And David Danced With All His Might

I have no doubt that when some of you picked up the bulletin this morning, you wondered, “What is pastor going to preach about today. I don’t think I’m going to like it.” This message may be controversial. It all depends on how you look at it.

Not that the church today is without controversy. In fact, the point that David dance caused great controversy when it happened and we want to look at that. My point is not to create controversy where there was none. If you know me at all, you know that I typically like to avoid it.

One of the areas in the church that is an area of great controversy is in the area of worship. It’s even a topic of discussion on TV here in Martinsville. There is a great diversity in worship among believers. That in itself creates controversy. Why do I say that? Think about the diversity just here in Henry County. You have the non-instrumental worship of the Church of Christ and Primitive Baptist churches. There are churches that are strictly liturgical, following the same plan week after week, strictly following the church calendar. There are churches that only worship with a piano; churches that only worship with an organ; churches that worship with only piano and organ; churches that worship with guitars; churches that worship with full bands and choirs and everything in between. Some churches are quiet and reverent before worship begins. In others the din of the worshipers fellowshipping with other worshipers fills the sanctuary. In some churches, the worship is reserved. In others it is exuberant to the point that most of us including myself would be uncomfortable. There is great diversity in the way we worship. What creates the controversy is when we take our preference and make it what we think God desires. What I desire to accomplish here is not create controversy, but begin a conversation.

Our story begins back in 1 Samuel 4. The Israelites were having trouble with the Philistines – they always seemed to be having trouble with the Philistines. The Philistines always took their idols (or gods) into battle with them. Eli’s (the second to last Israelite judge) wicked sons decided that if they took the Ark of the Covenant (which is where God’s presence resided) into battle with them they would win. When the Israelite warriors found out they sent up a shout. The Philistines wondered what the commotion was and found out the Israelite God was coming to battle. The Philistines resolved to fight harder than they ever did before and they did and won the battle and captured the Ark of the Covenant. This would turn out to be a bad thing for the Philistines. The presence of God in the Ark destroyed a Philistine idol and caused plagues and tumors across the land. They passed the Ark around from city to city like a hot potato. Finally they sent it back to Israel. The Ark resided in Kiriath Jearim for many years in the house of Abinadab. It remained there during King Saul’s reign and the beginning of David’s reign. At that time, David started to build a new capital in Jerusalem. This was to be a national treasure. David also wanted the Ark of the Covenant to be there as well. He assembled 30,000 troops to bring back the Ark of God. They even built a new cart for the occasion and started bringing the Ark back to Jerusalem.

This was a grand procession. 2 Samuel 6:5 records it this way, “Dave and all the people of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments – lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals.” (This does not sound like quiet worship to me. The Israelite songs were boisterous.) This was a party, because the Ark of God was coming “home.”

On the way the ark began to rock and was in danger of falling off the cart.

As a side note, if the David and the Israelites (sounds like a 60’s rock band) would have moved the Ark properly (with the priests carrying it, they wouldn’t have had that problem, but back to the story.
One of Abinadabs’ sons reached over to steady the Ark and immediately he was struck down by God. David was angry…he wanted the Ark back in Jerusalem. God wanted to show that He was serious. The Israelites had spent many years not following God. This served as a reminder to David and Israel that those who claim to serve him must acknowledge his rule with absolute seriousness.

At this point, David wondered angrily if the Ark would ever be brought back to Jerusalem. The moved the Ark into a nearby house and guess what. The Lord blessed the household. Three months later, David finds out and puts a plan in place to finally bring back the Ark. The brought it into the City of David (Jerusalem) and after the men who were carrying the ark took six steps, David stops them and makes a sacrifice.

This is when we are told that David dance with all of his might, wearing his priestly garment. In 2 Samuel 6:15 we are told, “So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.” This was quite a celebration. David was in his highest glory. The Ark was home and God was pleased with the results.

Not everyone was pleased however. Let’s continue in verse 16, “But as the Ark of the Lord entered the City of David, Michael, the daughter of Saul (and one of David’s wives) looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him.

They brought the Ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the special tend David had prepared for it. And David sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. When he had finished his sacrifices, David blessed the people in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Then he gave to every Israelite man and woman in the crowd a loaf of bread, a cake of dates, and a cake of raisins. Then all the people returned to their homes.

When David returned home to bless his own family, Michael, the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, ‘How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!’

David retorted to Michal, ‘I was dancing before the Lord, who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes! But those servant girls you mention will indeed think I am distinguished!’ So Michal, the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life.”

See what I mean when I say, “Hollywood can’t write stories like this!” So what can we learn from all of this?

· When you’re having a party, someone’s going to rain on it.

It’s happened to all of us. We are going along having a grand old time. We may even be celebrating the good things of God as David was. And there they come, as H. B. London likes to call them – a joysucker. They can suck the joy right out of you. Sometimes they don’t even know better. Sometimes joysuckers can be your best friend. Sometimes they’re more like your lifelong nemesis. Do you know someone like that? Someone who just sucks the joy right out of a party? We need to remember that they’re out there. In David’s case, he had a snappy reply. David knew what was really in his heart. He knew that his heart was right with God. He wasn’t quite so sure about Michal.

· These joysuckers will probably question your motive(s).

Look what happened – David had just gotten done worshiping the Lord with all of his might and his wife (maybe she was just jealous that David was getting all the attention) ridicules him for his shameless (her words) display. She questions the motives of the King and puts him down because she knows thinks she knows what David was really doing. I’m sure you know this already, but there are really some judgmental people out there! They always think that they really know God’s heart. They know what true worship really is.
Before we go on, let me say a one thing. The scriptures instruct us to be sure that everything is done properly and in order. If you know me at all, you will know that this is a strong guiding principle when it comes to worship as I plan each week. This planning, however, does not limit the Holy Spirit. In fact, it enhances it. If the Holy Spirit guides in a different direction, that’s fine with me, but I will always plan.

· When you are worshiping follow God’s leading in your heart

This the previous point of doing things in order. However, it God leads you to close your eyes and raise your hands, do it. To not do it is disobeying God. If God leads you to clap your hands during a song, do it. There are times that clapping our hands is just as inappropriate as clapping our hands. We live in an entertainment culture. Applause at the wrong time even bothers me in a secular environment. There are appropriate times for applause and inappropriate during the service. (Ordination illustration). If God leads you to sway in rhythm to the music or even dance, it’s ok! If God leads you to go to the altar, even if there isn’t an open call at the moment, you need to go! Which leads us to the last point.

· Be concerned with the state of your own heart and let God judge the others.

Michal was so concerned with the way she thought David was acting that she could not worship herself. It doesn’t matter whether you are a traditionalist or a contemporary worshiper, it is easy to judge someone who doesn’t worship like you do. There is lots of grace in God’s Kingdom for a diversity of worship styles. Like I said at the beginning. It is easy to take our preferences in worship and make them God’s preferences and then write them in stone and say they are the law of the land. I believe God has room for many styles. I believe that we are going to be surprised in heaven at all the various styles of worship.

So the question becomes, “Are you going to be like David, who worshiped the Lord with of his might?” Or are you going to be like Michal, who judged the worshiper?

Sunday Night Thoughts (On Monday)

July 29th

Yes, everything is appearing a little late. Normally, I post what I am posting today on Sunday evening, but I had to go to my bi-vocational job and help them out with inventory. It’s always interesting to do that after a good, long day of ministry. I didn’t get home until about 3:30 this morning.

Yesterday was a good day of ministry. The worship went well in all areas including the preaching. I’m a firm believer that the entire service is worship, not just the music. As I went to prayer, I tried to remember Mark’s good tips for pastoral prayers. The message went well.

Before church in the evening, I met with our Wesleyan Women to encourage them. We went right into our evening service (which I don’t call an evening service.) It really is a time of Spiritual Formation, so we call it that. We sing songs out of the hymnal and I usually let the congregation pick them. We spent 15 or so minutes in prayer and then we went to God’s Word. We are working our way through Paul’s letters at the moment and currently studying Ephesians. After our time together, it was off to inventory…and that about covers that!

Worship Boxscore – July 29

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

Call To Worship – Responsive Reading

Sing to the Lord a new song,
His praise in the assembly of the saints.

Let Israel rejoice in their Maker;
Let the people of Zion be glad in their King.

For the Lord take delight in his people;

He crowns the humble with salvation.

May the praise of God be in their mouths.

May the nations be glad and sing for joy,

For you rule the peoples justly
And guide the nations of the earth.

May the peoples praise you, O God;
May all the peoples praise you.
Psalms 149:1b-2, 4 6a; 67:4-5

Song of Worship – I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Isaac Watts)
Songs of Worship – Come, Now is the Time to Worship (Doerksen), Open the Eyes of My Heart (Baloche), Here I Am to Worship (Hughes)
Ministry in Music – Your Great Name We Praise (Immortal, Invisible) arr by Kauflin (a nice contemporary update to this classic hymn
Worship through Prayer
Worship through Giving
Response to Giving – Great Is Thy Faithfulness
Worship through the Word – And David Danced With All of His Might
Response to the Word – I Love You, Lord (Klein)

Weekly Lectionary Reading

Proper 12 – July 29

Old Testament: Hosea 1:2-10
Psalm: Psalm 85
Gospel: Luke 11:1-13

Hosea is an interesting book. Hosea is one of the minor prophets and God told him to go marry a prostitute to teach Israel about their unfaithfulness. Not only does he do it, but God tell him what to name his children. How would you like these names?
  • Jezreel – for I am about to punish King Jehu’s dynasty to avenge the murders he committed at Jezreel. In fact, I will bring an end to Israel’s independence.
  • Lo-ruhamah—‘Not loved’—for I will no longer show love to the people of Israel or forgive them.
  • Lo-ammi—‘Not my people’—for Israel is not my people, and I am not their God.

And yet the passage ends with this promise, “Yet the time will come when Israel’s people will be like the sands of the seashore—too many to count! Then, at the place where they were told, ‘You are not my people,’ it will be said, ‘You are children of the living God.’”

In the Psalms, we are reminded that God is merciful; for a people that are repentent. He will restore our salvation.

In Luke, we are taught the prayer that Jesus taught to his disciples. It really is a prayer that we should model in our own. We are also reminded that our Father wants to answer our prayers. Prayer and persistant, consistent prayer is needed in the life of the believer.

Paul reminds us of what it means to live “in Christ.” We are not what we were before. ” 6 And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. 7 Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” Amen!

Bus Ministry is Dead?

For many years, I have heard that bus ministry or van ministry in our case is dead. Don’t believe them, especially if you live in Martinsville. Bus ministry is alive and well here. Several of the larger churches have several buses.

What do I think of bus ministry? If it wasn’t for bus ministry, I probably wouldn’t be here. My mom was a product of bus ministry many years ago. When I was growing up, my family and others would pick up students from various homes and bring them to church. Just as an example, the church we were going to was only running about 25 on a Sunday morning, yet we would have 60 or more students for Vacation Bible School!

Now, I am involved in a van ministry at Preston. We have been making that a matter of prayer and I ask you to pray with us. We have one van to pick up students for Wednesday night, but we could really use another. Believe me, it’s a great problem to have. Pray that God would provide for us. I believe that He will.

The Day in Review

Today was a good, long day of ministry. Our weather has been effected by the low spinning in the Midwest. It was cloudy most of the day, which made it hard to get up. Pam got up to go on her “coffee date.” Her friend from NC was back for a few days (Hi there, Niki!)

I got up and checked a few of my favorite blogs and then went over to the office to prepare worship for this Sunday. This afternoon, Pam and I went visiting a shut-in and then I came home to finish preparing for this evening. I was teaching the Middle School class tonight.

Last night I received a timely e-mail from Bluefish TV. They have some great video resources for the small church (the price is about $2 for a short video). I picked up a video and lesson plan (all for $3) titled, “Accidental Masterpiece.” We are still waiting for our laptop and video projector. So I took the video and made a nice little Powerpoint presentation lesson. I had to drag my home desktop computer and speakers over to the church. I think the students really enjoyed the lesson on creation. How many masterpieces (like Mona Lisa, Starry Night, The Eiffel Tower) are created by accident? How do we think the universe and earth and us were created by happenstance?

After the lesson I played a little football with the high school boys. We also got the bad news that one of our student families is moving to Charlotte, NC. We will miss them. Over all it was a great day, even with the disappointments.

My Musical Worship/Pastoral Journey

1535_54675436504_5825_nThe Latest (Incomplete) Chapter

Preston Wesleyan Church, Martinsville, VA
It’s been a few weeks, since I’ve posted this, but that’s what happens when you have District Conference followed by vacation. It’s been interesting to write this journal of my life. The last couple chapters have been easier to write because they are more recent.
The journey to Preston really begins almost a year and a half before we arrived. During our fourth year of ministry at Fort Miller, we felt that God might be releasing us from that assignment. I completed my third year at Schenectady Christian School and let them know that I wouldn’t be returning for a fourth, because I felt God was leading us in a new direction. I sent my resumes out at that point and talked to several interested parties, most of those were closed doors. I really felt at that point, God wanted us to stay one more year, so we withdrew our names. Later that summer, we received an email from Shenandoah District saying there were several churches still open. It was late in the summer and really not the time to be moving students.
In the late winter of 2005, we sensed God was up to something. It appeared a door opened out of nowhere. I had asked Pam if there was a church anywhere in the US where she would want to be, where was it. She replied, “Newport News, VA.” During our ministry at Fort Miller, we had a chance to minister to several military families and had written to several of our Wesleyan military chaplains. The next day, while looking at our denominational website, I discovered our Newport News church was looking for a pastor. (the door we wanted had opened, or so it appeared.) I sent my resume to Newport News and as required by our Discipline, I sent a resume to our District Superintendent. About 10 days later, I received a call from Martinsville, VA. Not exactly what we had in mind. In the meantime, I had to attend my final FLAME in Stroudsburg. It would be the last classes I would need to take for ordination. The church in Martinsville was in a hurry. I think this was one of the first times the tables were turned. I wanted to make sure this was God’s plan. The church had been without a pastor for nine months so I understand why the wanted to move along. After several long phone calls, we finally decided to drive to Martinsville during spring break. After visiting, we really felt this is where God was calling us and started making plans to move. In the meantime, there was the final DBMD interview and ordination. I really do consider that a highlight of my ministry career to this point. I remembered I was a nervious wreck all day. Finally those words were said, “take authority to preach the Word of God, to administer the holy sacraments, and to perform the duties of an ordained minister in the Church.”
9780834193994After that it was time to move. We packed the truck and moved the family to Martinsville.
It’s sort of hard to write a current chapter…it’s incomplete. But since this is about influence, we’ll continue on. We discovered an old friend in the Praise and Worship Hymnal. It was the hymnal I grew up on and we had used in Fort Miller. However, the church was looking to update their hymnals, so we began a search. We chose “Sing to the Lord.” It was a natural step considering Praise and Worship was a Nazarene Publishing House publication. While at Fort Miller, I primarily played bass and occasionally guitar. Here at Preston, I primarily play guitar and occasionally play bass. I also play piano regularly on Sunday evenings. We usually sing two hymns out of the hymnal and also sing several praise and worship songs. Sunday nights are devoted to singing favorites out of the hymnal. Wednesday evening is oriented to student ministries and we usually stick with contemporary worship songs. Thanks to a generous grant from our district, we will be acquiring a laptop and projector to enhance student ministries this fall.
My current musical influences are Casting Crowns, Todd Agnew, and Third Day. Pam and I also listen to KLOVE and Spirit-FM. Yes, these are my musical and worship influences.
On the pastoral side, I have been influenced greatly by Mark Wilson. We have even had several chances to meet. He is a great encourager. Mark is one of our FLAME professors. I continue to be involved with FLAME. Since my ordination, I have been back three times in service and investment roles. Twice, I have had the awesome privelege of leading worship. I’ll be going back this November to lead worship and serve tables and be an encourager again. FLAME has been a source of encouragement and influence as well.
So there you have it. This chapter is “To Be Continued…”

A Cure for the Monday Morning Blues

This morning I’d like to share a video from Willow Creek Community Church. Just listening to others worship has helped my own mood this morning. Catch the joy of the worshipers as the give their worship to God. As Dr. Earle Wilson said two weeks ago, there are times when we just need to say, “Get behind me Satan, I have the greatest calling in the world!”

The other reason I share this is Justo Almario (saxophone) and Abraham Laboriel (bass guitar) are playing on this video. Mr. Laboriel was a major influence in my playing for several years. He was the bass player on most of the Keith Green albums as well as bass player for Koinonia and a well known session player. In the 90’s, he was the bass player of choice for Don Moen and Ron Kenoly on the big Integrity Hosanna projects. So enjoy the praises of God’s people.

Sunday Night Thoughts — July 22

Whew! I’m glad this week is over. We came home from vacation on Monday evening. We literally hit the ground running and tomorrow hopefully will give me a chance to get caught up. I ended up working more hours at Radioshack than I had planned when I got home — sickness and schedule changes working into the plan. Hopefully this week will be a little more even-keeled.

It was good to get back into the pulpit again. Vacation has taken its toll on our attendance over the past few weeks. What is interesting is that Mosaic is running at full tilt. We had 28 again on Wednesday. It was a good service today, with some out of town guests. We even had a special offertory by Garland, our guest. I still think he was using more than ten fingers! I shared the story of Elijah. If you go to the Worship Boxscore post, you can get a link to that sermon. There are a few points to recap.

  • Elijah walked and prayed with God from day one. He was confident that what God said He would do.
  • Be careful of the “big” victory. Satan will work on us right after the “big” one. That’s when he worked on Elijah.
  • When I go (to paraphrase Rich Mullens) I want to go out like Elijah — with a whirlwind to fuel my chariot of fire!

This evening, we had the faithful few. We had a good time of praise through singing and prayer and then started studying Ephesians. What was the big point of tonight’s study. Salvation isn’t for our benefit — it is to glorify and honor God — in other words it’s all about our worship of God. If there ever was a theme Sunday, today was it: Worship God and Honor Him!