Worship

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May 4

Tuesday, May 4th, 2021

Yesterday’s Living in the Shadow devotion was on pride and arrogance.  God must have felt I needed to learn something more because I read 2 Cor. 12 this morning, particularly emphasizing verses 7-10. 

Background: It is Paul’s account of his “trip” or visit to the third heaven. He wasn’t sure if was in the body or in spirit but he did come to a very solid conclusion:

“So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so  that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (7-10)

There is no question is Paul’s mind why that thorn was given to him: to keep him from getting proud. In fact, whatever the thorn was hit him hard. It brought him low. It took whatever pride was there and dumped it. Pride rears its ugly head…here comes the “reminder” thorn. It is humbling to be brought low or to be constantly reminded of our weakness. Such was Paul. Such is us.

What do you do about your weakness? How do you view them-as a curse or a blessing?

“Father, help me to keep a handle on my pride even it it means the thorn rears its ugly head. But, if it does, help me to run to You and see You glorified through it.”

March 26

Friday, March 26th, 2021

If there is one word which has reached epic proportions today in weight it is “tolerance.” Although most often not in a good way. I have said over and over: “Those who want and preach tolerance become the most intolerant of all when you disagree with them.”

Today, intolerance has become the worst sin in the world’s eyes and tolerance the highest good (if and only if you agree with them). To be principled or to have informed moral convictions is to be declared intolerant, out of touch, and above all, mean-spirited. Those who are “tolerant,” those who will tolerate anything and everything, take the high moral ground. And please! Don’t disagree with them! You become an intolerant bigot.

In the OT there is a great story and a great illustration to this whole mess. It is in Numbers 25.  Thanks to Balaam’s word to Balak, the people of Israel began to intermingle and intermarry with the Midianite women. This resulted in the acceptance of and worship of foreign gods, particularly Baal. One incident stands out.  God is extremely angry and Moses is confronting the people and many of them are in repenting of their sin. Zimri comes into the midst of the people repenting and takes a foreign women into the tabernacle and lays with her.

The scene is shocking to say the least. But when Phinehas, a grandson of Aaron sees what is happening, he goes into the tabernacle, and filled with the Holy Spirit and holy outrage, kills them both with a spear through their belly. J.B. Phillips once said, “It’s not for nothing that the Spirit God has given to us is called the Holy Spirit.

If that happened today, there would be outrage. It wouldn’t be holy and it wouldn’t be for God’s cause. People would be outraged that Phinehas stood up for a righteous and holy God. He would have been cancelled or black-balled or bullied (or all three) because he dared to take a stand for what he believed to be right. I’d say it is time for the church- pastors, leaders, and individuals- to stand up for the truth and righteousness. To be called “intolerant” just very well might a badge of honor worth wearing.

“Father, like Phinehas help me to take a stand for the righteous and holy God You are. Help me not be concerned about  the consequences but to be willing to stand for You.”

March 18

Thursday, March 18th, 2021

So…why do I get up every morning? The short answer is so I can do what I need to do to live. I mean, if I didn’t get up but stayed in bed all day, I’m not sure I’d have a job. I know for some, because of depression,  getting out of bed is a chore. That is a legitimate reason. But for me? Getting out of bed is a must.

Let’s narrow that question down a little more. Why do I get out of bed at 3:30 every morning? (Some say it’s because I’m insane, that I’ve got a screw loose somewhere). Maybe so. 🙂 But…seriously, why?

The real short answer is not related at all to my job or my self-perception of what a lazy person might be. I get up early to be alone with God. I’m a morning person so I choose to have my time in the morning before I start the meat of my day.  The time of day is not important. What is in important is that I do have this time. Psalm 91: 1-2 says, “Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God , and I trust him.” (NLT)

I want to be with Him. Back in 1999 I went through a rejuvenation of my faith.  Tami had moved back from Florida, moved in with us, and got a job teaching in town north of where we lived. On Sunday nights she began attending another church in town and then talked about their worship. It sounded like what my thirsty soul needed so I asked her if she minded that I tagged along. Of course she didn’t. It meant I would drive and usually buy us something to eat afterwards. 🙂 So we started going together. What a balm! During that time I heard a song which impacted me but I eventually lost track of it. Several months ago I looked for it. I searched everywhere. I even asked the pastor of the church, who was the Worship Pastor/leader at that time, if he knew the name of the song, or the singer, or where I might find it. He came up blank so I gave up figuring, “Oh well, Nice try. It is not to be.” Until this past weekend I got a wild hair while looking for some worship music on Spotify. I knew the name of the song and for some reason the name “Ian” came to mind. So I googled it by typing in the name of the song and “Ian.” Eureka! Lo, and behold, that was it.  The song: Encounter. The artist: Ian White. The link to that song is right here.

And that is why I get up so early. I want to have an Encounter with the Living God.  I want to be sheltered and find rest in His shadow. I want to live in the shadow of His wings. I want to Encounter Him.

So from now on this will no longer be called my Quiet Time. It will be called my Encounter Time. I hope you will join me each day and invite others. But more…I pray you will have your own Encounter Time with the Father.

March 15

Monday, March 15th, 2021

Have you ever noticed how easy it is to get hard? Three Dog Night had a song in the late 60s (1969) titled Easy to be Hard with the lyrics “Easy to be hard/Easy to be cold.” (From the musical Hair). 

It is easy to get hard toward people. Maybe you’ve worked with them and thought you had a pretty good relationship when suddenly they give you the cold shoulder. It is easy to think, “Well, if that’s the way they want to be.” Several years ago I had developed what I thought was a good friendship. We talked a lot.  Our families spent time together. We ate out together. He and I went to a Saturday morning Bible study together. Then Boom! He withdrew and wanted nothing to do with me. To this day I still don’t know what happened, although before I moved the relationship was restored.

It is more tragic when that happens with God. We are told not to grieve the Holy Spirit. but I know there are times I test those limits. I disappoint Him with my words and actions. The relationship which was so dear and so vital is now cool, even cold. My heart grows hard to the things of the Spirit. I have trouble hearing His quiet whisper, or even His loud shouts for that matter! It is easy to be hard, easy to be cold as the song said.

Don’t let that happen. Stay sensitive to the Spirit. If sin is there, confess it and get rid of it. If something else has crept in to take His place, renounce it! Ask Him to restore your heart to the love you once knew.

“Father,  You don’t move. It is me who gets cold and hard. Forgive me when that happens.  Help me to once again be sensitive to the voice of Your Spirit.”

Here is a song to get you to think some more about what I have written.

March 11

Thursday, March 11th, 2021

I want to continue my thoughts on gratitude.

I was sitting in my chair last night unable to sleep. It was one of those nights where the combination of no gall bladder (and still learning), eating the wrong thing too late, and my mind refusing to shut off which made for a tough night for sleep to come.

But as I sat there (remember I said my mind refused to shut off) and a thought hit me.

  • A person cannot be envious of another and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be jealous of another and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be dissatisfied and be thankful.
  • A person cannot grumble and be thankful.
  • A person cannot be a complainer and be thankful.

All those examples are dichotomous. The idea of being unhappy with one’s lot in life and being overly thankful just does not gel.

I am pretty ignorant when it comes to knowing much about a monk named Brother Lawrence. I have heard of him and that is about where my knowledge ends. I know of him. But I just read something recently which gave me a whole new perspective of this unique man.  He was a monk of lowly status who spent his days washing and scrubbing pots and pans and doing menial work around the monastery. In spite of that lowly life, people loved to be in his presence. Why? Because he loved to invite God’s Presence into all he did. His heart was filled with gratitude and therefore, it had no room for grumbling, complaining, etc.

Do people like to be in your presence because you bring God’s Presence with you? I ask myself that question and tend to come up wanting.

“Father, may today be a start of something different. May it be a day where people enjoy being in my presence because I bring Your Presence in with me.”

March 9

Tuesday, March 9th, 2021

I’ve been doing a lot of listening lately to some worship music. Some older. Some newer. Chris Tomlin. Pat Barrett. Matt Redman. My sermons for the next 4 Sundays are on the cross (go figure since Easter is coming). 🙂  One song that keeps playing over and over in my mind is Once Again by Matt Redman. It has a chorus which says, “Thank you for the cross/Thank you for the cross/Thank you for the cross my Friend.”

It’s not often we say those kinds of words. The cross is looked upon as an instrument of ugliness and hate and in its physical form it is.  So being thankful? Not quite on our radar. That just doesn’t seem appropriate does it? Sounds sort of sadistic in a way. “Yes! I’m glad Jesus died on a cruel cross!” Well, in a way, we should be.

But that opens up a thought I want to pursue the next few blog posts: Gratitude. “Thankful for the cross.” Let’s define gratitude first:

It is the divinely given spiritual ability to see grace, and the corresponding desire to affirm it and its giver as good. (p.18)

Bill’s translation: Seeing what is as being from God and affirming and acknowledging it to God and others, i.e. taking no credit whatsoever for any of it but knowing WHO it all came from. As hard as it is to sometimes see, God is at work in all ways, and at all times to ultimately bring about honor and glory to Him. And ALWAYS for our good.

What are your ideas about gratitude? About the cross? I want to explore more the next couple of days. But I would like to ask you for your thoughts and how they might be reinforced or challenged the next couple posts.

“Father, I do thank You for the cross. A symbol of ugliness and hate has turned into the biggest and most vivid symbol of love the world could ever know. I know it has become that to me.”

Quote from “Practicing Thankfulness” by Sam Crabtree

March 8

Monday, March 8th, 2021

Yesterday was the first Sunday of the month. During the pandemic there were a certain group of folks who refused to come to the corporate worship of the church (or anywhere else for that matter) where masks were not required. I respect their decision even though it is not mine. After almost 9 months of distance and finally dialogue, we decided to offer a masked service the fist Sunday of the month. The only caveat was those who attended must wear a mask. Our first service brought 16 people (counting me and Jo) and each subsequent month has been about the same. We missed one month because of being virtual for 3 weeks due to Covid. So on a day like yesterday, I take part in three church services.

This third one is abbreviated since we have no singing. Announcements. Prayer time. Communion. Sermon. Since we offer communion at each service (every week) and I was the one who gave the communion thought/meditation, I had to guard against going through the motions.

That’s easy to do, you know? Going through the motions.  It is so easy for that to become rote. Just “doing church” by habit rather than by allowing the Spirit to move within me. But it isn’t just communion! No, it’s just about everything: Singing. Giving. Listening. Even greeting one another can be perfunctory. No heart. No soul. No closeness.

“Doing church” is a problem we all face. Programs and policies take precedence and begin to take on a life of their own. I’m thinking of Jesus in the Temple with the sellers who took advantage of the pilgrims who ventured to Jerusalem for the Passover and to offer a sacrifice at the Temple. Jesus was livid. A total disregard for the people was something that got “under His skin.”

We can get the same way. Being in worship is no longer about meeting God but “getting it right” and “fulfilling my duty.” Shame on us when we can enjoy the sweetest of all relationships: experiencing a oneness with the Father.

“Father, forgive me when I place meeting with You in the ‘gotta do’ department. Help me to not allow worship become a ‘do church’ thing. Please help it to come alive where I sense Your Presence in my worship.”

March 5

Friday, March 5th, 2021

There are times the best thing to do is to let Scripture speak for you. I’m going to do that this morning. As I read Psalm 65 I was struck by its praise. How many time haves I read this before and not seen it? I can’t say. But here is my summary of Psalm 65.

It begins: “What a mighty praise, O God, belongs to You in Zion”:

  1. You answer our prayers
  2. You forgive our sins
  3. You bring joy in your courts
  4. You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds
  5. You formed the mountains
  6. You quieted the raging oceans
  7. You silenced the shouting of the nations
  8. You inspire shouts of joy
  9. You take care care of the earth and water it
  10. You provide a bountiful harvest
  11. You drench the plowed ground with rain
  12. You soften the earth with showers
  13. You bless with abundant crops and a bountiful harvest
  14. You make green pastures out of wilderness
  15. You clothe the meadows with sheep
  16. You carpet the valley with grain

Some of the language is ancient, but it still fills our hearts with praise to the One who does it all. Is your heart filled with praise today? If so, what for?

“Father, may my heart be filled with praise of and for You today. Help me to rejoice as the psalmist did in all you reveal as to why You are worthy of praise.”

Here is a song to fill your heart. It was the one which was on my playlist this morning on the way to the office. Coincidence? I think not.

February 25

Thursday, February 25th, 2021

As I sat down to begin my Quiet Time (QT), I did what I always do first. I pray. But something happened this time as I prayed. A song came to mind. A song from way back in my childhood memories. It would have been called a hymn back then but I wouldn’t call it that. I see it as a spiritual song. “Psalms, hymns  and spiritual songs” as Ephesians 4:19 puts it. A psalm is…well…a psalm. A hymn is an anthem of praise (like Great is Thy Faithfulness or How Great Thou Art). A spiritual song is a song with a spiritual meaning.  You may consider that nit-picky but I had my say. 🙂 Okay…now that I’ve taken that rabbit trail reign me back in. 🙂

As I sat and prayed these words flooded my mind: “Open my eyes that I may see/Glimpses of truth Thou has for me/Place in my hands the wonderful key/That shall unclasp and set me free/Silently now I wait for Thee/Ready my God Thy will to see/Open my eyes illumine me/Spirit divine.”

Not always do I approach my QT with an awareness of readiness to hear. More than I care to admit, my time is one of hurriedness and harriedness, (Yeah, I know my spell check is telling me those are not words…but what does it know?).  One of obligation. But today was different. It was like God was saying, “Slow down Bill. Don’t be in a hurry this morning.  Push aside your sermon agenda for a few minutes and be with Me. Stop hurrying and being harried and stop and listen.”

Then I read from Acts 1. The apostles found themselves in the same boat. Jesus told them to stay in Jerusalem. “Do not leave” is what He told them.  After Jesus ascended they returned to the upper room they had been in and waited. Can you imagine what they would have missed if they had gotten impatient? If one of them had said, “This is nonsense. I’m heading into town for some carry-out.” What a monumental “Epic Fail” that would have been!

How often do I miss out because I don’t wait? Won’t wait? “Silently now I wait for Thee/Ready my God Thy will to see.”

Perhaps it is time to slow down and listen.

“‘Speak, Father, for Your servant listens’ is what Eli told Samuel to say. Those are words I want to repeat right here, right now: ‘Speak, Lord, Your servant is listening.’ “

February 24

Wednesday, February 24th, 2021

Did you ever have a song in your head and it gets stuck there and it keeps repeating and repeating?  Maybe it was one you heard just before bedtime and you woke up with that song playing over and over in your head. Or maybe you were in a “mood” and a song just struck you right. Or you heard a song that had you waxing nostalgic, reliving a scene from the past that song dredged up.

A few weeks ago I had a medical diagnosis hanging over my head that was cryptic at best. “You have a mass of suspicious origin so I want you to get an MRI. It just looks different.” Of course all sorts of things run through the mind. He wanted that MRI to get a closer and deeper look. Thankfully, it was gall stones (which he was able to go in and take out with a process called ECRP).  That led though to a gall bladder surgery this past Wednesday. I’m glad it is over and out. But the morning after those initial words from the doctor, I was driving to the office and a fairly new song to me was playing on my Spotify playlist-Holy is Your Name by Petra. I pulled into the parking spot and found myself overcome with emotion and wept. I just knew no matter the outcome, I was going to be okay.  (Here is that song link).

One of my favorite worship songs was playing last night as I worked on a jigsaw puzzle. I have related here before how my relationship with my father was sketchy at best. No need to repeat it. But the song hit me last night and I became emotional. “You’re a good, good Father that’s who You are/And I’m love by You, it’s who I am, it’s who I am.” My earthly father loved me in his own way, I guess. But God!! There is no comparison. He is a good, good Father and I’m loved by Him.

Now…that’s a song to have stuck in my head and on repeat!! (Here is the link to that song).

“You are a good, good Father, Lord. I cannot thank You enough.”