Who Is Worship For? – Prt 2

Last time, I wrote about God as our primary audience.  And that is true, God is our primary audience.  That being said, there is another audience in any worship gathering!  You.  Me.  We are second audience when we come to worship.

Now I have to confess something.  I have been the person who has said things like, “We should sing more about who God is!”  or “This song is so man-centered!”  Now, those things are true and sound very spiritual, but the other truth is that part of the reason we get together is to encourage each other by singing!  Colossians 3:16 says,

Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.

And in Ephesians 5:19

speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,

So the Bible tells us that the church is an audience for worship and that one of the reasons we get together to worship is to encourage each other.  The Spirit of God in you speaks to me and brings encouragement in the middle of the trials of life.

When I was going through cancer, I needed people to sing for me.  I would try to stand and sing, but too many times I was too weak.  I would stand in the back with tears streaming down my face and listen to God’s people sing.  I’m ashamed to admit that it took that long for me to realize this.  There are many people who come to church who are struggling to sing.  They might look on the outside as if they are angry or un-engaged, but the reality is that they are struggling.  They need other believers to sing to them.

This is one of the ways we share our testimony of faith.  No matter the words on the screen, we are communicating that God is always worthy of praise and we have found him to be faithful.

Who knows…that might be you or me down the road.  We might be the people who need to hear someone else sing God’s praises.

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“In his resurrection [Jesus] conquered the results of sin—which is death—so that death is not the last word written over our life.”

-Robert E. Webber, The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life

New Song: Jesus

This is a classic Chris Tomlin song…he pulls metaphors from all over the Bible and arranges them in one song.  This song is no different, but the singular focus of the song is Jesus.  Only Jesus.  It starts by framing the cosmic struggle we are caught up in.  It is “older than the ages”, but we look forward to the promises that are “yet to come” while living in the reality of Jesus who was born of a virgin, as a descendent of mother Eve.

There are multiple scriptures I will reference throughout the song, but I think it’s best to start at the Fall when the whole story starts.  Satan tempts the woman and the man who disobey God and fall from the perfect design for their lives.  And God makes a promise that is fulfilled in Jesus who came, died on a cross and who is still yet to come…God says,

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.” -Genesis 3:15

V1: There is a truth older than the ages 
There is a promise of things yet to come 
There is one born for our salvation 

Jesus

We move onto the promises that we see in the book of Isaiah that look forward to the coming of Jesus…but, it uses present tense to remind us that these things are still true for us today.

Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. -Isaiah 60:20

He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. –Isaiah 9:7

The Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…-Isaiah 61:1

V2: There is a light that overwhelms the darkness 
There is a kingdom that forever reigns
There is freedom from the chains that bind us

Jesus, Jesus

Speaking of Jesus, the chorus moves onto specific stories of Jesus from scripture…

…He went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake…They cried out…Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” -Mark 6:48b-50

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. -Mark 4:39

“Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” -Daniel 3:25

Ch: Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me

That last line is fascinating because it happened back in the OT before Jesus was born!  We understand this to be a “theophany” or a time that Jesus appeared as Jesus before he was born and before we knew him as Jesus.  He appeared in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, protecting them from the flames, and looking like “a son of the gods”.

But hold on!  We aren’t done with the chorus yet!  The second half shifts to speak about Jesus in metaphors…

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. -Rev 5:5

…you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors…with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. -1 Peter 1:18b-19

For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. -Job 5:18

He roars like a lion
He bled as the Lamb
He carries my healing in His hands

Jesus 

The third verse takes all of that scripture and applies it to our lives.  This is the beauty of the song and one of the goals of the believer.  We are to understand that this book, the Bible, isn’t just a history book.  It isn’t just a manual for living.  It is a story that we are invited to claim as our own.  These characters from the Bible are part of your family…my family…and Jesus calls you to help write the story of His expanding Kingdom NOW, even in trouble, storms and the night.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. -Psalm 42:8

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”  He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. -Luke 8:24

V3: There is a name I call in times of trouble
There is a song that comforts in the night
There is a voice that calms the storm that rages

He is Jesus, Jesus

…These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. -John 20:31

…to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! -Jude 25

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. -Psalm 19:14

Br: Messiah
My Savior
There is power in Your name
You’re my rock and my Redeemer
There is power in Your name
In Your name

This bridge takes the song and condenses it down to a simple declaration of faith.  He is the Messiah, Savior, Redeemer…who, you ask?  Jesus.

 

We need to rediscover the power of God’s Word as God’s speaking and communicating to his church now, today. . . . We must stop treating the Scripture reading as a preliminary. In worship there aren’t “preliminaries.” Every part of worship is an intricate aspect of the whole. Therefore, reading Scripture is not a preliminary—something to “get over with” so we can get on to the sermon. . . . There needs to be a revival of attention and care for the public reading of Scripture. We need to experience Scripture as the electrifying Word of God.

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

Who Is Worship For? – Prt1

On my book shelf are two pictures.  I keep them there because they remind me of what it was like to start as a worship leader at age 25.  I look back and think, “Wow. I’ve been doing this worship pastor thing for a long time!”…18 years to be exact.  And in the worship world, that is a long time!

In that time, I’ve noticed that people have different ideas about who a worship service is for. (That is “worship gathered“!)  Many times we want to focus only on one audience.  Now, (Don’t email me yet!  Hear me out!) I don’t mean to create a problem with the word audience!  I just mean our focus AND the first audience is obviously the Lord himself, right?  But after that, there is the audience of both the church and the world.  We’ll get to these eventually, but for now let’s talk about what it means to focus on the Lord in worship.

  • First, God is the one who makes worship possible.  We need to remember that the work of Jesus is what makes it possible for us to worship in spirit and truth.  Before we are saved by God’s grace, through faith, we worshiped other things. (Ourselves?!?)  But Jesus is the one who makes worship possible!
  • Second, God is the “who” we worship.  I think this is important to remember because it keeps our focus on the content of what we preach, pray and sing.  God, and specifically Jesus who made true worship possible, is always the object of our worship.  It’s tempting to sing about how much we love God and what we are going to do with our hands, but the focus needs to be on God himself.
  • Next, (and these last two are for me) too many times we forget that God has all power.  The God who created the universe, causes demons to tremble and will come again by riding on the clouds is the same God we worship.  He can do all things.
  • Lastly, I forget about God’s Presence.  He has promised that he will never leave us or forsake us.  Remember the first point?  Jesus is the one who made worship possible and now we have a God who will always accept us  There is nothing you have done that can separate you from the love of God.  Nothing!

As I look back at those old photos, I am reminded that these things were true then, have been true for 2,000 years and will be true until Jesus comes again.  So when we come to worship as a community, let’s seek God, knowing that as we worship, we are promised God’s presence and power…now and forever.

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Ever wondered why we worship in community?

For more on this, check out Mike Cosper’s book, Rhythms of Grace.

7 Cancer Lessons

Once again, I will be sitting in the doctor’s office looking through the blinds at people in cars passing by as their lives raced ahead of them.  The steps and muffled sounds of nurses and doctor’s will filter through the door.  Then my heart will starting to race and I will identify what is happening to me…

It will be fear.

It’s been 13 years since that April 5th when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 testicular cancer.  In those first days and weeks, I knew fear intimately as an evil twin who was trying to kill me.  Twelve weeks of chemo left me so weak that some days I couldn’t get off the couch to get a glass of water.  The chemo not only ate the cancer, but also destroyed my stomach lining, brought on migraine-like symptoms and damaged the nerves in my fingers and ears.  And all the time…fear.

The strange thing was that it took me years to identify the fear and anxiety that comes before my check-up.  Some years, I would feel it grab me from from behind weeks before.  Other years, it snuck up on me.  But I never saw it coming and then wondered why I was in an emotional funk.

Now, I am able to remind my fear of what I’ve learned because of cancer…because of fear.  I’m not always able to respond clearly.  But now, before a check up, I try to speak these things to my fear.  I tell it what I’ve  learned from cancer…

1.

Freedom from fear is a process.  Some people might be able to defeat fear and never face it again, but not me.  While it’s hold on me is less, I still have to wrestle with my fear!  (If you’re fighting fear, here here are some further thoughts on fighting it.)

2.

I am thankful for going through cancer.  It changed me and gave me so many things that I couldn’t have learned any other way.  And knowing myself better now, I realize I would have run from the pain and suffering so God made me face it head on…

3.

We all die.  I sat next to some amazing people in chemo.  One man was a life-long smoker and had brushed shoulders with the Russian mafia, or so he said.  Another woman was a worship leader and new mom facing breast cancer.  Another man was a life-long farmer newly diagnosed with cancer and you could see the fear in his eyes.  Some survived and some died.  We are all mortal.  Don’t waste your life.  There is bigger story than just your life and you can join that story.  It might mean you get cancer.  It might mean that you son will die, but get in the game for God’s glory.  You are on limited time.

4.

Having your life destroyed will either make you withdraw into your own self or you will learn to  trust God.  We all the desire to control our world, but this is the truth.  YOU CAN’T CONTROL YOUR WORLD.  We are 100% guaranteed suffering in this life and we are promised that God is 100% faithful to meet us there.

5.

I have hope in eternity.  I am looking forward to it.

6.

Facing cancer has deepened my love for others.  I’m crazy selfish and I’m guessing I’m not the only one.  When facing pain, the temptation is to focus even more on yourself.

7.

Cancer helped me know Jesus better.  Before cancer, I tended to love Jesus for what he gave me.  I loved Jesus because a lot of family and friends loved Jesus.  Cancer destroyed that world and taught me to love Jesus for Jesus.  As author Tim Keller writes, “Sometimes God seems to be killing us when he’s actually saving us.”  It’s a life-long process, but he is saving me from myself.  It’s becoming less about me and more about him.

…And all of that will take place in my brain in the space of 15 min.  Because after 15 min, the door will open and my doctor will walk in.  He will asked me the litany of questions…

“How would you rate your pain?  How are your side-effects?  Any more pain in your fingers?”

As he is leaving, I can almost guarantee that he will forgot to tell me about the lab results from my blood work.

But you can’t be too hard on him.  It has been 13 years.

Because of Easter we are in union with Christ and are called to live in our baptismal identity in his resurrection.  This essential theme of Easter cannot be communicated in a day.

-Robert Webber, Ancient-Future Time: Forming Spirituality through the Christian Year (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004), 148.

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Yes, yes, yes to this quote.  My experience in the evangelical church is that we miss this critical understanding of baptism.  Many times, we reduce baptism to simply a person’s testimony to follow Jesus.  This isn’t a misunderstanding of baptism, but it is a reduction.  And it can make us the hero of the story.  “I want to do this…”

Instead, the church has understood baptism to be a symbol of our death to Satan, sin and self because of the work of Jesus.  The church has also understood it to be a sign of identifying with Christ and his church, the resurrection people.  And, the church has understood baptism to be something that frames the rest of our lives.  We are called to live today in that “baptismal identify”.

Spoken Word: If He Didn’t/But He Did

How do you live out God’s Word in your life?  With some scriptures, it’s fairly easy to understand.  We don’t do it, but we have some level of understanding.  But there are other scriptures that take awhile, for me at least, to understand, meaning that I live it out.  One way I do that, is by re-writing it in a spoken word style of free verse.

Because, if he didn’t rise…what then?

And if he did…what then?

As we prepare for Easter, here is my attempt to live out 1 Corinthians 15:12-28.

IF HE DIDN’T/BUT HE DID

If some say Christ rose, how can you say, “no”?

If he didn’t rise, then Christ is still brought low.

If he didn’t rise, it doesn’t matter what we believe or say.

Even more, we are liars, for we preach, “Jesus, The Way”.

If he didn’t rise, the dead will stay dead.

If he didn’t rise, Christ lies on his tomb’s bed.

And if he didn’t rise, your faith is empty, you’re full of sin,

And those who have already been…

…are lost.

If only for now we hope in Christ, we’re pathetic…

…and we too are lost.

But

Christ has risen, he is the first who, in death, sleep.

For since a man damned us, a man will also raise us.

For since Adam killed us, so our Christ must

give us life, but him first then you and me.

And in the end, with all power and authority,

defeating all dominions with his final breath,

He hands the Father a kingdom, defeating even death.

Then the Father, who put everything under the Son,

will have His will done.

And the Son, will put everything under the Father

so we will see God is our history’s author.

Praise our God, three-in-one.

All glory to Christ, the Risen one.

How Do You Love Your Neighbor? Die for Them?

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” –Luke 10:27

These are the words of Jesus, but what do they mean for us in our daily lives?  There is no doubt what they meant to Lieutenant-Colonel Arnaud Beltrame.  Beltrame was killed on March 23 in the terrorist attack on a supermarket near Carcassonne.  I don’t know all the details, but he died after having been exchanged for a hostage.  What is deeply moving to me is that this was not only an act of heroism.  It was one of faith.  The chaplain of the gendarmerie was asked about Beltrame.  This is what he said…

It turns out that the lieutenant-colonel was a practicing Catholic.  The fact is that he did not hide his faith, and that he radiated it, he testified.  We can say that his act of offering is consistent with what he believed.  He went to the end of his service to the country and to the end of his testimony of faith.  To believe is not only to adhere to a doctrine.  It is first to love God and his neighbor, and to testify of his faith concretely in everyday life.  In the happy or unhappy, even dramatic circumstances of our lives.  -Father Dominique Arz, national chaplain*

May we take the words of Jesus to heart and love our neighbors like Arnaud Beltrame.

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*Quote and content translated by Google from https://www.famillechretienne.fr/politique-societe/societe/arnaud-beltrame-est-alle-jusqu-au-bout-de-son-temoignage-de-foi-234374