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Posts Tagged ‘Worship’

 

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Confession time: During my growing up years I was a bit worried that life in heaven would involve a lot of cloud-sitting and harp-playing. To be honest, it sounded a bit boring to worship through all eternity. Just how many songs could we play and sing?

However, it sure beat the alternative, so I resigned myself to a bit of boredom and told myself, Once we get there, we won’t know any better, and we’ll be perfectly content singing and strumming.

That shows you how little I understood about heavenly worship (or earthly worship either, for that matter). It will not be a passive occupation of dreary repetition!

I expect our celestial worship will be something like a Christian concert by a favorite artist when…

 

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…our hearts pump excitedly to experience the music of an admired vocalist. We thoroughly enjoy the performance of all the old, familiar songs we’ve grown to love. We are not bored, even though we know well the lyrics and melodies. We sing along, happily remembering the good old days when the song was first introduced.

But we also delight in a new melody—something fresh and different that thrills our spirits. And the whole time, through old and new, we revel in the companionship of others who share the memories and take great pleasure in the music with us. (Joy is augmented when shared with kindred spirits.) Each song concludes with much clapping and shouting among the concert-goers.

Of course, when we get to heaven, our favorite Artist will be the King of glory himself, who will rejoice over us with his singing (Zechariah 3:17).  Can you imagine it?!

 

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It’s also likely we’ll enjoy familiar old songs we’ve heard before and grown to love. John the Revelator gives us indication.

When he was invited up to heaven, John heard the saints singing a song of Moses. Even in the first century A.D., that was an old song, celebrating the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt (Revelation 15:3-4; Psalm 111:2-4).

More than likely, we, too, will remember and sing of the great and marvelous deeds the Lord God Almighty has performed (Psalm 86:10). We’ll celebrate his glorious attributes, and revel in the blessed companionship of other believers who also love the supreme Artist, and take great joy in joining the song.

Our praise will be further enhanced with musical instruments (1).   Each section of the orchestra provides symbolism of our King’s magnificence:

  • Horns – his splendor and majesty (just as trumpeters on earth have heralded royalty through the centuries.)
  • Strings – his peace and serenity
  • Percussion – his power and strength
  • Woodwinds – his love and gentle compassion

We will sing and play and perhaps even dance in a great crescendo of worship (2), celebrating God’s mighty acts of power and surpassing greatness (Psalm 150:2, 4). It will be a good and glorious time (147:1)!

 

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Shame on me for ever thinking that worship for eternity might become boring. It’s going to be the most heart-pumping, soul-stirring, exciting concert yet (3).

However!  The crescendo has already begun here on earth. Just as David urged, we can praise God every day and continue from now to eternity (Psalm 145:2).

The glorious crescendo of worship and celebration, praise and thanksgiving, joy and wonder will never end!

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Notes:

(1) Instruments are played in heaven. Revelation 5:8 and 8:6-12 give indication of harps and trumpets. Perhaps there are more which John did not see!

(2) That phrase, crescendo of worship, comes from Bible teacher and author, Warren Wiersbe, in his book, Be Exultant, p. 25

(3) In addition to glorious worship, we will be occupied by fulfilling, satisfying work, just as Adam and Eve were given responsibilities in the perfect Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15).

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.clipart.me; http://www.rockingodhouse.com; http://www.defininggrace.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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“This world can be saved from political chaos and collapse

by one thing only, and that is _______________.”

 

How would you fill in the blank?

  1. Wise leadership?
  2. Open-hearted worship?
  3. Liberal generosity?
  4. Unconditional love?

Before we consider the answer, allow me to introduce the author of that quote, William Temple, who served as Archbishop of Canterbury from 1942-1944.

 

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You may remember those were three of the six years when Great Britain and her allies fought against the Nazis. In fact, when Bishop Temple took office, England faced the real possibility of a German invasion.

Temple did not cloister himself within the church walls. He worked to aid Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany, supported a negotiated peace (instead of the unconditional surrender that Allied leaders desired), and traveled frequently throughout England, encouraging British citizens to take courage in their fight against evil and hold onto hope in God.

It was part of a radio broadcast during those grim days of German air attacks that Bishop Temple spoke about “one thing only.” His last word of that statement was Answer B, worship.

Now how did he expect a bit of hymn singing, scripture reading, and a sermon in church to make a difference?

He didn’t. Bishop Temple was referring more to personal worship than public.

His own definition of worship clarifies what he had in mind:

 

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(“To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God,

To feed the mind with the truth of God,

To purge the imagination by the beauty of God,

To open the heart to the love of God,

To devote the will to the purpose of God.”)

 

Imagine a world where each person worshiped God by:

  • Submitting his conscience to God as David did, when he asked for a pure heart and steadfast spirit (Psalm 104:10).
  • Seeking to fill his mind with the truth of God’s Word, recognizing that all his commands are trustworthy (Psalm 119:86a).
  • Replacing negative, impure, unkind, and prejudiced thoughts with whatever is true, noble, pure, and admirable (Philippians 4:8).
  • Availing himself of God’s love and then imitating him—his mercy to forgive, his grace to provide, his benevolence to bless (Ephesians 5:1).
  • Putting aside selfish desires and focusing effort on what God would have him achieve (1 Corinthians 10:31).

 

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Surely there would be less animosity and power-grabbing in our world.

But I can’t point fingers at others when the truth is, I have yet to experience the fullness of what Bishop Temple asserted. An honest inventory of my life includes:

  • A heart not consistently pure, and a spirit not always steadfast.
  • Faith that sometimes falters in God’s trustworthy commands.
  • Thoughts that can grovel in the negative.
  • Choices and actions that do not always reflect God’s love.
  • Selfishness that still rears its ugly head.

On the other hand, guilt is not what God intended as the motivation for worship.

No, he designed it to be a delight, not a duty. He wants to expand our joy (Psalm 16:11), provide rest and refuge (Psalm 91:1-2), bestow his strength (Psalm 138:2-3), and more–through the acts of worship. We short-change ourselves by neglecting its pleasure each day.

 

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Perhaps there’s a reciprocal relationship among all these processes. As we worship God with our adoration and appreciation, praise and prayer, might those other aspects of worship highlighted by Bishop Temple–submission, faith, a renewed mind, love-in-action, and selflessness–be the result?

Might there be an upward spiral effect because, the more a person worships, the more she’ll be transformed? And the more she’s transformed, the purer and more passionate her worship will become?

The influence of such a person—even against political chaos and collapse—knows no bounds, as God magnifies the impact.

One thing only is necessary: worship—with all its many facets.

God will do the rest.

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.wikipedia.org; http://www.twitter.com; http://www.pinterest.com (2).)

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The drummer begins a snappy, energizing beat.

The guitarists add moving chords.

The keyboard player joins with a compelling melody and attention-grabbing harmony.

Then the leader of the band enthusiastically proclaims, “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it! Please stand and join me as we praise and worship our awesome God!”

It’s a familiar scene for those who attend a contemporary or blended worship service.

Have you ever wondered why we are invited to praise and worship? Aren’t the two words just synonyms for each other?

That’s what I thought for a long time.   Then a worship leader explained that the upbeat praise songs we sing first are designed to help us focus on God instead of the many mind-distractions vying for attention.

After a time of praise, he said, we are more receptive to the quieter, more reverent songs of worship. He likened our musical journey to the movement of Bible time worshipers, from the outer courts of the temple to the inner court.

Since then, I’ve learned more insights into the difference between praise and worship. For example:

Praise is an expression of approval and admiration, exalting God for who he is. We praise him for his wonderful attributes, like love, wisdom, power, and holiness. He is certainly worthy of every word of praise we can offer (Psalm 18:3).

But we can also praise people for their attributes. Even the family dog earns praise for being a good boy or girl! Praise is relatively easy to give. It costs us nothing except a little thoughtfulness and a little time.

A close relative of praise is thanksgiving. Just as we praise God for who he is, we express gratitude for what he does.

Worship, on the other hand, is exclusive. God is the only One worthy of our worship (Luke 4:8).

The word, worship, comes to us from Old English: weorth (worth) and scipe (ship). When we express our awe, love, and respect to God, we are proclaiming his worth to us.

True worship also includes humility, honesty, and surrender (John 4:24; Psalm 119:7):

  • Humility as we recognize God’s supremacy,
  • Honesty as we confess our inadequacy and sin,
  • Surrender as we relinquish our wills to his all-wise control.

Worship also draws us closer to God (Psalm 145:18), which is not just for Sunday mornings. Worship (as well as praise and thanksgiving) is designed by God to permeate our every day lives.

It’s as if praise, worship, and thanksgiving are tributaries, streaming together to form one great river. Three becoming one. Not like a braid, with three plaits woven side-by-side but still separate entities. No–a blending together into a whole, the parts no longer distinguishable.

Praise from a worshipful heart—one that is characterized by humility, honesty, and surrender—is the most sincere.

Thanksgiving that celebrates God’s goodness in his actions and praises God’s greatness of character, is the most complete.

Worship that includes sincere praise and complete gratitude is the most beautiful.

 

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Every day, Lord, you manifest your greatness to me. May I be quick to offer you praise, thanksgiving, and worship, because you are worthy of no less. And thank you for the gift of worship, for the overwhelming privilege of basking in your glorious and holy Light.

 

(Photo credit:  www.blog.nextlevelworship.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(“You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!  I sing for joy because of what you have done” — Psalm 92:4 NLT.)

God lavishes his gracious kindness upon us in countless ways, doesn’t he?

In appreciation for all he’s done, I have a suggestion. Let’s each write him a personal psalm for Valentine’s Day.  A love gift, on a love-focused holiday, for our loving God.  (You have more than a week to prepare your gift!)

Is that an overly sentimental idea?

Perhaps the timing is, but the matter of creating personal psalms has nothing to do with sentimental poetry.

I can hear some of you already. “Me—compose a psalm? I struggle to put a personal message on a birthday card!”

If that sounds like you, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you” (Joshua 1:9)!

God waits with eager anticipation for you to enjoy an intimate Father/child relationship with him (2 Corinthians 6:18).

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 And what parent is not overjoyed when a son or daughter shares his/her innermost thoughts and feelings?

Remember, a psalm is simply a heartfelt prayer or song.  Key word: heartfelt.  Our psalms do not have to rhyme. We don’t have to use fancy literary devices like metaphors, imagery, or parallelism unless we want to.

These psalms are for our Heavenly Father.  He takes great pleasure in the sincere, unpretentious efforts of his children, just as all parents do.  We can even ask for his help to string the words together that will express our hearts.

Sometimes the hardest part is getting started—that first thought. An easy solution is to use a biblical psalm as a model.

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To begin, you might choose a favorite verse. Read it slowly, several times. Rewrite it in your own words.  These questions might help to push your thinking further:

  • Is there a phrase or word that stands out?   Explain to God why it is important to you.
  • Do you feel a connection with this particular verse?  Add a personal experience when God’s activity in your life made this verse especially meaningful for you.

Following is one way to create a personal psalm, based on Psalm 3:3a: “You are a shield around me, O Lord.”

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1.  Choose a key word.  “Shield” is an obvious choice.

2.  Use the question-words who, what, where, when, why, and how to jump-start your thought processes.  Not all of them will spark an idea, but several will.  For example:  How is God a shield for me? What is he shielding me from? Why is it important for me to remember that he is my shield?

3.  Prayerfully and thoughtfully answer your questions. Meditate for a moment, then begin to write. One word can become the basis for the first sentence. A word or idea from that sentence can be expanded upon and become another sentence.

Before you know it, a psalm is born!

 

I praise you, oh God, for being like a shield

when disturbing thoughts are hurled my way.

You deflect those poisoned-arrows

with your shield of scriptural truth

and tender compassion.

Help me remember

you are all-powerful and all-wise.

There is no circumstance or emotional battle

that you cannot handle.

Your strong shield protects me

from the assault of Satan and his cohorts—

those negative, discouraging thoughts

that try to attack the peace and joy you’ve given me.

You are my almighty Warrior-God,

unsurpassed in power.

Satan cowers in your presence!

Help me avail myself of your protection

at every onslaught.

 

Once your psalm is complete, it’s time for presentation.  Read your psalm out loud to God. You will sense his presence as he comes to listen! How do I know?

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(“Come near to God and he will come near to you” — James 4:8.)

Keep your journal or notebook handy. Further thoughts may occur to you as you read, or afterward as you reflect. One more question to consider: In what ways has your relationship to God been impacted through this composing process?  You may wish to write about that, too.

I must confess, I’ve written a number of personal psalms. But recent reading on the subject has inspired me to pursue new avenues of this form of worship.

In future psalms I want to increase my reflection time, be more specific, add more detail, and actually read my psalms out loud.  I’m looking forward to expressing the depths of my heart more openly and discovering new depths of my Heavenly Father.

If you already write personal psalms, or should decide to write one, I’d love to hear about your experience!

 

(Art and photo credits:  www.pinterest.com; http://www.healthcentral.com; http://www.dwellingintheword.wordpress.com.)

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“Advent:

the time to listen for footsteps –

you can’t hear footsteps

when
 you’re running yourself.”

Bill McKibben

 

Are you caught up in the Holiday Hurry yet? I’m talking about the decorating–baking– card-writing—shopping—wrapping—parties—rehearsals—event-participation and attendance. No doubt I omitted a few items on your list.

Perhaps you’re craving a bit of quiet this Christmas. Time to enjoy the presence of your Savior. Time to reflect on Bethlehem blessings—those gifts we enjoy as a result of Christ’s advent into the world.

But how can we stop running long enough to hear our Savior’s footsteps? How can we avail ourselves of his peace and strength when our days are doubly-busy?

May I recommend the devotional book, Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room (Barbour Publishing, 2014), by my good blogger-friend, Jean Wise?

First, the soft, leather-like cover is a pleasure to hold. The thick, gilded pages are a delight to turn. And the subtle, star-studded border on each page adds beauty to the text.

Jean has provided four weeks of quieting devotionals, offering a perfect start for each day. Each week has its own theme: 1) Preparation, 2) Pause, 3) Ponder, and 4) Promise.

Each reading includes a brief devotional, appropriate scriptures, well-chosen quotes, suggestions for a more meaningful Advent season, and a closing prayer.

I’ve just begun reading and internalizing this book myself. But already my spirit has been calmed by Jean’s soothing words. For example:

“We drink in His presence and linger in His light for warmth and nourishment. We quench our thirst at His well” (p. 27).

Doesn’t that sound refreshing and rejuvenating? So “take a deep breath and enjoy the journey,” Jean recommends. Embrace moments of stillness, thank God for the gift of His Son, express gratitude, and rest.

Jean also provides gentle challenge. She well knows the tyranny of the to-do list at this time of year. A pointed question steers our focus in the right direction:

“What are we clinging to so tightly we can’t reach out to God” (p. 16)?

And then there are those readings where God’s wisdom flows through Jean’s words.

In the devotional entitled, “Advent Assignments,” she reminds us that our role in the Christmas season is not to be the perfect hostess or flawless decorator, and not to portray the ideal family.

“Preparing our hearts for the Lord implies knowing our boundaries and acknowledging our limitations…Focus on the manger in the center of the stage of our hearts (p. 32).”

Each day Jean encourages me to “reduce the clutter.” Her words bring me to the center of the stage of my heart, to “spend less time on busy work and more time with God” (p. 12).

Time to reflect. Time to listen. Time to savor the presence of my Savior.

Won’t you join me?

(You may order the book on http://www.barnesandnoble.com or purchase at a Family Christian bookstore and at Christian Book Distributors.) 

 

 

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“Save for a rainy day,” financial experts advise.  And they’re right.  It is smart to have funds set aside in case of emergency.

But we would also be wise to save up for another kind of rainy day:

  • The day great disappointment shatters our joy
  • The day the doctor begins a consult by saying, “I’m terribly sorry, but…”
  • The day a loved one calls with disturbing news

What could we possibly save up that would help in such circumstances?

Consider: monetary deposits in a bank account insulate us against financial emergencies.

Similarly, we can make faith-statement deposits into our soul-accounts, to insulate us against life’s emergencies.  A healthy soul-account offers peace of mind, confidence, and a sense of well-being.

The most valuable faith statements are those straight from scripture, since the Bible is our source of truth.

Statements such as these are worthy starting points:

  • God is with me, even in the midst of trial.

“Those who know Your name will trust in You, for You, Lord, have never forsaken those who seek You” (Psalm 9:10).

  • God is my stronghold in time of trouble, offering help and deliverance.

“The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.  The Lord helps them and delivers them” (Psalm 37:39-40).

  • He will supply all my needs.

“My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

 

Sometimes God makes deposits in our soul-accounts through other reading.  Here are a few examples I’ve collected:

  • “God makes good things out of the hard times.” – Erica Hale
  • “Difficulties are sent to make us grow. Move from complaining to proclaiming what God is doing through the problem. Remind yourself, for every Calvary, there is an Easter.” – Barbara Johnson
  • “When we understand that life is not about us, we learn to overlook the trivial and fix our gaze on the eternal. What is an offense compared to His love? What is a rejection compared to His unconditional acceptance? What is a momentary trial compared to an eternity with Him?” – Emmanuelle Gomez

 

Faith statement deposits also come through experiences, such as:

  • The spontaneous hug of a good friend who knows of our struggles. That’s God’s way of assuring us…

…We are not alone.

  • An answered prayer—and the answer is far beyond what we asked for. That’s God’s way of showing us…

…His love and blessing never fail, even in the midst of difficulty.

  • A transformed spirit through worship.  Worry becomes faith. Fear becomes courage. Depression becomes gladness. That proves…
  • …The joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 4:8).

 

Faith-statements, deposited in our souls even before we have need of them, provide a deep, sweet sense of security.

When difficulties arise, and the time comes to make withdrawals, we can praise God for each truth. Praise will fill our hearts with song and drown out the voices of worry and fear.

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Your faithfulness, O God, is unwavering and unfailing.   Oh, how I want to be faithful to you, especially during difficult circumstances.  You have provided the tools.  I praise you for the deposits your Spirit makes into my soul account, offering solace, perspective, strength, and wisdom.   Help me to avail myself of your gracious provision.  

 

(Photo credit:  www.dailyfinance.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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mri-scanner

 

My brother had to get an MRI last week. The technician warned him the machine was very loud—similar to a large motorcycle.

“I like motorcycles!” John told her.

Nevertheless she gave him earplugs, to block the noise as much as possible, and a set of headphones, through which he could listen to the music of his choice.

Earplugs and headphones. That’s what I need to drown out the devil’s loud voice.   Sometimes he can be incredibly persistent with his irritating chatter in my spiritual ears, saying things like:

  • “You are past your prime. Why bother trying to accomplish anything?”
  • “Look how blessed your neighbor is. You must have upset God in some way or you’d be blessed like that, too.”
  • “Can you believe how insensitive Ms. __________ is? How can she be so hurtful and not even realize it?

Wouldn’t it be nice if God handed out earplugs and headphones for our spiritual ears?

Maybe God wants us to develop some worthy habits in the process of manufacturing our own auditory devices.

And how might we do that?

Earplugs could be fashioned out of gratitude. We can occupy our minds with continual rejoicing in the blessings of this moment. Then we won’t be able to hear the devil’s negative and critical comments.

Let’s see…I wonder if I could name a blessing for each of the five senses, for what I am experiencing right now?

  • Thank you, Lord, for books and the gift of sight that allows me to read and enjoy them, as well as learn from them.
  • Thank you for soft breezes that create a cheerful rustling of fall leaves.
  • Thank you, Father, for the cozy warmth of my fleece jacket.
  • Thank you for the nutty goodness of hazelnut coffee,
  • And thank you, Lord, for the homey aroma of vanilla, coming from a nearby candle.

 

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Oh! That was fun, and I didn’t have one negative thought during the exercise. No wonder Paul told us to rejoice always.

Alright–earplugs are in place. Now it’s time for the headphones—something worthwhile to pay attention to, that drowns out the noise of negativity and criticism.

And what could be more worthwhile than scripture, where God offers reassurance, encouragement, and strength? The psalms are a perfect place to begin:

  • “Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust” (Psalm 40:4).
  • “I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble” (Psalm 59:16).
  • “Your ways, O God, are holy. What god is so great as our God? You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples” (Psalm 77:13-14).

And one of my favorites:

 

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(“Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. They rejoice in your name all day long; they exult in your righteousness. For you are their glory and strength” (Psalm 89:15-17).)

Notice: We are blessed when we acclaim God. Disparaging ourselves or others, bemoaning our circumstances—even just in our thought life—is counter-productive.  It is worship that transforms our minds and spirits.

So let’s insert those earplugs and pop on those headphones! The difference will be remarkable.

 

(Photo and art credits:  www.cancerresearchuk.org; http://www.cozyhearthcandles.com; annemateer.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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