Worship

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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.”

February 23

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2021

One of the more well known worship songs probably of the past decade or two has been “God of Wonders.” God of Wonders beyond our galaxy, You are holy, holy/The Universe declares Your majesty, You are holy, holy.” Although it is not one of my favorites, I can appreciate the sentiment it is trying to project.

“The heavens declare the glory of God and the earth shows His handiwork. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make Him known.” Psalm 19: 1-2

“I love you, Lord; you are my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my Savior; my God is my rock, in whom I find protection. He is my shield, the power that saves me, and my place of safety.” Psalm 18: 1-2

“O Lord,our Lord, your majestic name fills the earth! Your glory is higher than the heavens.” Psalm 8:1

Verse after verse of God’s magnificence fills the pages of Psalms. I found it interesting then as I was reading Psalm 44 this morning the dichotomy and questioning which appears. What do you think?

“I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me. You are the One who gives us victory over our enemies; you disgrace those who hate us. O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name.” (44: 6-8)

That’s all well and good. It sounds great! That’s the God we know and love. But verse 9 throws a wrench in the whole works: “But now you have tossed us aside in dishonor…” The rest of the chapter (verses 9-16) is filled with lament and feelings of abandonment.

High to low. Point: whether He is the God who is One of wonders and amazes us, or if He is the God who appears far away, He is still the same God. He is no less God when times are tough as He is when He is amazing us with His goodness.

“Father, You are God on both sides of the coin. You never change. Help to praise you no matter the circumstances.”

All Scripture is New Living Translation.

February 18

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

I’m thinking this morning of what I will call “attention grabbers.” We can call them by another name: “horn tooters.” You know the kind. They do all they can-“humbly” of course- to gain attention.

There are several thoughts that my mind wants to pursue today as I think about this. I’ll just give you my “seed thoughts” and then maybe you can pursue them on our own.

  1. The very first verse which comes to mind is Galatians 6:14- “As for me, may I never boast about anything except the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NLT) I really have nothing of which to boast. As I make much of God, I make less of me. That sounds like shades of John 3:30.
  2. “Pride goes before a fall.” (Pr.16:18) Be careful of getting too big for your britches. Britches that sag are tripping hazards. (I still wonder how some of those dudes can walk with their britches sagging to the crotches).
  3. Jesus chose to reveal Himself to the humble not the proud. I read this morning about His encounter with the man born blind. Check out John 9:39 for a reference. Those who think they see are blind, while those who realize their blindness will see clearly.
  4. “Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing.” (Mt.6:3)  There is no value in tooting your own horn. A gift given is best kept secret.

It is good to lend a hand to another, to further the kingdom by our actions, but it is best done with no accolades. God sees and that is all that is needed. No bright light needs to be shined down. The only light which needs shined is the one on Jesus.

“Father, let Your light shine down on You not me. May I never boast, may I never take credit, except in the cross.”

February 16

Tuesday, February 16th, 2021

One of the major topics of conversation during the pandemic among pastors, leaders, magazine articles, podcasters, and other talking heads has been the well-being of pastors. It has been all over the spectrum-from depression; to excitement; to innovation; to pressure/stress; to a feeling of inadequacy; to innovation; to dreaming of what was/is/could be; to what could have been; to a bunch of other ideas. But it seemed one topic kept coming up over and over.

Burnout.

The burnout of the leader. The endless demands placed upon the pastor/leader by others and by himself. There was no overt sin involved which could cause it. No, it was simply a pastor or a leader giving too much of himself to the ministry, i.e. shepherding of his people and not taking care of himself. Not necessarily physically, although for some that definitely played a part.

I’m talking spiritual. Burnout comes when an individual gives so much of himself away that he doesn’t take care to feed himself. We neglect us for them. That spells disaster.

We can only take people where we ourselves have gone. We can only teach what we ourselves know or are learning. We can only give someone a drink if we have water to give. We can only offer a meal if we have food to offer.

Take care of yourself first. Cultivate God’s Presence in your life first. Then, and only then, will we have something to offer to someone else.

“Father, I need to refresh myself with You first. Help me to have a renewed fire because of You coming alive in me. Then, and only then, will I have something to give to someone else.”

February 10

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

As I think ahead to Sunday, I can’t help but reflect on what I read and what I’m going to preach about. Sunday’s sermon is about worship. It is about religion revisited but its focus will be on worship. I’ll be talking about the purpose of worship-is it for me/us or is it for Him? Is it for my/our pleasure or is it to honor and adore Him?

You see, the American church finds itself in a dilemma. We have become so much of a touchy-feely church (what  makes me feel good and happy) that we have lost sight of why we worship. No? Why then do we ask ourselves or tell ourselves, “Well, I didn’t get anything out of that today.” Granted, there are churches which are dead and empty and talk a lot and say nothing. Vacate them. But on the other hand, if all we do when we get together is wonder what we are getting out of it, then we are worshiping for the wrong reason. In fact, maybe I ought to say we are worshiping the wrong person.

Keep this in mind: God inhabits the praise of His people. When we-either collectively or individually-worship Him with heartfelt praise, He is honored and finds a welcome home in our hearts. The celebration of Who He is should be uppermost in our minds and hearts. Let’s stop asking, “What did I get out of this?” but instead start asking, “What does God think? Did I give Him praise? Did I give Him proper honor and adoration?” That is guaranteed to change our perspective toward worship.

“Father, You are to be my focus of worship, not me. It does not and should not matter what I got out of it. It should be what did I give You.”

February 8

Monday, February 8th, 2021

I got to thinking about legalism this morning. I’m convinced most people don’t start out to be legalists. Unless they are raised in a church tradition that is focused on that and makes it the “hammer” to control and judge religiosity, I honestly think most people are sincere in their desire to follow Jesus. I know I was. I didn’t study the Bible to become legalistic.

I became legalistic when I tried to form gauges. You know…how-to-perform godly principles. How to pray. How to worship. How to look spiritual. How to conform. How to (fill in the blank). So I set gauges or markers to evaluate myself.

Here’s the problem with that (among many): it leads to futility. Who in the world-who in their right mind- could even think one could measure up to standards set to such a high mark? I certainly couldn’t. I was a washout, as is everyone else who tries to run their lives that way.

You see, a relationship to God is not based on “getting it right.” A relationship to God is based on communion with the Father. It is seeing the heart of Jesus.  It is seeking His Presence, unblemished by a list of “Did I get this right?” Sort of like the Pharisee who had to make sure every “t” was crossed and every “i” was dotted. What an awful way to live!

Psalm 27:4 says, “The one thing I ask of the Lord-the thing I seek the most-is to live in the house of the Lord, all the days of my life, delighting in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in His Temple.” (NLT)

Read that again please. Not a hint about me. Delighting in Him and His perfections. Well…there goes my so-called gauges right out the door! Yes and thank you Jesus!!

“Father, may I simply seek You. May I simply long to come into Your Presence and gaze upon You.”

January 6

Wednesday, January 6th, 2021

Have you ever noticed how often we “categorize” our worship? We talk about worship on Sunday in a certain place or time. But then act as though the other parts of our day or week are extra.

I even do that on Sunday morning during our corporate worship. I have caught myself (and not done a very good job of stopping or changing it) saying, “Please join us now and stand and sing and join us in worship.” See what I did? Say, for example, we had just had our prayer time when I say that. What have I stated? Answer: that the prayer time was not part of our corporate or individual worship, but now we are singing so we are worshiping.

No. No. No. That prayer time. That communion time (in our case). And ultimately the preaching time was all part of our worship. It is part of our psyche to make a distinction and say that singing is worship but prayer and communion and listening to the Word is not.

And it carries over into our daily lives as well. Worship does not just happen on a Sunday morning. It doesn’t just happen when I’m having my QT. Categorizing worship was never supposed to happen! Worship was, is, and always will be a 24/7/365 opportunity to praise the Father’s goodness and love. David praised God on the mountain and in the valley; on the run or on the throne; feeling good or feeling bad. Take a moment please and read Psalm 148.

“Father, worship is not be to categorized. But it is most definitely to come from my heart-all day, every day, any time, and any where. May my heart be one filled with praise.”

November 23

Monday, November 23rd, 2020

Before I start: my blogging friend, Diane, is having surgery today. I’d like to ask you to stop and say a prayer for her safety, the doctor’s steady hands, and a good and smooth recovery for her. Thanks.

I’m not much of a horticulturist. I’m not much of a gardener either. My thumbs are black. I decided I wanted a garden a few years ago…when I was much younger. I loved fresh tomatoes (especially the yellow ones) and green peppers-usually given to me by others. So I thought, “Why not? After all, how hard could it be?” Let’s just say that after 3 or 4 summers I again relied on others for those fresh veggies. I planted. I watered. I weeded (my least favorite thing of all). I had no clue about tilling and using cardboard or newspaper to keep down weeds. I also didn’t feed them plant food. The kicker, though, is I found it kept me from more important things-like riding my bike. Why work when you can have fun, you know? For three summers I also umpired softball so there went my free time.

I’ve seen many-myself included- treat their faith like that. We want to grow. We want to see fruit. But we don’t want to put in the “effort” to grow. I’m not talking about a works-oriented salvation. I’m talking about personal nutrition. You see, God calls us to Himself then wants us to grow in that faith. He provides what we need to grow but we need to utilize it. Reading the Word. Praying. Gathering with others to worship and encourage. Reaching for Him to help us get rid of the weeds. In spite of what some may think, this does not happen on its own. We don’t lay our head on our pillow with a Bible underneath and by osmosis have it soak into our brain. God has provided all we need for growth. Let’s not be stagnant. Let’s apply the nutrients of truth and grace to our fledgling “plant” and start growing. Fruit awaits if we do.  Take some time to read Galatians 6:7-9.

“Father, You want me to grow, not stagnate. Help me to allow Your Word, Your thruth and Your grace to water my life to bring forth fruit.”

October 29

Thursday, October 29th, 2020

For a good part of my childhood and young adult life I was actively involved in playing sports. I started playing baseball when I was 8 y/o. They had no such “animal” as T-ball or “coach pitch.” No, you started playing ball. I took to baseball like a fish to water. There was an immediate love affair. By 9 I was excelling and by 10 was playing some on the big team. I dreamed of being a major league player. That was also before traveling teams and weekend tournaments.

The basketball bug hit me in 9th grade. I couldn’t run and dribble at the same time so the coach had me spend a lot of time during practice on the side doing just that. But I became locked on to basketball until it overtook baseball. Another dream.

College ball had me hitting my stride. I excelled but chose not to play my Sr. year. I married between my Jr/Sr year. But I grew tired of the bus rides, the low grades, the 3rd coach in 4 years, and playing ball. I was done with organized ball.

As I look back I see a detriment to the success of either game. I see it today in other realms. I’ll call it the “glory hound.” The one who wants preeminence. Teams are devastated by the one who seeks glory. When I was young I read a series of books called the Chip Hilton Series by Clair Bee (think Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew only sports related). In almost every book was a player who wanted glory. He was a “me first Marty.”

Teams can’t win with glory hounds. Churches can’t either.  In 3 John we read about a man named Diotrephes who “loved the preeminence.” He was destructive because it was all about him and his wishes. (We would call it bullying today).

To bring this devo to a close, God despises the one who seeks the glory for himself/herself. I see it as a negative toward God, taking attention from Him. I also see it as a hindrance to the life and health of the church body. There is no place for glory hounds in God’s family.

“Father, may I never seek the glory which is due You for myself. All glory and praise belongs to You.”

October 20

Tuesday, October 20th, 2020

It was a morning of jumbled thoughts. Not jumbled in the way of making no sense, but jumbled in the way of so-many-thoughts-I-need-to-control-them. I like that because it means my brain is working, 🙂  but it also makes it hard to focus on any one theme. Then I realized they actually relate to each other.

First, 2 Cor. 12 where Paul talks about his thorn in the flesh. In the previous chapter he struggled with bragging/boasting of his place in the church and then in chapter 12 he talks about a man (himself) who finds himself in the 3rd heaven. But a thorn in the flesh keeps him “honest” and relying on God’s grace.

Second, I finished reading about the story of the wise men. Their response to the birth of Jesus was worship. Their desire to follow the star, their worship at the feet of the Christ child, and then their obedience to the angel to not go back Herod’s way shows a heart that is honest and beats for God’s grace-even through they would not have called it that.

True worship and love for the Father must come from and beat in a heart of worship. To that end pride must evaporate, disappear, be non-existent. There is no place at the feet of Jesus for a proud person-unless he/she is releasing that pride. It is a place of humility and worship and-yes-grace.

“Father when I come to You may there be no pride, no arrogance, only humility and worship.”