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

Spoken-word Psalm 6

I was in the hospital again this week with a friend.  He’s home now and is going to be ok.  I met with another friend over lunch who is struggling with what is happening in his life right now.  Both were struggling so I thought there might be others out there too.

Here is a psalm that I re-wrote for you when you’re tired, hurting, sick or just emotionally worn out.  It was originally written by David because he struggled with the same kinds of things…and he wrote this to God…for himself…for you…

Lord,

don’t hammer me in your anger
    or whoop me in your wrath.
Please have some mercy, Lord, for

I.

am.

tired.

    Heal me, Lord, for my stomach’s on fire.
My soul is delving deep in darkness
    And my heart is a liar.

Turn, Lord, so I can see you;
    save me because of your animating love.
The numb no longer know your name.
    Who praises you while staring at the TV screen?

(Remote control:  click, click, click…)

And here I am worn out from…everything

All night, I sit like a vegetable with arms
    and mumble many mono-syllables.
My eyes grow heavy and hurt;
    and then my nose

starts

to

run.  (snort)

Get behind me, sarcasm,
    (And yeah!, the Lord has seen my selfishness and…that sarcasm too.)
The Lord has heard me “hello?” for help;
    the Lord accepts my pathetic prayer.

All my insecurity will be overwhelmed with holy dreams and sleep;
    as my will repents and prays,

“…the Lord my soul to keep”.

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…

New Song: Gadol Adonai (Great is the Lord)

Last year, our family traveled to Mexico.  While there, we worshipped with a Spanish speaking congregation.  It was hard to follow along, I won’t deny it.  But there were moments when I understood what we were doing together.  For example, when the band transitioned from an upbeat praise song that I didn’t know into “Cuan Grande Es Dios” (or “How Great is our God”), I raised my hands and sang.  It was a taste of what heaven will be like when every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord and his people will shout praises.  This weekend, I’m hoping to have a similar experience as we sing both in English and Hebrew.  Yes, Hebrew!  AND You already know the song!  It’s the same song we sang last summer.  And I know, I know, it will be stretch for us, but we will take time to learn it together.  And when we get it, it will be powerful to hear God’s praises in another language.  We will sing the intro and chorus in Hebrew and the rest in English.  Here goes…

Intro: Gadol Adonai umehulal me’od, B’ir Eloheinu, B’har kodsho X2

I know, it’s going to be a challenge at first, but hang with it!  This comes straight from Psalm 48:1 which says,

“GREAT IS THE LORD, AND MOST WORTHY OF PRAISE, IN THE CITY OF OUR GOD, HIS HOLY MOUNTAIN.”

So not only are we singing in Hebrew, we are singing God’s word in the original language!  But I still don’t want to push it, so back to English…

Verse 1: I’ll come before Your throne, The God of my joy

I’ll give the fruit of my lips

And remember the great things You did, for me

Remember.  That word shows up in the scriptures 231 times.  Why, do you think?  I’m pretty sure it’s because God knows us so well, he knows that we forget.  I also love that this verse refers to Psalm 34 where we see that God’s light and care guide us into his presence and that is where we praise and remember.  Check it out…

Send me your light and your faithful care,
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God, my joy and my delight.
 -Psalm 34:3-4a

Moving on…

Verse 2: Behold the temple of God, is now with man

As His people all nations will rise

He will wipe every tear from their eyes

Death, pain and mourning will cease forevermore!

We are going to see this as we dig deeper into studying the temple, but now we are the temple of God.  This is clear in two different places…
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple,” writes Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”  And he also writes, “In him (that’s Jesus) the whole building (that’s us!) is joined together and rises to become a holytemple in the Lord” (Eph 2:21).
Back to Hebrew…

Chorus: Hallelujah ki malach Adonai Eloheinu, Hallelujah ki malach Elohei Tzvaot

This comes almost directly from the last book of the bible where John sees a vision of heaven.  He writes,

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude…“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns”. -Revelation 19:6

Just like my taste of heaven in Mexico, at the end of time all people in every tongue will praise God.  But the song also gives us a chance to slow down and meditate.  We aren’t in glory yet.  So until we get there we need to remember and rejoice.  As it says in the psalms,

Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord
    and delight in his salvation.
My whole being will exclaim,
    “Who is like you, Lord? -Psalm 35:9-10

Bridge: Rejoice, oh rejoice my soul, And give honor to him X2

New Tech Intern: Sam Delagrange

This Summer, we have our first tech intern serving with Michala Halstead, ECC Tech Director.  His name is Sam Delagrange.  He’s a high-school student and we recently interviewed him…and before you write him off for just being a “high school student”, read some of his questions.  I think he might surprise you.  Who knows, you might even find that he has something to teach you!

Ok Sam, first question…how did God lead you to tech ministry?

God led me to tech ministry starting in 4th or 5th grade. We weren’t attending ECC yet and the children’s ministry at the church we were attending was low on volunteers so I stepped in and did tech on Sundays.  Once I started 6th grade at ECC, I immediately began attending the Sunday and Wednesday night youth meetings. Sometime throughout that year, there was an announcement that they were looking for band and tech members. I signed up for tech on Wednesday nights and from there my interest in technology and the way it is always changing took off, along with my journey as a student leader and love for serving God.

How about role models? Who have been the most influential people in your life?

My mom is a huge role model to me. She has been an example to me that with God, anything is possible. She has taught me to always trust in God’s plan and to never give up. In that same way, my dad has been a huge influence to me. He has helped me become who I am and never let anyone take my love of God away from me. Another influential person in my life was Paul Landhuis (ECC Student Ministry Intern). He showed me that it is possible to serve God using the gifts He has provided. And lastly, my Aunt Angie, who taught me to never complain and always persevere and work harder.

So who would you say is your favorite “Christian” artist or songwriter right now?

My favorite Christian artist right now is Colton Dixon. I really enjoy the variety of music he has written. I also relate to some of his songs, such as “The Other Side” where he sings “It isn’t easy to say goodbye But I know it’s only for a little while.” In 2015 and 2016 I lost two influential people in my life. One to a brain aneurysm (Angie) and the other to a collision with a semi (Paul). This song helps me remember that I will see them again and they are in a better place now.

Just for fun…favorite flashback song from when you were growing up?

When I was younger, my dad had an iPod full of music. I remember one song that he had bought the video version of also. The song was “A New Hallelujah” by Michael W. Smith. I can remember sitting on our backyard on the swing listening to this song over and over again.

Without thinking…favorite book of the Bible or favorite verse?

Do not worry. Learn to pray about everything. Give thanks to God as you ask Him for what you need.  The peace of God is much greater than the human mind can understand. This peace will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippines 4:6-7

That’s a great one.  Why don’t you describe your devotions with God.

I like to do different YouVersion Bible plans on the YouVersion Bible app.  My current plan is about identifying God’s word (truth) from opinions or incorrect views (trash).

So I’m curious…what are you presently reading?

Right now I’m reading a book about being a student leader and growing in my walk with God as I lead my peers to God. The book is “Help! I’m a Student Leader!: practical ideas and guidance on leadership” by Doug Fields.

What books are you currently reading or watching for fun?

I’m currently reading different research articles about emerging tech innovations. Like I said, I find the way technology is always changing and evolving very intriguing.

Deep stuff.  What’s the best book you’ve read that has helped you grow as a believer?

I haven’t finished the book yet, but I hope it still counts. The book “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman has been an eye opener for me. It has taught me that I need to be a follower of Jesus, and not just a fan. If Jesus came tomorrow and told me to follow Him, without saying goodbye to anyone or grabbing anything, I should be able to do that; be a follower, and not a fan.

And what single bit of counsel has made the most significant difference in your life?

My mom always tells me to try my best and as long as I try my best, there is nothing more I can do. This has helped me mentally and spiritually. It reminds me that no matter how hard we try, nobody is perfect and therefore we have nothing to offer God.  But still, if we praise God and repent our sins, He forgives our sins and wipes the slate clean!

That’s truth.  What else do you do for fun when you’re not at ECC?

When I’m not at ECC, I enjoy hanging out with my family and playing with my two dogs at home, or hanging out with friends. My family and I also go camping during the summer and fall which has been a really cool experience. Going camping is one of my favorite things we do together during the summer.

Anything else on your mind you want to share?

I’m excited to learn more and serve more this summer at ECC. I hope to learn some new things this summer and possibly teach the rest of the team some new things along the way. Thank you for this opportunity!

We are excited to have you!  Let’s make sure to welcome Sam as he joins us for this summer internship!

DAVID: the one-man musical

It was a small stage with 60-70 people in the audience.  all-for-One’s artistic director introduced the show and the people clapped as I walked onstage to begin a 30 min preview of DAVID.  I was a little nervous, but I was prepared and felt called to share this story.

It’s the story of a man who is known as a singer/songwriter, warrior and king.  It’s the story of a man who was known for his pure heart and yet committed terrible sin against Uriah, Bathsheeba and others.  But mostly, it’s a story of a powerful God and the man who tried to express his love for God in song.

As I start to prepare all the songs and characters again for July 8/9, when I present the same preview at Emmanuel Community Church, I wanted to share some scenes from the first preview.  Here is a small sneak peak into DAVID…

At the top of the show, the prophet Samuel anoints David.  The Spirit of God enters David and empowers him for the rest of his life…

The Philistines gather their troops and attack Israel…

The Philistine champion, Goliath of Gath, steps out from the frontlines and issues his challenge, “Give me a man and let us fight it out together!”

David hits the giant hard in the head and Goliath falls, facedown in the dirt!

As the Israelite army heads home, the women come out from the villages to welcome King Saul.  For fun they sing, “Saul has killed his thousands, David his tens of thousands.”

Filled with jealousy, Saul tries to kill David.  David sings a song of justice to God.  “O Lord my God, I take refuge in you / Save me and deliver me, from all who would pursue…”

Saul discovers that Michal, his daughter, is in love with David.  Thinking the Philistines will get rid of David for him, Saul challenges David to kill 100 Philistines to get Michal as his wife.  David does it and Saul gives his daughter, Michal, to David in marriage…

Then God sends a dark mood to afflict Saul.  It takes control of him.  He is at home with his spear while David is (again!) playing music.  Saul tries to pin him to the wall…

David escapes and sings to God.  “Deliver me from my enemies, O God / Protect me from those who rise up against me…”

David runs to Nob and talks to Ahimelech the priest.  Ahimelech gives him the holy bread, taken from the presence of God, and also Goliath’s sword.  David escapes to Gath…

David is recognized by the Philistines.  Afraid for his life, David pretends to be insane.  When he escapes he sings his thanks to God, “In God, whose Word I praise / In God I trust, I will not be afraid / What can mortal man do to me?”

This is just the beginning of David’s life and only the first 30 min of the show.  I’m excited to present these characters, these songs and THIS STORY on July 8/9 because I think it will help all of us see a man who was flawed, but who loved the Lord with his whole heart.

Art in worship is a bit like the ring on the left hand. It’s a vehicle through which a volume is spoken. . . . I have found that music, banners, liturgical dance, drama, color, the symbolic use of space, and other artistic objects serve my worship. . . . They communicate the gospel in their own way and, in doing so, inspire within us offerings of praise and thanksgiving.

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

The historic argument for the use of the arts in worship is grounded in the Incarnation. The claim is that God, by becoming a person, sanctified physical and material reality as a vehicle for spiritual presence. He comes to us through flesh and blood. Why, then, shouldn’t we accept appropriate art forms as visible means through which we offer our praise?

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

Dear Worship Leader:

“Dear Worship Leader:  You have an extraordinary job with high stakes and grand opportunities.  You aren’t just a song leader.  You aren’t just a…musician…You aren’t merely on stage, and those people out there aren’t merely the audience…They are disciples, followers…Each and every week, you are helping people answer the question, How do I approach God?”

-The Worship Pastor by Zack Hicks

This is true for you no matter your role.  You might be behind the sound board.  You might be behind the light board.  You might be a set builder.  Whatever your role, you are helping people approach God.

I’ve realized this more as I’ve watched our Tech Director, Michala Halstead, learn and model this.  She didn’t start out wanting to serve in a church.  She just knew that she loved music, technology and Jesus, but here she is.  As she takes her role seriously, she realizes that learning about her brothers and sisters at ECC, praying with them and living out her faith before her family and friends is part of her role.  She is helping people approach God.

And you are the same.

Whether you realize it or not, if you are a christian then you have opportunities each week to minister to people.  The question for me this week was simply this:

“Am I going to step up and lead people to God or not?”

It’s not easy.  It takes work and effort.  I have to step out of my comfort zone at times.  But that is my calling.  And so when someone told me about a struggle they were having, I asked, “Do you mind if I pray for you right now?”  And together we approached God, the only one who has all the answers to our daily and eternal problems.

And that is your calling too.

Dear Worship Leader, this week may you not only sing or tech or design or act for the Lord.  May you live for him as you help people approach God.