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Posts Tagged ‘Worship’

There is no greater sanctuary than to stand on soil, under the firmament, with nothing in view, nothing that one can hear, or smell, touch or taste, but that which God created.

It is there, in the midst of God’s creation that worship has nothing to do with professional, rock star ‘esque musicians and worship leaders … for the creation itself call us, our souls, to worship without hesitation, without hindrance.

Maybe it is the realization of the truth of Psalm 19:1-4:

“The heavens declare the glory of God;
    the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
    night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
    no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
    their words to the ends of the world.”

It is as though something within us is in touch with the created world around us … we do share the same Creator. It is when we are within that which he spoke into place that our innate need to worship bubbles up from within us, and we just have to worship, to praise, to give thanks.

“But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
    or the birds in the sky, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
    or let the fish in the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
    that the hand of the Lord has done this?
10 In his hand is the life of every creature
    and the breath of all mankind.”

Job 12:7-10

And if we don’t worship the Creator?

Well, the rest of Creation, from the mountains and hills, to the trees of the field and the birds in the the trees will worship, will cry out the song to the Creator.

“You will go out in joy
    and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills
    will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field
    will clap their hands.”

Isaiah 55:12

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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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