Posts Tagged ‘worship’

Alabama Snow Day(s)

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I wrote this for my congregation on Tuesday when the snow came& went quickly.  More snow last night and the thought remains…

It’s an Alabama Snow Day.  The snow is here today and gone…today.  Within hours. At least, that was the case up in our neck of the woods at our house and at the church. But while it lasts, it is fun to see the delighted smiles of children that I have been seeing on Facebook today.  To see there snowmen and snowballs.  It reminded me that joy is, and should be, a hallmark of the Christian life.  Why?  I’m glad you asked.  Here’s just one reason:  we are forgiven.  We are forgiven by the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. His blood shed. His life given.  So that we might be washed whiter than snow.  
 

“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:

though your sins are like scarlet,

they shall be as white as snow;

though they are red like crimson,

they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18, ESV)

Oh! rejoice in the richness of our salvation! When the Lord pardoned our sins, he did not pardon half of them, and leave some of them on the book—but with one stroke of the pen he gave a full receipt for all our debts.  When we went down into the fountain filled with blood, and washed, we did not come up half-clean, but there was no spot nor wrinkle upon us—we were white as snow.”  ~Charles Spurgeon

So, whatever your concerns, worries, fears, or uncertainties right this very moment, be reminded of this one thing:

You are forgiven.

I hope that will give ample reason to join us for worship on Sunday so that we can rejoice together.

Preparing for Cancer

How does one prepare for cancer?  Specifically, how does a Christian prepare to face the battle of cancer in their life or in that of a close family member?

And I don’t mean, how do you keep from getting cancer.  I’ll leave you to your own devices with that one.  Certainly, I don’t have anything worthwhile to share in that category anyway!

I do not hold ourselves up as paragons of faith, but I do wonder in amazement at how steady we have been through this (It’ll have to be a separate post, but we must remember that faith is more about it’s object – Christ – than our “work of faith”).  Our faith has surprised me at times.  I don’t mean to paint an inaccurate picture.  To be clear this whole thing sucks (to use a technical term), I hate it many days, and the teardrops are too numerous to count at this point.  And yet, there is something more.  Really, there is Someone more.

One answer, in my mind, without a doubt is all of the prayer that we have received and continue to receive.  Friends, family, preschoolers, acquaintances, and strangers lifting us up before the Lord.  Yes, that has much to do with it.  And that’s probably another whole reflection.  Here, I want to think about preparing in the years before trials come, suffering hits, and horrific news knocks us to our knees.  In that sense, this applies more broadly to cancer.

Ready for the answer?  Here it is:  walking faithfully with the Lord day in and day out for years.  In good times and bad.  In plenty and in want.  You get the idea.  As we do that, what happens?   We will have read the Scriptures, we will have heard the Scriptures proclaimed, hymns and songs will root into our bones, and we will watch others deal with the falleness of life.    We will come along side of them when they need prayer, meals, hugs, and encouragement.  We will see the faith of the saints carried out in both the mundane and the tragic.

Trust is something that we learn over the seasons.  We learn that God is trustworthy during the harvest and even during the drought.  For He provides.  Not always what we want or expect, but still this is something that has to be learned over the course of time.  But if we don’t put ourselves in the company of others and we don’t learn those hymns and we don’t hear the Word of Life, then it will be hard for us to trust.  We will have stunted our growth.  Think about it this way.  That hymn that you are singing on Sunday (you know the one that you don’t like the tune of), may not be for today.  You might be learning it for a tomorrow that is going to come and you’ll need to be reminded that “Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take; the clouds ye so much dread are big with mercy, and shall break in blessings on your head” (“God Moves In a Mysterious Way”, William Cowper, 1774).  You’ll need to have treasured up already the Words of Scripture that alone give life and lead us.  You’ll need to have put in some time already listening to the pastor drone on just a little too long once again.  It may not seem like much is happening right now, but I can assure you that the cumulative effect of walking with God and His people, can sustain you when you are diagnosed with cancer.

Thus says the Lord:

“Cursed is the man who trusts in man

and makes flesh his strength,

whose heart turns away from the Lord.

He is like a shrub in the desert,

and shall not see any good come.

He shall dwell in the parched places of the wilderness,

in an uninhabited salt land.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,

whose trust is the Lord.

He is like a tree planted by water,

that sends out its roots by the stream,

and does not fear when heat comes,

for its leaves remain green,

and is not anxious in the year of drought,

for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

                                                                                (Jeremiah 17:5-8)

 

How can we bear fruit in a drought season?  Only if we have placed our trust in the Lord and have been nourished by Him before that.  That is part of how you prepare for cancer.

Letters To My Sheep: I Need Sunday

~Maybe you’re not like me and don’t have weeks you would rather forget.  Like last week for me. It’s not that anything was awful, but maybe the accumulation of struggles, disappointments, frustrations, etc…
~Maybe you’re not like me and don’t deal with illness or illness your family.  Last week, Ethan & Kara both stayed home from school during because they had some type of  stomach bug.  Though I never came down with it, I suspect I was dealing with something as I felt bad most of the week from Wednesday – Sunday.
~Maybe you’re not like me and don’t wrestle with the sometime difficult dynamics of personal relationships.
~Maybe you’re not like me and don’t have professional disappointments.
~Maybe you’re not like me and don’t find yourself getting cranky, or irritated, or mildly depressed, as I realized I was becoming as the week wore on, even though there isn’t any particular big reason for it.  I really started to feel it when my installation of some quarter-round in Ethan’s room took a frustrating turn on Saturday afternoon.  It wasn’t that big a deal and I was trying to do something productive – even though I didn’t feel great – but I realized I just needed to stop.
~Maybe you’re not like me and don’t lose perspective by letting small things become big things.

~And maybe you’re not like me and don’t need Sunday Worship as much as I do.  Sunday’s are obviously a big part of my job – while much happens behind the scenes, Sunday is when most of you see me being a pastor.  And so Sundays, in some ways, are just something I do.  That is one of the hazards of ministry – letting what we do become who we are (that’s true for anyone really).  I didn’t realize how much I needed to worship until after I got home from church on Sunday afternoon.  Usually, I am emotionally, physcially, and spiritually drained after teaching, preaching, and pastoring on Sunday afternoon.  That’s another thing that comes with the territory.   But Sunday was different.  I felt energized and felt that my countenance had been lifted – I felt different than I had all week.  But more than mere feelings, as important as those may be, something else was going on.   Here are five things I think about why I needed last Sunday’s Worship and every Sunday (whether I realize it or not).

  • I was doing what I was made to do.  I don’t mean my job/vocation.  I mean giving glory & praise to our Lord (makes me think of this – Q. Why did God make you and all things?  For His own glory).
  • Worship gives and restores perspective – through our songs, our prayers, the Preached Word (even and especially if it’s coming from my mouth!), the Sacrament of Communion, our fellowship, etc…
  • Worship isn’t about forgetting our troubles, but about our being transformed from the inside by our Sovereign Lord.
  • Worship, when we recognize that it is corporate, also helps to see that we are not alone in our challenges & struggles.
  • Worship places our focus squarely where it belongs.

~Maybe you’re not like me and don’t need Sunday Worship as much as I do, but I think you probably are.  Even if you don’t want to admit it.

September Texts & Topics for North Hills

Here are the text and topics for our worship services in September at North Hills Church.

Series for Morning Worship:  Book of Colossians
Series for Evening Worship:  The Lord’s Prayer

September 6th
AM:  Colossians 2:6-10
PM:  “As We Forgive”

September 13th
AM:  Colossians 2:11-12
PM:  “Lead Us Not Into Temptation”

September 20th
AM:  Colossians 2:13-15
PM:  “Deliver Us from Evil”

September 27th
AM: Colossians 2:16-23
PM:  “For Yours Is…”

Not your typical wedding entrance…

This video is starting to make the rounds – I first saw at Take Your Vitamin Z…if you haven’t seen it yet, take a look.  I have watched this a couple of times and each time it has caused me to smile.

I also like what my friend Ed had to say…here is a snippet of his thoughts:

Other weddings are less traditional, but still capture that spirit. Watch this video of a couple (and their wedding party) that totally embodied the joy, zeal, celebration– and fun– of the wedding event. I think this represents a sense of the magnificence of the moment better than anything I’ve seen in a while, and without knowing the couple or their hearts, I can’t help but think of the biblical intentions of weddings and what they represent and delight in this. As with most weddings, when the bride makes her entrance I tear up, just a little bit, in thinking both of my own wedding and the coming wedding of Christ to His church.

With that, here’s the video:

Church Reductionism

I was very happily reading this article on the innovative church Lifechurch.tv and their new “free group chat translation tool” called Bablewith.me.  From the article:

LifeChurch.tv staff members recently rolled out BabelWith.me, a free group chat translation tool that allows participants to communicate in real-time using up to 45 languages. Developed in-house as a Web-based Google app, BabelWith.me isn’t just for LifeChurch.tv members, but can be used by any business, church, mission group or individuals hoping to expand its message globally—or simply to communicate more effectively in such languages as Chinese, Arabic, Hebrew, Hindi and Spanish.

That sound cool, though I can’t think of an immediate application for myself.  Then I got to the very end of the article to read this, which really has nothing to do with the above new tool, but with streaming services on iphone or ipod:

“We are always looking for ways that we can leverage technology to reach people where they are at,” said Peter Thourson, New Hope’s interactive developer. “[Now] users across the globe will be able to continue to attend church regardless of where they are.”

It’s not the first sentence that is troublesome, but the second.  This would seem to reduce what the church is and is about to attendance at a worship service (whether in person or online).    Now, I believe that this is enough of a problem without new technology, but this certainly doesn’t help.  When we reduce church to this level, then we will lose our ability to carry out our comission.  We will lose our ability to establish authentic community in a fragmented world.  We will lose our ability to call people to live for something much greater than themselves.  I can see some application for the homebound and the ill, but so much more needs to be said.  Without accountability, we will do what pleases us and what makes us comfortable.  Church, without reducing it to only worship service attendance, will not always please us and should make us uncomfortable.

Thoughts?  Am I being too harsh or ungracious?

Ultimate Worship Leader?

As I was running an errand, I was listening to one of the Christian radio stations that we have in our area (yes, I do this form time to time).  I have a on-again, off-again relationship with “Christian radio”.  On one hand, sometimes I enjoy listening to some of the music, especially if it leads me to praise and reflect upon God.  On the other hand, sometimes the music is just bad and the lyrics can be insipid at best (in general, I think this has gotten better over the years).  Anyway, that’s another conversation.  So, this station is running a promotion:  Ultimate Worship Leader.  And what is the grand prize you ask:

For one Sunday morning service Michael W. Smith will come and lead worship at your church.

Doesn’t that sound fantastic!? Or, does that bother you a little bit?

It bothers me because it seems to trivialize and celebritize (I may have just made that word up) worship.  It bothers me because it is everything that is wrong with worship in evangelicalism:  we are looking for an experience (and don’t tell me that having a big-named Christian music artist lead worship at your church wouldn’t be an “experience” – by definition it is designed to be such).  We want to be in awe of our creation, rather than the Creator.  Finally, this places Smith in the position that God alone should be in:  the place of reverence and even excitement. (never mind what this says about the “average”/humble worship leader).  I think this is just a bad promotion all the way around.

And besides, Jesus is the Ultimate Worship Leader!

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering.  For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one origin.  That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, ‘I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.'” (ESV)