Worship challenges secularism because it establishes a relationship with God and sets the world in order. In worship, the good news is happening again. It reaffirms the reality of God, the significance of life, and the worth of the human person.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Worship lifts the worshiper out of drudgery and brings meaning to life. Worship links the worshiper with that common set of memories which belong to the Christian family. The memory of Christ and the connection with Christian people throughout history and around the world is made though the celebration of those sacred events of the church year. This happens in every weekly celebration.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

True worship stands in opposition to the secular trend that repudiates the supernatural. Secularization says all that is, is what is. It argues that there is nothing outside of human existence to give life meaning or value. The secular attitude insists that humans are left to create their own meaning, value, and identity. But in the celebration of the Christ-event, worship affirms the supernatural, sanctions the past, and creates confidence in the future.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Biblical worship is rooted in an event that is to be lived, not proven. . . . In Christian worship we are not merely asked to believe in Jesus Christ, but to live, die, and be resurrected again with him. Life is not an intellectual construct, but a journey of death and rebirth. When our life story is brought up into the story of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection, it then gains meaning and purpose.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

A Child of God

 

He sees me and instantly his eyes light up and a smile covers his whole face.  When I nuzzle his neck and pretend like I’m eating him he laughs with pure joy.  I sing and he stops what he is doing to gaze at me with eyes full of wonder.  Later, when he is getting tired, he grabs ahold of my shirt and pulls his head into my chest to find comfort and then sleep.

Yes. These last few months have been ones of sleepless nights and poopy diapers, but even more so, they have been filled with wonder and joy.  I don’t have any long profound message for you except to say that I’m realizing again what it means to be a child of God.  This is exactly what Jesus meant when he said,

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Do I look for God and does my heart light up when I catch glimpses of his glory?

Do I laugh with pure joy at his gifts and love?

Do I stop what I’m doing to listen with wide-eyed wonder at his creation?

Do I go to him and find rest in his arms?

It is in these simple life moments that I am filled with such love for my new, little son.  And as I lay him down to sleep in his crib and he rolls over onto his side, (Don’t do that, kid!  Haven’t you heard of SIDS??!?!?) I remember that I too am a child of God.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

God who spoke will speak through the Word. God who acted will act in our worship. [We need] a restoration of the supernatural, an expectancy that God will be present to us in our worship to touch us, to heal us, and to make us whole.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition

Cancer and Resurrection

It’s the beginning of April.  This time every year, as we see both snow and 70 degree temps, I am also thinking about something more than Spring Break.

I’m thinking about cancer.

I was diagnosed with cancer on April 5th over 10 years ago.  I remember getting the news from the ER doctor who walked in after my x-ray and blood work.  I had been in chronic pain for over month and was still feeling it’s bite even with a full dose of Vicodin.

“I’m sorry.  This is the part of my job that I don’t like,” the doctor said, “but you have cancer and it’s extensive.”

I was sure at that moment that I was a dead man walking.  The doctor had just said the “C-word”…malignant cancer spreading to my abdomen and wrapping around my right kidney and main artery in an attempt to squeeze the life out of me.  I could envision the surgeon cutting me open during surgery and surveying my internal organs that now looked like a grey gelatinous mass.  “Sew him up and send him home with morphine,” he’d say, “There’s nothing we can do…”

Cancer.  The word feels like a death sentence, because for so many it is.

chemo chair

But I didn’t die then.  In fact, in a couple hours later another doctor walked into the room.  This doctor was an oncologist and she said, “It’s serious, but we can handle this.”  I had faced death and suddenly I was given…hope.

Death and resurrection.  That is the theme for our church this year as we start a new series called “The End and the Beginning”.  This is also a theme for me. Because of what Jesus did?  Yes.  But also because over 10 years ago, I saw death starring me in the face.  Death.  And resurrection.

And that is also the theme of the next week and a half.  We proclaim life, but also death.  Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Our death and resurrection.  That is the story of our faith.

Jesus died.

Jesus rose again.

Jesus will come again.

And because he did.  We will too.

I remember sneaking in the back of the church service during my 12 weeks of chemo.  My hair had fallen out.  My fingers tingled because of nerve damage.  My blood vessels were burned.  I didn’t have enough strength to talk to people, but I wanted to be in church.  I needed to be in church…surrounded by God’s people singing.  And so I would sing with tears in my eyes.  Despite the pain.  Despite the cancer.

I

Would

Sing.

chemo me

And again, that is what we do.  We sing in the face of pain and death.  This is one of the things it means to be a disciple.  We are made new.  We bear His death and resurrection in our bodies and because of that, we sing.  Jesus died and rose again.

So this weekend, we sing.

This is not the end.

We sing.

LET THE MESSAGE OF CHRIST DWELL AMONG YOU RICHLY…SINGING TO GOD WITH GRATITUDE IN YOUR HEARTS. –COLOSSIANS 3:16

Support our Poland Music Arts Trip

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” –Isaiah 6:8

Did you know that all of Poland‘s 40,000 professing evangelical believers (approximately 1 out of 1,000) would fit into a large sports stadium?

On July 3-18 of this year, 10 ECC Worship Arts Team members will serve in Wisla, Poland, partnering with Korban and Tanya Miller.  Crazy as it sounds, Korban used to be the Worship Pastor at Blackhawk Baptist here in Fort Wayne!

 The Millers now serve with an organization called Josiah Venture.  The ECC team members are Dan, Shellie, Megan and Joseph Friend, Tim & Yvonne Yanes, David Dettweiler, Braydon Hathaway, Jessi Hott, and Brittany Blazier (from College Park, UB).

If you haven’t heard of Josiah Venture, here is a little about who they are what they do:

The world is changing, but the gospel remains the same.  Teams that come to Poland help with English and music camps.  These camps provide a relational environment where Polish teenagers hear the gospel, often for the first time.  Less than 1% of young people in Central and Eastern Europe are believers.  Teams have the opportunity to share the love of Christ with students that have probably had little or no contact with Christians, the Bible, or the truth of Jesus Christ.  Additionally, they give Poles an opportunity to speak English with native speakers through conversational English classes, playing sports, or music workshops . This is Josiah Venture-Poland. 

Please feel free to read more about this awesome organization on their website.

The ECC team will take part in a music camp offered to students called Fusion.  Dan Friend is leading the group and says,

We will be playing and singing songs that are popular to Polish teens to start the week.  One of those songs will be a worship song and one a Polish song. Each day, we will split up and teach approx. 25 students the instruments and vocals for each song.  As the week progresses, we will be sharing more worship songs with the students.  In the process, we will also have fun with the students, building relationships, and sharing the love of Jesus Christ.  I am really excited to see how God is leading the people of Josiah Venture and how God will move in the lives of these students!

The team would greatly cherish your prayer support in this mission trip and ministry.  

If you would like to support the team financially, your checks can be made out to Emmanuel Community Church.  (The names of team members cannot appear on the check. You may write Poland Music Trip or Josiah Venture in the memo).

We appreciate your prayer and support and we thank you for partnering with our Poland Music Arts team!

“Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” –Isaiah 6:8

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Photos from josiahventure.com

Sleeping through Lent

The grass never sleeps.

Or the rose.

Nor does the lily have a secret eye that shuts until morning.

Jesus said, wait with me. But the disciples slept.

The cricket has such splendid fringe on its feet,

and it sings, have you noticed, with its whole body,

and heaven knows if it even sleeps.

Jesus said, wait with me. And maybe the stars did, maybe

the wind wound itself into a silver tree, and didn’t move,

maybe

the lake far away, where once he walked as on a

blue pavement,

lay still and waited, wild awake.

Oh the dear bodies, slumped and eye-shut, that could not

keep that vigil, how they must have wept,

so utterly human, knowing this too

must be a part of the story.

-Gethsemane, by Mary Oliver

Can you guess the first question people ask me when it comes to having a new baby?

“So, are you sleeping yet?”

That is because the sleeplessness that comes with a new baby is a universal experience.  Yes, I know, sometimes a baby sleeps 6-7 hours at a time after 6 weeks, but MOST parents deal with sleeplessness.

It’s also the season of Lent.  You might be wondering what kind of connection there might be to be made between Lent and sleeplessness.  Well, I’m glad you asked…let me tell you, as a Dad who is missing sleep I’ve been thinking about it!  Lent has historically been a time when Christians give up something in order to force themselves into a place where they have to struggle and therefore rely on God.  When we give something up, we join with Jesus in the wilderness or in the Garden of Gethsemane…and that is what makes me think of sleep.   Jesus was talking about sleep in the Garden before his betrayal by Judas.  In Luke 22:46 we read,

“Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”

And what did the disciples do?  They did exactly what I do after changing my son’s diaper, feeding him 5 oz of milk and walking him.  They fell asleep.

Now, if I was trying to be “holier than thou”, I would claim to be giving up sleep for Lent!

I’m not.

But as we go through this season, I am reading a psalm before I go to bed.  It’s just one attempt to focus myself before a night of interrupted sleep.  While I’m not giving something up (I’m actually adding something to my life!), I’m inspired by Psalm 119:148.

My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises.

May all of us take time during Lent to meditate and ask the question, “What will draw me closer to my God in this season?”

Ask the question.  Maybe it’s sleeping less or maybe it’s not.

But if it is…do you want to come over to my house at 3:00AM and change a diaper?

___________________________

Painting by Yulonda Rios