Worship – Concept and Practice

Before a congregation is likely to enter into true worship, the church’s leaders must be very clear as to what worship means (concept) and how to achieve a worshipful state (practice).  If the intent is to usher people into God’s presence, this often demands that the leaders of the ministry re-conceptualize the meaning and purpose of worship; re-engineer how worship events are designed and conducted; and implement a simple, but reliable method of evaluating what has transpired at the worship event.  

George Barna, “Worship in the Third Millennium” in Experience God In Worship, ed. Michael D. Warden (Loveland, Group Publishing, Inc, 2000) 22

Why Does the Church Stay Indoors?

Why does the Church stay indoors? They have a theology that has dwindled into a philosophy, in which there is no thrill of faith, no terror of doom and no concern for souls. Unbelief has put out the fires of passion, and worldliness garlands the altar of sacrifice with the tawdry glitter of unreality. The Holy Spirit cannot conquer the world with unbelief, nor can He save the world with a worldly Church. He calls for a crusade, a campaign, and an adventure of saving passion. For this enterprise He wants a separated, sanctified and sacrificial people.

(Samuel Chadwick)

Sunday Night Thoughts

It has been a week of contrasts weather-wise this week here in the Shenandoah Valley.  Last Sunday night it was snowing like crazy.  By mid-week, we had shorts and t-shirts on and this weekend has been crazy windy and colder.  All that changes tomorrow when it goes back to being spring-like.  The ten day forecast looks nice with several chances of rain.  The chances of us getting any significant snow are becoming less and less.  Apparently we are going to have an early spring.

This has been a tough week on the fitness front.  Last Saturday I injured my ankle. I have been limping around for most of the week, although I’ve had some minor success running.  My total miles is way down for the week.  If everything feels good, I may go out for an easy run tomorrow.  I can wait to lose some pounds again.  I’ve bumped back to 195 at the moment, but as soon as I start gaining some mileage the 5 pounds I’ve gained back will disappear.  When I run, my appetite isn’t as strong.

We had a great night last night celebrating marriage at our church.  It was a great time as we had a sweetheart dinner — great food, great fellowship, and some great fun.

We had another great worship service today.  The music was great – the praise team did a great job.  We were also enlightened about a great compassionate ministry in our city – Valley Mission.  We have supported them for several years and I was impressed by their presentation today.  Pam taught a children’s sermon during worship and our lead pastor preached a great message from the book of Job.

Slowly our house is filling up as Anna is home from spring break.  Michael and Rebecca will be headed this way tomorrow.  It will be good to have all the “kids” home.  I look forward to this week.  Praying that you have a great week.

Seize the Day!

Sunday Set List

February 26, 2012
First Sunday in Lent

Welcome and Announcements

Call to Worship and Invocation

Psalm 25:1-4

Songs of Worship

Come, Now Is the Time to Worship

All Creatures of Our God and King

Here I Am to Worship

Worship Through Prayer

Song of Worship

There Is A Fountain

Missions Moment

Valley Mission

Children’s Sermon

Worship Through Giving

Song of Worship – Blessed Be Your Name

Worship Through God’s Word

Questions God Asks

God’s Examination of Job

Job 38:1-7

Song of Commitment

Glory In the Highest



What’s Really Important?

Interesting article here from the pen of Steve Brown via http://www.worship.com.  I encourage you to check out the bolded part – it’s quite convicting.

There’s an old story about some kids who, as a practical joke, slipped into a department store and changed all the price tags. The next day, some of the customers were overjoyed with the bargains while others were shocked by the grossly overpriced items.

Oscar Wilde once suggested that people know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

They do.

Me too.

Do you know why? Because everybody tells us the price and, in doing so, thinks they’ve defined value. The voices are everywhere and those voices are passionate. They come from the politicians, the preachers, the authors, the con artists and the “sellers of the trinkets,” and they seem so sure. Then they remind us that we “only go around once,” so we have to get it right the first time.

I’m old—as old as dirt—and over the years, I’ve listened to so many of those voices. It took me a long time to have an “attack of sanity” and to realize that those voices didn’t know anymore than I knew. And I found out that most of them were wrong. Late at night, an old man knows that sometimes he, as Mark Twain put it, “paid too much for his whistle.”

I’m not depressed about the voices I listened to though. In fact, just the opposite.

I started thinking about this because a friend of a friend asked me to write the foreword to a book by Kyle Drake, Unsucceeding: Waking up From My American Dream. I liked it. It’s about a man who had everything and decided he was listening to the wrong voices. So, he decided to only listen to the voice of Jesus, to trust him, and to see what happened. The man resigned from his job, and then allowed Jesus to deal the cards and determine the rules of the game. His story wasn’t manipulative, self-righteous or guilt-producing. In fact, he was quite honest in both the successful and less than successful places.

At any rate, as I read the book, I thought about the roads I had walked just because everybody told me that if I wanted to be successful, those were the roads I should walk. How could so many people be that wrong?

Are you shocked? You didn’t think preachers were concerned with things like career, fame and fortune? Let me disabuse you of your naiveté. There aren’t, after all, separate airport bathrooms for men, women and preachers. The difference between our sin and your (the un-ordained) sin is that we attach Jesus’ name to our sins in order to make them sound religious.

I have a preacher friend who resigned from his church after serving there for only two years. He had been offered a very large church and more money…to say nothing of the prestige. Most preachers would have said something about how they had agonized over the decision and God had made it clear; so, as painful as it was to leave, they must “follow Jesus.”

Not my friend. He said to the congregation, “I love you guys but I’ve been offered _____ Church. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity and all my life I’ve wanted to be the pastor of _____ Church. I’m not going to get another chance so I’m out of here. Do pray for me and I’ll pray for you.”

I loved what he said and so did Jesus. Not only that, Diogenes—the cynical Greek philosopher who, in the fourth century, strolled around with a lamp in his hand looking for an honest man-blew out his lamp and went home.

The question isn’t the authenticity of what my friend said to his congregation, but whether or not he made a wise decision. At the time, I thought he was both authentic and wise. Now that I think back on it, I still think he was authentic but he may not have been very wise. He served that big church for a lot of years and, I suppose, enjoyed some of it. I suspect, though, he sometimes thought about the church he left and wondered if maybe his decision had been wrong.

Jesus talked once about how we worry about the wrong things, e.g. how long we’ll live or how we’ll be fed and clothed, and then he said something astonishing: “For the Gentiles (read “unbelievers”) seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:32-33). On another occasion, Jesus said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29).

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for excellence, success, and making an impact for God (not to mention motherhood, apple pie and the flag). The problem isn’t that those things are bad. The problem is that they aren’t necessarily the places where God is calling us.

I would like to preach a sermon one day and call it, “The Challenge to be Mediocre for Jesus.” I would talk about serving Christ by being a good dad or mom, giving one’s job an honest day’s work for an honest day’s pay, and trusting God with one’s family, job and church. I would talk about being available to God even if what he wants isn’t a big deal.

What if seeking the kingdom God is about spending time with friends and family—those who will cry at your funeral out of grief and loss, not because you are so important? What if seeking the kingdom of God is about taking your wife to dinner or telling your pastor that the sermon made a difference in your life? What if seeking the kingdom of God is about playing ball with your son or dancing with your daughter instead of going on the mission field? What if God doesn’t require greatness of you…but just faithfulness in the “normal” of life?

One time my late friend, Rusty Anderson (I still miss him), told me he had talked to God that morning.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes, really,” Rusty said. “I told him that I was available for whatever he wanted me to do and there weren’t any exceptions or reservations.”

“What did he say?”

“He asked me what I wanted to do. I told him that wasn’t the issue. I wanted to do whatever he wanted. But he persisted in asking me what I wanted to do, so I finally told him, ‘Alright, already! I would like to build a barn out in the back part of my property.’”

“Well, what did he say?” I asked.

“He said,” Rusty said, laughing, “that I should do it with joy!”

As I read Kyle’s book, I thought about the times, by God’s grace, I did what everybody told me I shouldn’t do. I remembered the times I was called a fool for walking the road Jesus told me to walk. It made me feel kind of good about myself. But then, as I read the book, I winced when I thought about the mistaken voices I listened to, the wrong roads I walked and the many times I played poker with confederate money…even when Jesus told me that the currency was worthless.

But as I wrote above, it’s okay. Jesus likes me. In the first instance, I thanked him. In the second, I ran to him and he loved me anyway.

In his book, In the Name of Jesus: Reflections on Christian Leadership, Henri Nouwen wrote: “I am deeply convinced that the Christian leader of the future is called to be completely irrelevant and to stand in this world with nothing to offer but his or her own vulnerable self…The leaders of the future will be those who dare to claim their irrelevance in the contemporary world as a divine vocation.”

The “irrelevant” part is hard, but it is also the path toward incredible freedom and joy. It is about Jesus and once we see that, we discover it’s about us too. It’s about a love so pervasive that everything else pales in its light.

He told me to remind you!


The Season of Lent

Over the last couple years, I have been introducing our congregation at Parkway and at the congregations I have served in the last 15 years about the church year or church seasons.  The church seasons are a different way of “marking time” than we usually do.  Instead of marking the year by the “Hallmark Holidays” or Civil holidays, we use the life of Jesus.  On Wednesday, we entered the season of Lent. I thought I would share from CRI Voice, a website put together by a Nazarene professor about the season of Lent

lentcross.jpg (10912 bytes)The season of Lent has not been well observed in much of evangelical Christianity, largely because it was associated with “high church” liturgical worship that some churches were eager to reject. However, much of the background of evangelical Christianity, for example the heritage of John Wesley, was very “high church.” Many of the churches that had originally rejected more formal and deliberate liturgy are now recovering aspects of a larger Christian tradition as a means to refocus on spirituality in a culture that is increasingly secular.

Originating in the fourth century of the church, the season of Lent spans 40 weekdays beginning on Ash Wednesday and climaxing during Holy Week with Holy Thursday (Maundy Thursday), Good Friday, and concluding Saturday before Easter. Originally, Lent was the time of preparation for those who were to be baptized, a time of concentrated study and prayer before their baptism at the Easter Vigil, the celebration of the Resurrection of the Lord early on Easter Sunday. But since these new members were to be received into a living community of Faith, the entire community was called to preparation. Also, this was the time when those who had been separated from the Church would prepare to rejoin the community.

Today, Lent is marked by a time of prayer and preparation to celebrate Easter. Since Sundays celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, the six Sundays that occur during Lent are not counted as part of the 40 days of Lent, and are referred to as the Sundays in Lent. The number 40 is connected with many biblical events, but especially with the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing for His ministry by facing the temptations that could lead him to abandon his mission and calling. Christians today use this period of time for introspection, self examination, and repentance. This season of the year is equal only to the Season of Advent in importance in the Christian year, and is part of the second major grouping of Christian festivals and sacred time that includes Holy WeekEaster, and Pentecost.

Lent has traditionally been marked by penitential prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. Some churches today still observe a rigid schedule of fasting on certain days during Lent, especially the giving up of meat, alcohol, sweets, and other types of food. Other traditions do not place as great an emphasis on fasting, but focus on charitable deeds, especially helping those in physical need with food and clothing, or simply the giving of money to charities. Most Christian churches that observe Lent at all focus on it as a time of prayer, especially penance, repenting for failures and sin as a way to focus on the need for God’s grace. It is really a preparation to celebrate God’s marvelous redemption at Easter, and the resurrected life that we live, and hope for, as Christians.

God’s Covenant

First Sunday in Lent
February 26, 2012

Genesis 9:8-17; Psalm 25:1-10; 1 Peter 3:18-22; Mark 1:9-15

 8 Then God told Noah and his sons, 9 “I hereby confirm my covenant with you and your descendants,10 and with all the animals that were on the boat with you—the birds, the livestock, and all the wild animals—every living creature on earth. 11 Yes, I am confirming my covenant with you. Never again will floodwaters kill all living creatures; never again will a flood destroy the earth.”

 12 Then God said, “I am giving you a sign of my covenant with you and with all living creatures, for all generations to come. 13 I have placed my rainbow in the clouds. It is the sign of my covenant with you and with all the earth. 14 When I send clouds over the earth, the rainbow will appear in the clouds, 15 and I will remember my covenant with you and with all living creatures. Never again will the floodwaters destroy all life. 16 When I see the rainbow in the clouds, I will remember the eternal covenant between God and every living creature on earth.” 17 Then God said to Noah, “Yes, this rainbow is the sign of the covenant I am confirming with all the creatures on earth.”

I’ll never forget the sight — it was during a late evening thunderstorm last year.  We could still hear it raining outside and yet you could see the sun shining brightly. Certainly there had to be a rainbow.  We opened the front door and low and behold a glorious rainbow was right there in our front yard.  What was even more amazing, it was the first time I ever saw the end of the rainbow.  It was almost as if you could touch the end — it was that close.  The end of the rainbow was at the bottom of the hill – across the highway from our house and it was beautiful.  It’s interesting because I remember talking about this just the other day and as I posted this scripture the memory came back.

God gave us this covenant in the clouds – he never again would destroy the world like that again and each time we see the rainbow, we remember his covenant and his promise.

Thousands of years later, God made another covenant – a new covenant – one that would mean even much more.  Jesus came to earth to save us from our sins.  His life, and death, and resurrection is a covenant with God that He desires that no one should be lost.  This coming Sunday is the First Sunday of Lent.  I encourage you to think about the things that Jesus suffered for you – to give you new life – so that you could be part of His new covenant.

Pilgrimage of Lent

Pilgrimage of Lent.

Here are some great thoughts on the season of Lent by a fellow minister, whom I had the pleasure of being on staff with over 10 years ago.  Marcel has always had a way with words, so here it goes.

The season of Lent is upon us again.  We are invited to journey through the days examining our lives, confessing our sins, relying upon our God, and following in the footsteps of Christ.  Sometimes, in a long journey, we begin to forget our goal, and settle into living the travelling life.  Pilgrimages are nothing new; faithful peoples throughout the ages have set forth to retrace the steps of those who’ve gone before them to places of religious significance.  Most have a specific place in mind when they set out.  For each of us, as Christian disciples, our Lenten journey is not a geographical objective, but a spiritual one.  During the Lenten season, we journey to the cross of Jesus as we march through the season in reflection, in contrition, and in hope.

It is good for us to recapture the sense of our sorrow over our sinfulness, for it makes our hearts more attentive and tender toward the Holy Spirit.  It is good for us to identify with the humanness of Jesus as he sets for us the prime example of a life that pleases God.  It is good for us to decide to go forward toward a greater maturity in our faith; the path toward which is one that requires discipline and self-denial.  Our Lenten pilgrimage is to a holier land than can be found on a map or in the boundaries of any earthly country.  Our goal is to abide in Christ while moving through the continuum of our days doing acts of obedience and piety.  In a picture, it is beneficial for us to take up our cross and follow Jesus as he leads us to our most sacred altar – the cross of Calvary whereupon sin was completely atoned.

But, our journey is not at an end when we arrive at the foot of Christ’s crucifixion, but it goes deeper.  We bury our sinful nature in the sepulcher with our Lord.  We descend with him to the place our souls would have been sent had he not come – we reflect on the eternal punishments of fiery hell, and with him, we travel further to escape death and hell in victory.  Step and after step, in cadence with our Savior, we ride out of hell’s grasp on the wings of hope born of Christ’s holiness and follow in victorious, joyous procession returning to life everlasting.  He bursts forth from the tomb with earthquakes and angelic witnesses, and we follow.  Even here, our journey is not at an end.

Jesus appears to many people, helping them understand the truth of His gospel, strengthening their faith and calling them to take part in his triumph.  We, too, spend our days sharing the glories the Lord of Life has bestowed upon us, sharing his message with the people in our lives.  Yet, though it may seem that we are still in this phase for now, our spiritual destinations have not yet ended.  By faith, we ascend with him to be seated at his right hand in eternal Heaven, for this we are in Spirit, even now.  And one day, gloriously, we will be fully, body, mind, and spirit, united with Jesus in that place we taste only now by faith.  This, then, in total, is our Lenten pilgrimage.  Keep your eyes on the whole prize and don’t get bogged down in the slow drift of dull and dreary days, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed!