Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Worship’

????????????????????????????

 

Our son was telling me about the church he and his wife attended at the time.

“You should hear this mother and daughter play their violins together.  The girl is only ten or eleven, but she’s good. I think the mom is teaching her.”

Several months later, I happened to be visiting when the mother and daughter were scheduled to play.  My heart was filled with delicious anticipation that Sunday morning as they approached the piano with their violins.

Soon soft, mellow notes of melody and harmony resonated through the broad, high-ceilinged sanctuary.  My son had not been exaggerating. They were both gifted violinists.

 

 

I had to hold back the tears.

Yes, the sweet music touched my spirit. However, my response arose from more than that.

The music was greatly enhanced by the mystical bond between mother and daughter.

One evidence of that bond was the subtle means by which the two remained in sync. The mother would nod her head or sway slightly as she directed the music.

However, the girl didn’t actually watch. Just every now and then she would make eye contact over her violin–and smile at her mother with angelic innocence, tenderness, and purity.

Her eyes seemed to say, “I love doing this with you.”  Mother smiled her love and pleasure in return.

In fact, the very atmosphere seemed to be permeated with love during those moments. But the affection of parent and child was only a part.

The Spirit of God and his love flowed in wondrous waves through the music and that mother and daughter. God’s love—the width, length, height, and depth that Paul spoke of– filled every nook of that sanctuary.

 

 

Surely I was not the only one who felt wrapped in God’s warm embrace during those moments.

And to be loved by God is no small matter.

He is the Master of the universe and the King of glory. Angels sing his praises continually. And yet he delights in us, who reverence him and put our hope in his unfailing love (Psalm 147:11).

 

 

Isn’t that knowledge alone enough to astound the intellect and overwhelm the heart with joy?

The only possible response is worship, from a heart overflowing with gratitude. An overflow that often becomes tears, as praise intertwines with the invisible but palpable touch of God.

And I can almost hear him say, “I love doing this with you.”

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

When has the overflow of love for God and gratitude to him brought you to tears?  Please share your story in the Comment section below!

 

(Revised and reblogged from August 11, 2014.  Photo credits:  www.visualphotos.com, http://www.maxpixel.net; http://www.heartlight.org; http://www.pixabay.com.)

Read Full Post »

Not long ago, the church where our son Jeremy is pastor completed a major renovation of their sanctuary. As you can imagine, not every change was celebrated by every person. We all know: you can’t please all the people all the time—even at church.

 

 

One recent Sunday a long-time member named Mike* was asked to pray during the Sunday worship service. Only he didn’t pray; he addressed the congregation instead.

“Most of you know I didn’t approve the remodeling of our church,” he began. “I liked it just the way it was. In fact, the beauty of the sanctuary was one of the reasons my family and I made this church our home in the first place.”

Jeremy’s heart sank.  How much damage would this reproach cause among a congregation that was rejuvenating and growing?

Mike paused and took a deep breath. Every eye was focused on him; not one program rustled.

“BUT!” he said in a louder voice. “This isn’t about me; this is about God. This is not my building; it’s God’s. And I can’t speak for you, but I’m going to worship in this church no matter the changes in structure or decor.”

Mike paused again, and then announced, “Now let us pray.”

Mike gets it: Worship is not about us.  It’s about God.

 

 

In our consumer culture, however, we’ve unconsciously fallen into viewing worship with a consumer attitude:

  • “I need a church where I feel comfortable.”
  • “I need worship to lift my spirit, especially after a hard week.”
  • “I need sermons that will give me guidance and strength, especially with all the issues I face right now.”

And when these expectations aren’t met, we feel cheated somehow.

But the word worship has nothing to do with our needs. It means worth-ship.

Worship is something we do to express our awe, love and respect for God—not something we receive.

 

 

When I make worship about me—my preferences and my desires, I’m putting myself in the place of God.

Ouch.

So how might I focus my attention to truly worship God and not drift into Me-Mode? Several possibilities offer a place to begin.

  1. Empty myself of me.

With Jesus as my role model, I can pray to empty myself of my own desires (Philippians 2:7):

Father in heaven, during worship today may: 1) my eyes be fixed on you with undistracted focus (Psalm 141:8), 2) my meditation be pure and pleasing in your sight (Psalm 19:14), and 3) my heart be humble, tender, and responsive to your Spirit (James 4:10).

 

 

  1. Determine to be an enthusiastic participant.

We’re not meant to be an audience as we sit or stand in church. We’re meant to be performers of praise and instruments being tuned for obedience. Our audience is God—an audience of One**.

 

  1. Seek after God, not an emotional experience.

Sure, there are times when worship lifts me into spiritual euphoria. But it would be a mistake to expect such moments every week.

However! I can enter worship with the expectation of blessing my Heavenly Father with gratitude, praise, and adoration. And I can expect to experience joy in his presence (Psalm 16:11).

 

 

In addition to joy in worship, God also promises other benefits including his goodness (Psalm 31:19), rest and refuge (Psalm 91:1-2), strength (Psalm 138:2-3), and peace (Isaiah 26:3).

Isn’t that just like our Heavenly Father? We seek to bless him with our worship, and he blesses us many times over with what we really need.

___________________________

 

*Name changed.

** Big Daddy Weave composed a meaningful song by that title (2002). You can access it here.

 

Art & photo credits: Nancy Ruegg with http://www.canva.com (2); http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg with http://www.canva.com (2).

 

Read Full Post »

 

 

Just twelve days to Christmas 2017. Are you too immersed in preparation? In all honesty, I’m scrambling a bit in order to accomplish the remaining items on the must-do list: finish the Christmas cards, wrap the gifts, clean the house before the first guests arrive on Saturday, etc.

And for me, with the scrambling comes that uncomfortable feeling I’ll never get everything done.

It’s so silly, I tell myself. In the final analysis will our friends and family care if their cards arrive after Christmas? Is it necessary the packages be just so? Will our guests mind if every surface of the house isn’t gleaming?

Of course not. But my OCD tendencies still want to press me toward those expectations.

So what can I do to calm my spirit? I’m thinking the answer is worship.  I can express to God my gratitude, praise, and adoration–even while writing cards, wrapping gifts, and cleaning the house.

 

 

Scripture assures me that, as I worship in God’s presence, I will experience:

 

  1. Peace.

 

 

  1. Joy.

You, [O God], will fill me with joy in your presence.”

Psalm 16:11b

  1. Rest.

“He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High

Will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.”

Psalm 91:1

 

 

What a glorious gift worship is! Isn’t it just like our loving Father to bless us as we seek to bless him?

And so, while writing the Christmas cards, I am praising God for friends and extended family spread all over the country, and praying for them, too.

 

 

Heavenly Father, I praise you for (insert name).

Thank you for their influence in our lives,

Their support and affection.

Thank you for treasured memories of time spent together.

We may have lived apart for many years,

Yet the bonds of love hold firm because of you.

Bless them, I pray, with joy in each day,

Provision and protection too.

 

While wrapping the family’s gifts I can offer praise on behalf of the recipients.

 

 

Your goodness, O Lord, has impacted our family again and again.

Every member has his/her stories to tell of

Your wonders, interventions, and miracles.

I praise you for each loved one—

His/her gifts and personality traits,

The delight You give us in each other.

I praise you we are able to gather once more

In celebration of you, our indescribable gift.

.

While cleaning, I can focus on gratitude. What am I thankful for in each room?

 

 

I praise you, Father for our cozy home,

for the perfectly sized dining set you provided

And the hutch we found rather miraculously.

I praise you for the large windows

Across the back of the house,

giving us a grand view of the backyard trees.

And I praise you that with gratitude

Even housekeeping can be turned into joyful worship.

 

Throughout the day, whatever the task, I can meditate on the wonder of what Jesus our Savior has accomplished.

And marvel again that it all began with his humble birth in a stable-cave:

 

(Gerard von Honthorst, 1622)

 

“O Sovereign God!

You have humbled yourself in order to exalt us.

You became poor so that we might become rich.

You came to us so that we can come to you.

You took upon yourself our humanity

In order to raise us up into eternal life.

All this comes through your grace,

Free and unmerited;

All this through your beloved Son,

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.”

–Karl Barth

 

Come! Let us adore him—even as we work!

 

(Art & photo credits:  http://www.pixabay.com; http://www.wikimedia.commons.org; http://www.flickr.com; publicdomainpictures.net; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.wikipedia.org.)

 

Read Full Post »

 

fairy-playing-harp_57800167

 

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…

 

Christian-Concert

 

…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?!

 

Zephaniah317_1920x1080_2

 

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)!

 

d9e896a56750d07914d4165037d787d7

 

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!

_________________________

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.)

Read Full Post »

 

“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.

 

220px-WTemple

 

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:

 

CfTp0ojVIAAXMCN

 

(“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).

 

e25452c8471c7290e77d7587ef58893e

 

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.

 

408adad7431214cbc90da59170d04e79

 

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).)

Read Full Post »

praise-band-300x225

 

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.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

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.)

 

Read Full Post »

 d30200c131346a4ffed9f197bbee764d

(“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).

f2c43794cde3dc013fef692a6c7eabf1

 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.

?????????????????????????

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.”

f74d4bae680c7ed0bb80f31d68a4bd72

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?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

(“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.)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Small Town Stranieri

Simple Slow Living — Italian Style!

Laurie Klein, Scribe

immerse in God, emerge refreshed

Strength Renewed

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

Colleen Scheid

Writing, Acting, Living the Grace of God

Walking Well With God

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Shelly Miller

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Mitch Teemley

The Power of Story

Faith Barista

Because some days you need a double-shot of faith.

Wings of the Dawn

even there Your hand will lead me ~ poems and reflections by Heidi Viars

Jennifer Dukes Lee

Storyteller. Grace Dweller.

Holley Gerth

Empowering You To Become All You're Created To Be

Unshakable Hope

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

Healthy Spirituality

Nurturing Hearts Closer to God

Just Wondering

Impressions Becoming Expressions

Jody Lee Collins

Impressions Becoming Expressions

(in)courage

Impressions Becoming Expressions