Worship itself is a re-presentation of Christ. . . . Consequently, when we worship, the conflict between good and evil that we experience in our everyday lives is confronted and resolved.  We leave worship once again with the personal assurance that the battle is won—Satan has been, is now being, and will be defeated. Because we are confident in Christ’s victory, we experience a great release from the burden of our sin and we become filled with joy and peace.

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

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Pursue God.

PURSUE.  This is our word for the year.  But, do we live it out?

I’m not sure I always do.

For me, it’s a word that calls us to spend our lives for God’s Kingdom.  For me, it’s an emotional word.  Let me break it down like this…

Our emotions are connected to the things that we care about.  Think about it.  When do you get the most emotional?  For example, If you’ve lost a loved one, as I have, you might break down in tears as you remember them.  We get emotional about the things that we care about.

So in our worship services, we should get emotional.  Right?  Again for example, in a worship service you should experience awe and wonder because you have experienced God as good and awe-inspiring.  When we sing, we are forming our heart’s desires to PURSUE God.

But what happens if we don’t do this?  Why would that be a problem?  Pastor Zack Hicks says it this way,

“Worship devoid of emotion is a dangerous thing because it can train us into believing that these concerns really aren’t concerns.  This is why emotionless worship is just as toxic to our faith as haphazardly emotional worship is.”*

Part of our role as singers, musicians, techs and dramatists is that we create space where people can feel the right emotions at the right times and about the right things.  When we sing about sin, we should be crushed because it separates us from God.  When we create art about salvation, we should be filled with hope and joy because it is the only way to find life.  This is just ONE way we PURSUE God!

Now, it’s also important make sure that we know what our job is and what it ISN’T!  As the old saying goes, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”  We can lead people to develop their emotional responses to the gospel of Jesus as they pursue God, but it’s alway the Holy Spirit (and ONLY the Holy Spirit) who makes people feel those emotions!  It’s the Holy Spirit who enables us to PURSUE.

Our goal is NOT to be more emotional.  Our goal is to PURSUE GOD and therefore become people of joy, love, hope and peace inside and outside of our worship services.

____________________________

*The Worship Pastor by Zack Hicks

We don’t go to worship to celebrate what we have done. We don’t say, “Look, Lord, isn’t it wonderful that I believe in you, follow you, and serve you!” No! We go to worship to praise and thank God for what he has done, is doing, and will do. God’s work in Christ is the focus of worship. 

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

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

Prayer in Process…

Every week we walk through doors at ECC we see four words.

Pursue.  Prayer.  Preparation.  Participation.

Recently, we started asking some questions.

“How are we doing with those words?”

We have had a variety of answers, but one of them haunts me and is something our staff is working on.

Prayer.

The last two weekends, we talked with our teams about focusing more on God’s worthiness in our prayer times before service.  Our church staff is also meeting with Daniel Henderson throughout the year to learn and grow in our leadership.  Our first meeting with him was a week ago and helpful for us.  We are also reading Henderson’s book, “Old Paths / New Power” and a few quotes have jumped out at me.  He writes…

“If we have not time we must make time, for if God has given us time for secondary duties, He must have given us time for primary ones, and to draw near to Him is a primary duty…”

“To be effective, these priorities must relentlessly shape your schedule.  Each week the calendar must be organized around these commitments.  Otherwise distractions will tank effectiveness.”

This is true.  Whether we like to admit it or not, we make time for the things that are important to us.  Last week was busy for me, but I made sure to run out of the office in time to see my daughter’s soccer game in the late afternoon.  (They lost.)

How will it change us if we take time out of our schedule?  I don’t know, but we’re going to find out.  We will take a bit more time on the weekends to praise God for who he is.  I am taking a 1/2 day once a month to get away and pray.  Now, I might miss a month here and there and it doesn’t have to be a whole 1/2 a day.  The point is that I am working on my awareness of God’s presence in the normal parts of my day and redeeming time even if it’s just in the car or running outside in the morning.

So like I said, I don’t know how it will change us or myself.  I’m guessing that the process is the point as much as the outcome.

But we’re going to see…

Prayer by Dana Gioia

I discovered this poem and it touched me deeply.  I don’t know the situation or the circumstances that birthed these words, but I resonate with them.  The joining of grief, art, faith, lament, hope…

Echo of the clocktower, footstep
in the alleyway, sweep
of the wind sifting the leaves.

Jeweller of the spiderweb, connoisseur
of autumn’s opulence, blade of lightning
harvesting the sky.

Keeper of the small gate, choreographer
of entrances and exits, midnight
whisper travelling the wires.

Seducer, healer, deity or thief,
I will see you soon enough—
in the shadow of the rainfall,

in the brief violet darkening a sunset—
but until then I pray watch over him
as a mountain guards its covert ore

and the harsh falcon its flightless young.