, where sex workers and their children are cared for and given an opportunity to change their lives.

Visiting a home in Kigali, where sex workers and their children are cared for and given an opportunity to change their lives.

A night of worship in Kigali with worship leaders and others from around the city.

A night of worship in Kigali with worship leaders and others from around the city.

Our final concert at the Kivuli Festival in Nairobi.

Our final concert at the Kivuli Festival in Nairobi.

After over a month spent in Africa this year, around 15 flights, over 50 security checkpoints and countless bags of luggage and gear, it is good to be home in Valpo, leading worship at Calvary!  My wife and I love where God has us, are overwhelmed by the opportunities He has given us and are committed to keeping our hands open and our feet ready to GO where He leads us.  Our God is bigger than we can fathom, His ways are higher than our ways and so we want to follow His call and be obedient when He opens doors and brings opportunities our way!

Kurt Felsman Blog

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What About Them? (The Problem Of Comparison)

This morning I was reading in John chapter 21, where Jesus had appeared for a third time to his disciples after his resurrection.  In verse 15 Jesus begins a conversation with Peter by challenging Peter to "feed his sheep". Jesus then goes on to let Peter know that he will have to possibly suffer in death for God’s glory.  

I find it fascinating that Peter's first inclination was to look back over his shoulder to John, the "disciple Jesus loved",  and to say, "What about him Lord?”.  Jesus basically tells Peter to just worry about himself and his own calling to follow.

I find passages like this refreshing because for me, it puts flesh and bones on the people in the bible.  I can so relate to Peter at times!  It can be so tempting to look at other people and wonder, “What about them Lord?”…“Why do they get to have the success?”…”Why don’t they have to walk through difficulty?”.

So often, we are prone to look to a fellow brother or sister in Christ and to watch the race that they are running compared to the race that Christ has called us to run.  We can find it so hard to stay in our lanes, being faithful to the race that Christ has called us to.  

We compare talents, we compare successes and we compare life circumstances.  More often than not, the temptation comes when we are in a season of difficulty, when we're struggling, or when we are called to walk through a tough set of circumstances.  It can also be tempting to compare when we see others experience blessing.

At times, we all want to ask, “Why me and not them?" or “Why them and not me?”.  Comparison can be an awful thing because if it remains unchecked, it can create a bitterness in us and an addiction to looking at others lives and situations rather than being faithful to our own calling.  It causes us to totally lose our effectiveness.

This morning I needed the Holy Spirit to remind me that I am called to follow Christ and to run the race He has set for me.  In Hebrews, the author reminds us that we are called to run our race with perseverance throwing off sin that so easily in tangles and ensnares us.  I need to fight the urge to look at others and to compare the ways God has blessed them, with my calling.  My own race alone is more than I can handle without trying to imitate and compare with someone else's race!

Let's remind ourselves today that God has called each of us to live for his glory no matter what He brings our way.  Let's be confident that our God is refining us in a way that is totally unique from anything else and anyone else.

He has plans for each of us individually to prosper and not to harm us. Plans for good!  Our God is good and we need to be able to trust Him enough that no matter what he allows to enter our lives, we can rest in the fact that he's bringing about good, that he loves us more than anything we could imagine and that we are called to persevere for his glory and our good.

If we can begin to see life this way, then we can look at other's lives and the things God has called them to. Rather than compare, we can then encourage them in all joy, with all sincerity.

This morning I am choosing to be confident that my God is working all things together for good in my life.  I’m choosing to embrace the road He has me on and to resist the comparison game.  I’m also choosing to be an encouragement to others as they run the race God has called them to.

 

Kurt Felsman Blog

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Come Bless The Lord

So, I finally got around to asking a couple of my friends to help me do some acoustic videos for Majesty & Mystery!  Come Bless The Lord is the first one, and I hope and pray that it blesses you and that it causes your heart to turn to praise!  This song was written, based on Psalm 103 and it is basically a charge to our souls to praise our God in view of all that He is and all that He has done.  When we get a glimpse of God's greatness and His goodness, we cannot help but to worship with thanksgiving!  Hope you enjoy!

Thanks,

Kurt

Kurt Felsman Blog

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Coming Soon......

I am really excited to be able to announce that on June 21st, 2016 CalvaryLIVE will be releasing our latest album WHO YOU ARE!  It has been an awesome journey to work with some amazingly gifted and passionate people on this project.  I have had a blast managing the process and can't wait to share the songs, the sounds and this night of worship! We will be releasing hard copies two days early at Calvary Church's annual Father's Day in the Park service and so if you are in the Valparaiso, IN area you don't want to miss it!   I love being a worship leader at Calvary Church and love the team I get to work with!  God has blessed us with a team who's hearts are for worship and that comes through in every song on this album.  I am praying that as we get ready to release this album that these songs will be vehicles in peoples lives to worship our God! 

Kurt Felsman Blog

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A Place For Fear

“Aslan is a lion- the Lion, the great Lion." "Ooh" said Susan. "I'd thought he was a man. Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion"..."Safe?" said Mr Beaver ..."Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good. He's the King, I tell you.”
―C.S. Lewis - The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe


This is probably one of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis! It makes me think deeply about God and His nature.  There is so much truth contained in this little quote, and for me it paints a beautiful picture.  All goodness, and all glory!  Susan had a picture of what Aslan would be like...an Aslan that she would feel safe and comfortable with.

The truth is that all of us are probably guilty when it comes to making God into our own image.  We all have a natural disposition when it comes to viewing God. We, as fallen people, can tend to believe He is exactly what we think we need, or want Him to be.  Whatever our bent, we can be very good at making a god that suits us, and justifies our natural inclinations rather than letting the truth of who God is inform our lives and our worship.

One thing that has struck me lately in scripture, is how many times men and women are told not to be afraid after they have experienced the glory of God in some way.  Throughout scripture, when humans come into contact with God’s immense glory, their first response is to be afraid and or to fall in worship.  Whether it is the voice of God from the mountain, a messenger of the Lord to men like Joshua and Gideon, shepherds seeing hosts of angels, or disciples seeing Christ transfigured and hearing the voice of God. In every case, the people involved needed to be told not to be afraid and this fear led them to humble worship and holy awe.

One of my favorite occurrences of this is in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ resurrection (Matthew 28:1-10). The women go to the tomb and there is a violent earthquake because an angel of the Lord “comes down” from heaven!  Wow!  Picture that!  The guards are so afraid, they fall down as if dead!  It is impossible for us to even comprehend the sheer terror and glory in this scene!  Then the angel turns to the women, and immediately tells them not to be afraid. "Jesus is not here, he has risen."  As they turn to leave the tomb, suddenly Jesus appears and greets them!

What’s fascinating is that the women's first response upon seeing the resurrected Christ, is not to leap into His arms in joy, or to gush all over Him. They knew Jesus well and had spent much time with Him!  Yet they don't approach him with a casual familiarity. They are face down, clutching his feet in worship! When confronted with heaven’s glory they are terrified and it leads to pure worship!

Sometimes I wonder if there is a certain humility we are lacking in many of our worship services.  Is it possible that we can get a little too comfortable and familiar with it all?  Could it be that we are worshiping a god we have created?  A god who is safe for our sin nature?  I worry that in many of our churches we gather yet fail to see or feel the weight of it all. I worry that at times we see Jesus as our “bro” or a “dispenser” of love and grace while failing to see His glory and majesty!  Should we be afraid of God?  No, but we are to fear Him.  There is a difference. Scripture tells us that we are to approach the throne boldly!  But as we come boldly, could it be that we are coming proudly or casually?  There is nothing casual about our God and we have to see His goodness in light of His glory. This produces true humility and true adoration in worship.  I am not saying that we need to see God as a harsh dictator. That would be the opposite ditch on the side of the road.

We cannot view God’s love outside of viewing His glory, and we cannot only regard His glory outside of seeing His love.  We need to maintain the balance that brings true humility in worship. A balance that lets us feel our smallness. When we view what we have been given by Christ, in light of His immense glory, it produces genuine worship in Spirit and in truth.  Our God is not contained in our comfy boxes and we belong, like the women at the tomb, humbly worshiping at His feet.  He loves us more than we can grasp and He is good beyond measure! When you consider such lavishness from such glory, directed towards such undeserving people, it is staggeringly humbling and all that is left to do is to fall and worship.  As we view God, let's not get comfortable.  Let's be humbled and awed that this immensely holy God, full of glory, saw fit to call us His own and to find us with His grace.  Let's not be afraid, but pray that the realization of who He is,  would drive us to worship!

 

Kurt Felsman Blog

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The Most Attractive Thing

Is there something about yourself that you like?  A quality you possess that you would point to and say, "I like this about me."?  Is it your looks, your personality or an ability you have?  Maybe you are gifted at something uniquely over others, or maybe you have worked really hard to grow a talent you have, or to get to a position you now hold. The truth is that we all struggle from time to time with wanting to have an attractiveness about us.  We want to be seen, to be loved and desired.  We want to matter.  This is not only true for us individually, but it can also be seen at work in the church today.  We have this message...this good news but how do we get people to listen?  The buzz word of the day is "RELEVANT".  

Many churches have awoken to the fact that if they are going to be effective, then they need to be attractive.  In a movement led by churches like North Point in Atlanta, many churches are giving much more thought to their attractiveness.  They are thinking through what they are actually saying to the culture around them by what they offer, what they say, and how they appear.  At Calvary Church, where I lead worship, we like to say that we have the coffee, now let's make the cup look good!

In many modern, growing churches, you will find much attention being payed to things like lighting, haze, coffee, good signage, overall ambiance and a welcoming, easily accessible atmosphere.  Much of the growing church has realized that we need to take seriously how we are perceived by the world around us.  All of this, in my opinion has an important place and deserves our attention, but is there a line?  We SHOULD care about how easy or difficult we make it for people to walk into our churches and hear the gospel, but can we go too far?

I really don't have any answers, and don't get me wrong, I am a huge fan of lighting, haze, coffee and a good atmosphere!  I can't help but wonder though, if sometimes in churches across North America, we get it backwards.  Are there cases where we are going too far and are trying to make Christ himself more attractive, losing sight of the fact that it is Christ that makes US attractive?  Paul hits the nail on the head when in Romans 7:18 he states that good is not found in us. While we may have the mind to want to be good, we lack the power to produce anything good on our own strength.(paraphrase)  We don't have in ourselves, what people really need.

Are there situations where because of our desperate desire to be "normal" and "accepted", that we go to far?  In 1 Peter 2:7-8 we are told that Christ, who is the cornerstone, is both a stumbling block and an offense to some.  The gospel message is the ultimate hope for all to hear, but we need to remember that it is also controversial, counter cultural, and offensive to our very sin nature!  Christ himself said that he did not come to bring peace but a sword. (Matthew 10:34) In other words, when you have a segment of people living for Christ, you will always have another group opposed to it.  It can ruin families and friendships.  It can cost you jobs and social status. Culture will not embrace people living for Christ and following His commands because Jesus commands us to be people who are radically loving, extremely gracious, full of the Holy Spirit and a people committed to living lives of holiness.  If we are doing that as a church well, there will be opposition.

I guess where I come down on this topic is that YES, let's be committed to making our churches places that are welcoming, culturally relevant, and a safe place for people to come.  Our churches should be harbors of safety!  We should be loving because Christ loved us. We should be gracious because we were shown grace and because we were welcomed in, totally undeservedly, we should be the most welcoming people and places that exist.  However, our striving to be relevant should stop at the gospel message itself.  We can present the good news of Christ in relevant ways but let's never think we must add to or take away from it to make it "easier" for people to hear.

Let's never be so concerned about being liked by culture, that we begin to try to frame the gospel in a more "appealing" manner.  If we begin to try to make Christ more palatable to the world around us, we have failed miserably.  We are not in the business of making God attractive to people!  He is in the business of making us attractive for Himself first and then to a lost world. We are to be light and salt and the only way that we can be, is if the world sees the glory of God shining through our lives. Let's serve good coffee, make a great atmosphere, and welcome people with open arms, but our ultimate focus should be on becoming more like Christ!  Because, at the end of the day, the world doesn't need to see us or our shallow attempts to sell them anything, they need to see Jesus. He is by far, and forever will be, the most attractive thing we have to offer!

Kurt Felsman Blog

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God In His Place

Do you ever wonder why it can be so easy to give time and effort to some things, but when it comes to our relationship with God and His worship, it can seem, at times,  an uphill battle?  We can all identify with being so preoccupied with ourselves and our stuff all week, that come Sunday, it's all we can do to "jar" ourselves awake spiritually for a couple of hours. I would venture to say that for many of us, this is all too common and we find ourselves stuck in something of a holding pattern, living out a weak faith wondering what is wrong. Why do we find worship and relationship so hard at times, and why doesn't it get easier as the days and sometimes years roll by?  So often, we try to "get by" from Sunday to Sunday and can't seem to live a consistent "everyday" faith where our hearts are always engaged in the worship of God.

There are many small reasons for the state of our worship, or lack of, but I'll venture a guess that all the smaller reasons and life patterns that lead to a poor worship life originate in one mindset: An improper view of who God is that results in a failure to give Him the place He is due in our lives. 

In the book, The Pursuit Of God by A.W. Tozer, there is a chapter dedicated to the relationship between God and man, Creator and the created. Tozer states that the difficulties we have in worship can be traced to an upset in the proper relationship between God and man. We have skewed it. He touches on many things in this particular chapter but what I want to primarily focus on is our view of God and how it relates to our level of worship.

It seems to me that one of the gravest situations today in our churches is that we at times, have taken God and re-made him. We have created a being that we can understand and explain and that we feel comfortable with.  A ”safe” God.  We have tried to create a God that waits on hold for us while we do what we want.  Then when we feel like being spiritual, we expect Him to show up and meet our needs.  The problem here is obvious: God is the great "I AM," not the "I Am…whatever you need me to be."   Tozer puts it this way, "When He (God) speaks in the first person He says, "I AM"; when we speak of Him we say, "He is"; when we speak to Him we say, "You are". Everyone and everything measures from that fixed point." (I have paraphrased Tozer's language a bit.)

There is no changing Him and there is no re-making Him.  God is forever faithful, unchanging and so far beyond our small human minds. He has chosen to reveal Himself to us through his Word (written and spoken), through His Spirit and through all of His works.  Still we find Him beyond grasping.  He simply is who He is.  Why do we think that we, in our frailty, can change this God to suit our needs? God is to be taken wholly, with NO exceptions. He is the Master of the universe, Creator of the galaxy, the most high God, and Savior of our souls. He deserves ALL glory, ALL honor and ALL praise. Any failure to ascribe Him what He is due (Psalm 29) is a failure on our part to recognize Him rightfully.  

This is what it is to worship Him in truth. Until we rightly acknowledge who He is, we will never be able to have a meaningful relationship with Him and meaningful worship of Him.  It starts with a heart that is hungry, and a willingness to take stock of our own lives.  If we are not willing to seek God on His terms and to live our lives in that light, then we have no right to expect Him to work in our hearts and in our churches.  But, just as David said to his son Solomon as his life was ending, (1 Chronicles 28:9)  if we acknowledge God for who He is and seek Him, He will be found . 

The Creator of the universe desires relationship with you and me, and this is no small thing. Unfortunately, we so often become too busy with ourselves to take God up on this offer.  Why, oh why, do we expect God to work around our schedules and at our whims?  You and I have been extended the most glorious opportunity ever conceived. Let us view ourselves in the proper light and humbly seek His face because He desires it.  Not when it suits us, but as part of our very being.  Let our lives be bent toward the pursuit of Him, and let us live out our days knowing who we are, in light of who God is. 

 

Kurt Felsman Blog

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CalvaryLIVE

As you may or may not know, I am the Worship Director at Calvary Church in Valparaiso, IN.  We have branded our worship team as CalvaryLIVE and I am excited to announce that in the spring of 2016 we will be releasing our second full length worship album entitled WHO YOU ARE. This has been such a fun project to be a part of!

We recently had a night where we gathered some 400 of our congregation and recorded all the songs, and their voices together, live.  It was such a great night and I can't wait to hear the final product! We have a lot of work to do throughout February and March with overdubs, mixing and mastering.

We will also be releasing full song videos as well when the album is released.  Below are some screen shots of the event!

Kurt Felsman Blog

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