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Posts Tagged ‘Worship’

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Some days …

Ever have one of those days? You know what I mean … it is as though the stars could not be more out of alignment for you. There is a hollow, empty feeling in your gut, your head, your heart.

Maybe it is simply a day of waking up on the wrong side of the bed, or maybe it is a day, at the end of a week of death by a thousand little cuts from all around you in your life. Maybe it is a day of realizing in your head, of an area where you were unsuccessful, or maybe it is a day of not feeling important, needed, loved.

I know myself, and this rather SAD season well enough to know that when I am having one of those days, I need to jump-start my emotions with words of affirmation. The best, most successful ways this works for me are to either watch a ridiculously funny movie, TV show, or video (or read auto-correct messages) or to listen to a worship song whose message is rooted in affirming truth.

The link (above) was my boost, on that particularly dark day, when all I needed was an I love you. Just thought that if it helped me, it might be helpful to someone reading.

“He holds the stars and He holds my heart
With healing hands that bear the scars
The rugged cross where He died for me
My only hope, my everything

Jesus, He loves me, He loves me
Jesus, how can it be, He loves me, He is for me”

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This past summer I heard that the first church of my childhood was to be torn down. When my brother shared that the contents of it, as well as architectural features, were to be auctioned off I found myself remembering that place and it’s people.

When I was three, my mother met my soon to be father. From their wedding on, my paternal grandmother took me along to her church each Sunday, for Sunday School, often followed by the church service.

It was a small, white clapboard building, with pine flooring, dark wood trims on the interior, and stained glass windows at (from my memory) almost every entry the sun could penetrate.

The small foyer opened straight into the vestry, where the opening of Sunday School would take place. I cannot remember all of the songs I learned there, but Jesus Loves Me, Jesus Loves the Little Children (all the children of the world) and This Little Light of Mine were certainly ones that I learned in that small, but airy room.

Walking straight through the vestry to the back would then open a door on the left, then through the petite kitchen, to another petite room. It was there that I first encountered that classic Sunday School teaching tool, the flannel graph. If I close my eyes, I can still see the lame man being lowered through the roof, by his friends, so that he might be healed by Jesus.

Upstairs were more classrooms, though I only remember being in one of them. They were reserved for the older kids, and as I got older I attended Sunday School closer to my home.

Parallel to the vestry was the sanctuary. A rectangular room, with stained glass windows on one side, and on the other, a magnificent door that rolled right into the wall, separating the sanctuary from the vestry. The front was raised, and the simple pulpit in the middle. An old organ sat to the left, down on the floor. The back of the sanctuary was the most beautiful stained glass window (below).

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The image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, so gently carrying his lamb captivated by attention, and had me turned around staring in awe and wonder as a child. This image created from glass and lead, was and is who I see when I hear the name of Jesus.

But, the church was not just a building, but a people too.

There was that older lady who I sat behind in the vestry, who had the longest leg hairs ever (longer than any woman or man I have met since). Or the woman who made the cherry and cream cheese sandwiches, rolled up like a pinwheel. Or the kind man who always had hard candies in his pocket. Or the sound of my grandmother’s choral voice (equivalent to that of Lucille Ball). Or the ‘old ladies’ my grandmother picked up to drive to church every Sunday, even until the Sunday prior to her death in her mid 80’s. Or the women who, for a Vacation Bible School, were teaching the story of the loaves and the fishes, and they gave each child five buns and two cookies cut out as fish.

In recent years, the church … where I first met Jesus … had reduced to single digit attendance, and it’s hundred-odd year old building, badly in need of costly repair. It, and the community both suffering the effects of society moving away from the rural and towards more urban centers.

It is sad to think of a church being de-constructed. As the day approached, I imagined the sacrifices that those who built the church had made over the years. The coins in a jar, the roof replacement that was delayed by another year, the cookbooks sold, the pennies from a paper route. How sad that all their efforts would come to such a final end.

Though it is more sad to imagine maintaining a hollow building, with money and time that could instead be spent bringing light to those encompassed by darkness.

That church, as a building, taught me that Jesus was kind, and loving, and the main focus for that holy house.

That church, as a people, taught me that people were important, that I was important. They taught me that to worship God we did not have to have a perfect offering, but to offer what we have.

No place is so dear to my childhood …

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Yesterday I wrote about worship. I touched on the example of Job who praised God, even in the midst of losing every earthly thing that a man or woman could hold dear. His is not an easy example to follow, but I do believe that his response to adversity is one worth aiming to mirror in our lives.

One of the difficulties of reading the Bible is that we cannot always be clear as to how a person is saying the words that they say. We are missing key elements of communication. We do not always know what words in their sentences are emphasized more (or less), we do not know how their face looked, and we do not know if they rolled their eyes while they were talking (I have teenagers in my house, and something like ‘yes mom’ can have so many different meanings, depending on how it is said, what they are doing with their bodies and what their eyes are doing).

Our communication is so so much clearer when we experience it face to face.

But we do not have that opportunity when we read the Bible, so we are left to guess, assume, and input our own take on just how things might have been communicated. I, being an internal processor, would tend to go with the third option, that of inputting my own take on just how things might have been communicated.

When I think of the disasters, disappointments and losses that Job faced, I am pretty confident that he did not say, in a way that my kids might announce an A+ on their Math test, “The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away, praise the name of the Lord.” I also do not think he made that announcement as a question. I also do not think that he said what he did without tears of true and sincere pain falling down his cheeks.

I believe that God heard Jobs cry, I believe that God accepted Jobs praise, through his lament, through his tears and through his not seeing or understanding the big picture that God could see. And, I believe that Jobs tear-filled praise of the name of the Lord was sweeter than honey to the ears of God. Not because Job gave God praise that was due to Him (although it was), but because despite the outer turmoil that Job was facing and experiencing, head on, he gave his praise to God … anyway. He praised because that was what he was created to do. It was his main purpose, and he was fulfilling it … even though he was suffering.

God does not ask for the sugar-coated prayers and praises that we so often give (in public). God asks for prayers and praise that are saturated in the tears of his children. He wants our offering to Him to be one that we deliver on the alter … one that took effort and sacrifice. One that came from the heart … the heart of His child.

I hate suffering! I honestly do wish that I could live my life on easy street, and have every wish granted before I speak it. I do wish that there were guarantees in this life. But, that is not real life, here in our sin-filled world. I also have to say that the times when my heart felt as though it might be ripped in two (or I wished that it would be) by the pain I was feeling, are also the times when I was most real to God. I scream, I shout, I cry … I forfeit … yes, I give up. It is then, when I am so worn out, so discouraged, and feeling so hopeless that I finally hand control of my life back over to the only one who can control my life … my creator, my savior my redeemer.

That giving up of control, is when God takes over. Because we have been sincere in our heart, He is able to mold our lives.

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It was a Sunday morning when, although I was fighting a miserable cold, the joy of singing in corporate worship to my Creator was such a joyful experience and privilege.

Until, I started to look around the sanctuary. I was dismayed to see many people not worshiping. There were people standing with their mouths closed. There were people sitting reading their bulletins. There were people sitting … staring straight ahead. There were people standing, looking around the room … oups! That was me too!

I found myself to be very critical of those who I was watching. Until I realized that maybe there were reasons for their non-participation in worship.

Maybe some of them were dealing with sorrows so deep, so dark that they could not open their mouths to sing the words. Or maybe they had been dealing with illness or physical conditions that are so debilitating that they could no longer sing songs of joy. Or maybe there were those who were facing their own private financial crises, with their demise, the demise of their family just around the next corner. Or, maybe they simply cannot sing … now that I can so relate to (well, my family can relate to my lack of vocal abilities).

So, I turned my head towards the lyrics of the song on the screen at the front of the room, and continued my own participation in the corporate worship:

“Blessed be Your name
When I’m found in the desert place
Though I walk through the wilderness
Blessed be Your name

Every blessing You pour out
I’ll turn back to praise
When the darkness closes in Lord
Still I will say
Blessed be the name of the Lord”

And I thought, oh how I love this worship song, because it parallels the biblical story of Job … the man who God allowed Satan to take away all that was of earthly value to him. Job was inflicted with painful sores on his skin, his lively hood was destroyed, his children and wife died. And, through all of that, how did Job respond? “The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.”

But wait, that means that Job had suffered sorrows, illness, financial crises and earthly loss of family members … just like the possible reasons (excuses?) I had guessed that people in church might not be singing.

But wait!

There is one difference … Job kept praising the Lord.

May I not forget that despite all that Job lost of what he loved, despite the pain, the sorrow, the loss and the personal crises that Job faced, he never stopped praising the Lord.

“Give to the Lord the glory due to His name;

worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness or in holy array.”

Psalm 29:2

“I tell you, if they (you … His disciples) keep quiet,

even the rocks will cry out.”

Luke 19:40

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“We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” — Jehoshaphat, King of God’s People

This (above) is how the post by Holley Gerth started. But I am not a lover of battle scenes, armies and power struggles, so I was about to push delete on this post …

until …

until I read the following :

“Has your heart ever echoed what’s expressed above? You’re weary. You’re overwhelmed. You feel under attack. And you don’t have a single strategy or plan or idea about what to do. You just know something has to give–somehow this battle must be won.”

insert instant interest.

If you, too, are feeling more compelled to hear what Holly has to say in her post called, When You Need Help Fighting a Battle in Your Life, keep reading :

20140302-NewSong-Psalm40-3

Has your heart ever echoed what’s expressed above? You’re weary. You’re overwhelmed. You feel under attack. And you don’t have a single strategy or plan or idea about what to do. You just know something has to give–somehow this battle must be won. 

God answered Jehoshaphat with courage-giving words and His response can encourage us, too. He tells the King to go and fight his enemies. And as the people prepare to go, Jehoshaphat does something interesting. He doesn’t put the warriors at the front. He puts the singers.

Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the Lord and to praise him for the splendor of his holiness as they went out at the head of the army, saying:

“Give thanks to the Lord,
for His love endures forever.”

As they began to sing and praise, the Lord set ambushes against the men of Ammon and Moab and Mount Seir who were invading Judah, and they were defeated.
{2 Chronicles 20:21-22

When the people arrived at what should have been a battleground, all they saw were bodies. The enemy had already been defeated. The threat eliminated. The victory won. The only thing to do was take the plunder and go home.

Then, led by Jehoshaphat, all the men of Judah and Jerusalem returned joyfully to Jerusalem, for the Lord had given them cause to rejoice over their enemies.
{2 Chronicles 20:27}
.

When you go out with praise, you come home with praise.

In this story the victory is instant and obvious. In our day-to-day battles the same might not be true. But here’s what is always true: Worship is an act of war. When we feel under attack, praise isn’t what we tend to think of first. We’re more likely to reach for our swords or run away in fear. But what if we paused and worshiped instead?

Then we’re not going into battle alone. We’re going with the God who spoke the universe into being fighting on our behalf. That changes everything. Because He never loses. Even when it looks like He’s been defeated, like when Jesus died on the cross, it was only a matter of time until His ultimate victory became clear.

What’s overwhelming you today? What’s coming against you? What situation is causing you to feel fear? Take a moment right now to say to God what Jehoshaphat did: “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 

Then worship.

And watch God work.

This battle will not be won not by your power but by God’s might. Nothing can defeat Him and He lives in you…that means nothing can defeat you either.

Now that’s a reason for praise today.

XOXO

Holley Gerth

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Seriously, the above is my all time favorite Christmas Eve music. The lyrics speak of the majesty and the mystery of this night. And it is presented in a manner and style that is both lullabye and epic orchestral sound all in one. It can wind you down into sleep, and awaken your soul profoundly all at the same time.

Christmas Eve is just hours away. All of the material (and edible) preparations have been made for the big event. Now it is time to prepare my heart, my mind and my soul, so that I can be fully engaged in the event that this weekend represents.

There is so little that I could add to the message of Christmas, that this piece of music hasn’t already communicated.

All is well all is well
Angels and men rejoice
For tonight darkness fell
Into the dawn of love’s light

Light has come into the world … into the darkness of the world that we know, to light our way.

Sing A-le
Sing Alleluia
All is well all is well
Let there be peace on earth
Christ is come go and tell
That He is in the manger
Sing A-le
Sing Alleluia

Go and tell … this is not a ‘Secret Santa’ gift, it is not just for you or me, it is for all, and it is for all who already know of this Christ to share this news … this good news.

All is well all is well
Lift up your voice and sing

Back to my hobby horse obsession (My Hobbyhorse Obsession-Revived) … sing!

Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
Sing Alleluia
Sing Alleluia
All is well

Born is now Emmanuel
Born is our Lord and Savior
Sing Alleluia
Sing Alleluia
All is well

All IS well.

Whether we are healthy, or sick.

Whether we have the life we dreamed, or not.

Whether we are just starting out, or coming to the end.

Whether we are rich, or poor.

Whether we struggle (don’t we ALL?), or not.

ALL IS WELL

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Since I often write about different hymns and other worship music, this guest post by Tsh Oxenreider, who writes at http://simplemom.net, seemed a natural addition.

I received this, by Tsh, through my subscription to (in)courage.me (http://www.incourage.me/2013/08/11-of-the-greatest-hymns-in-church-history.html), in a post called “11 Greatest Hymns in Church History.”

As I started reading, statements kept coming to mind, such as:

“she better not miss …”

“I bet she forgot …”

“… better be there”

And when I got to the end of her list of the “11 Greatest Hymns in Church History” I was in agreement with her choices. And, other than a few seasonal songs of faith (ie. “Silent Night” or “The Old Rugged Cross”) I think her list was complete …

… of course she did miss “Jesus Loves Me” … and if you have been reading my posts you will know how near and dear that one is to my heart. heck, I would make that one #1!

Nonetheless, she has a great assortment of hymns that have stood the test of time! I wonder what will be sung a hundred years from now …

“Plato once said, “Music is… wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.” God has created music similar to certain extravagant parts of creation, like the redwoods and the turquoise Mediterranean waters and the northern lights: it begs us to stop everything and pay attention.

And when truly excellent music angles our attention heavenward? It changes you. And when enough lovers of God collectively listen to the words and the music—it can cause a shift in the Body, the Church. It changes us.

There are many, many hymns in thousands of languages throughout the history of the Church (all of which began first as poetry). But there are a few select hymns that have stood the test of time and are with us today because they have changed us as a Body. Their birth shifted our collective trajectory for the better.

Here are some of the greatest hymns to have changed the Church. I’ve included certain versions I love, plus a final playlist at the end.

(Note: I am a native English speaker, so my list of faves falls in that category—but there are countless hymns full of truth in languages all over the world.)

8th century

1. Be Thou My Vision

This humble prayer began as a medieval Celtic poem in the eighth century, but it wasn’t translated into English and put to music until 1905, by Mary Byrne.

Recording by Abigail Zsiga

1225

2. All Creatures of Our God and King

A bubbling brook in a thick forest

St. Francis of Assisi was known as a lover of nature and animals, and he also loved music. He wrote over 60 hymns, including this one in 1225 reflecting his compassion for creation. It caused the Church to stop and recognize the power and significance of nature, and not just human nature.

Recording by Patty Griffin

1674

3. Doxology

Thomas Ken was born in 1637 and orphaned soon after. Raised by his sister and her husband, he became an Oxford scholar and eventually became chaplain to members of royalty before becoming a bishop in the Anglican church. He wrote a manual of prayers in 1674, including a three-verse one simply named Morning Hymn. The doxology (which is simply a combination of two Greek words to mean ‘word of glory’) as we know today is the final verse of this poem, and it’s often sung without music.

Recording by Gungor

1758

4. Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Robert Robinson was a rather difficult, headstrong boy, so when he turned 14 in 1749, his mother sent him to London for an apprenticeship (his dad died several years prior). He got in to even more trouble in London, and when he was 17, went with some of his friends to a meeting to make fun of Christians where George Whitfield would be preaching. It moved him deeply, and began his search for God where he finally became a Christian three years later.

He became a pastor, and at age 23, he wrote this poem to accompany one of his sermons, its words full of admittance to his own fleshly nature compared to God’s divine. It was set to music in 1813.

Recording by Sufjan Stevens

1773

5. Amazing Grace

Considered a folk hymn, it was first published in 1779 but originally written for a New Year’s Day sermon in 1773 by John Newton, an English poet. Its focus is on the redemption found only in Jesus—a simple but profound truth during a lot of Church division.

The song actually wasn’t too popular until the American 2nd Great Awakening in the early 19th century, and it then became widely known as an African American spiritual.

Recording by Jadon Lavik

Waterfall dripping off the side of a mountain

1835

6. Just As I Am

When poet Charlotte Elliott was at a dinner party in the early 19th century, an elderly man asked her if she was a Christian. She considered his question inappropriate, but later asked him what he meant. Charlotte eventually decided to follow Christ after talking with him, and wrote Just As I Am in 1835 soon after, remembering his words that she could come to Jesus “just as she was.”

This later became a popular song during Billy Graham’s crusades in the 20th century.

Recording by Nichole Nordeman

1861

7. Holy, Holy, Holy

Reginald Heber’s widow found the words to his poem written in private (we’re not sure when), but it was years later, in 1861, when a publisher found it and asked John Dykes to compose the music. He wrote it in 30 minutes and first named it Nicea, in honor of the First Council of Nicea in 325, the first effort to attain consensus in the Church.

Recording by Sufjan Stevens

1863

8. Before The Throne

Charitie Lees Smith was the daughter of an Irish pastor and his wife, and in 1863, at age 22, she wrote a poem called The Advocate to accompany one of his sermons. She continued to write other poems and eventually had them published in 1867 in a book titled Within The Veil.

Almost every line of her poem is taken directly from different parts of Scripture, making it rich with theology—useful for sermons. We’re unsure when its name was changed and music was written for accompaniment.

Recording by Shane & Shane

1873

9. It Is Well

Abolitionist activist Horatio Spafford had a nice life in the Chicago suburbs with his wife and five children and always welcomed guests in their home. Then in 1870, his 4-year-old died of scarlet fever, and in 1871 the Great Chicago Fire destroyed most of his investments (which were in Chicago real estate).

In 1873, the family wanted to sail to Europe for much-needed time away from their tragedy and to help in a revival, but on the day of departure, Horatio had a last-minute business emergency. He sent the family on ahead and planned to follow on another ship in a few days. But their ship was struck by another ship and sank in 12 minutes—the remainder of his four children died and only his wife was saved and brought to England. He immediately set sail to be with his wife, and as his ship passed the place where his daughters drowned, he penned It Is Well, and music was composed to accompany it in 1876.

Recording by Sara Groves

Wildflowers in a field of green grass

1885

10. How Great Thou Art

Carl Bobert was a Swede was walking home from church and listening to the church’s bells in 1885. A sudden, awe-inspiring storm gripped his attention, and then just as suddenly as it arrived, it subsided to a calm. After watching this display of nature, he went home and penned this poem. He published it in 1886, then it was matched to a Swedish folk tune in 1888, and then translated in to German in 1907, Russian in 1912, and finally English in 1925.

Recording by Martina McBride

1923

11. Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Thomas Chisolm spent most of his life sick, but in a rare bout of health, he went on a missions trip. While traveling, he corresponded with William Runyan, a good friend of his, and they often exchanged poems they had written. Runyan found this poem of Thomas’ so moving that he composed music to accompany it, publishing it in 1923. It wasn’t noticed until several years later by a Moody Bible Institute professor, who requested it be sung in their chapel services.

Recording by Sarah Macintosh

11 great hymns that changed the Church | incourage.me

There are many, many more hymns (heck, I didn’t even touch any of the 6,000 hymns written by Charles Wesley!). They are poetry of our history, and I think it’s important to keep teaching these words and melodies to the next generation, so that we can keep these doctrinally-rich hymns in the Church.

Here’s the playlist, so that you can pipe each of these hymns throughout your home or in your ears today. They’ll help keep your focus heavenward.

Which hymn is your all-time favorite?

{Photos by Tsh}

 

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