You Play the Way You Practice

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This spring has been busy – to say the very least. Pam and I are involved in our local clergy association and spring is a very busy time of year and because I am the musical one, I design our worship experiences as a faith community. Up until Easter I did good, in spending private time with God to worship. Then Easter came and there was yard work to do, along with helping to plan a baccalaureate service and leading worship at a pastor’s gathering. The past couple weeks I ended up concentrating on the urgent – not necessarily the important.

I could feel in my soul and spirit that I was a bit weary. Tuesday night I was especially weary and decided to get alone with my guitar. I started by playing Billy Joel’s “Allentown.” After that I did a little jamming on some songs that I have learned for the sake of not playing with music or chord charts, “Leader of the Band,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” and “Wayfaring Stranger.”

I pulled out my worship book from Sunday. Our Baccalaureate Service was on Sunday and the songs I used were in there. This time with no pressure to perform – plus on Sunday night I had a technical glitch that I could figure out, which took away from the experience – I played through the songs again, adding some that fit. I ended up spending about 45 minutes to an hour in worship of our great God and it was amazing. It was an uplift to my spirit and I felt myself spiritually renewed.

Which brings us to the title of this post You Play the Way You Practice. One of the dangers of being a worship leader is that you are always leading worship for someone else, and sometimes we forget the One for whom we do this. My college choral director was fond of telling our choir that you play the way you practice, meaning that if you do it sloppy in rehearsal, you will slop through the performance.

I am a huge believer in both corporate and private worship and this week I was reminded of the importance of private worship – with no one to sing to EXCEPT the Audience of One – who is the only one worthy of our songs of praise in the first place. Before we ever desire to be leading in corporate worship, we need to have our hearts prepared in private worship. My prayer for my worship leader friends is that they are always prepared by worshiping in private before leading in public worship.


Aldersgate Day

May 24, 1738 – the day that John Wesley felt his heart strangely warmed. The day that he received the assurance of salvation – that God truly had forgiven him of his sins. Wesley grew up as a preacher’s kid. He was saved from the fire as he quotes “as a brand plucked from the burning.” He studied at Oxford and was ordained as a deacon and then a priest in the Anglican Church and yet, he felt something was missing. All of that changed on this day in 1738. Here is what Wesley writes in his journal.

In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation; and an assurance was given me that He had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart. But it was not long before the enemy suggested, “This cannot be faith; for where is thy joy?” Then was I taught that peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our salvation; but that, as to the transports of joy that usually attend the beginning of it, especially in those who have mourned deeply, God sometimes giveth, sometimes withholdeth, them according to the counsels of His own will.

After my return home, I was much buffeted with temptations, but I cried out, and they fled away. They returned again and again. I as often lifted up my eyes, and He “sent me help from his holy place.” And herein I found the difference between this and my former state chiefly consisted. I was striving, yea, fighting with all my might under the law, as well as under grace. But then I was sometimes, if not often, conquered; now, I was always conqueror.

John Wesley’s Journal Entry for May 24, 1738

Three days earlier, his brother Charles also had his own conversion experience. Charles has given us a wonderful hymnody, writing over 6,000 hymns. On the first year anniversary of his conversion he wrote, “O For a Thousand Tongues to Sing.” Today we sing several of the verses but here are the original verses:

. Glory to God, and praise and love,
Be ever, ever given;
By saints below and saints above,
The Church in earth and heaven.

2. On this glad day the glorious Sun
Of righteousness arose,
On my benighted soul he shone,
And filled it with repose.

3. Sudden expired the legal strife;
‘Twas then I ceased to grieve.
My second, real, living life,
I then began to live.

4. Then with my heart I first believed,
Believed with faith divine;
Power with the Holy Ghost received
To call the Saviour mine.

5. I felt my Lord’s atoning blood
Close to my soul applied;
Me, me he loved – the Son of God
For me, for me he died!

6. I found and owned his promise true,
Ascertained of my part,
My pardon passed in heaven I know,
When written on my heart.

7. O For a thousand tongues to sing 
My dear Redeemer’s praise! 
The glories of my God and King, 
The triumphs of His grace!

8. My gracious Master and my God, 
Assist me to proclaim, 
To spread through all the world abroad
The honors of Thy name.

9. Jesus! the Name that charms our fears, 
That bids our sorrows cease; 
‘Tis music in the sinner’s ears, 
‘Tis life, and health, and peace.

10. He breaks the power of cancell’d sin, 
He sets the prisoner free; 
His blood can make the foulest clean, 
His blood avail’d for me.

11. He speaks, – and, listening to his voice, 
New life the dead receive; 
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice; 
The humble poor believe.

12. Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb, 
Your loosen’d tongues employ; 
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come, 
And leap, ye lame, for joy.

13. Look unto him, ye nations; own
Your God, ye fallen race; 
Look, and be saved through faith alone, 
Be justified by grace.

14. See all your sins on Jesus laid; 
The Lamb of God was slain; 
His soul was once an offering made
For every soul of man.

15. Harlots, and publicans, and thieves,
In holy triumph join!
Saved is the sinner that believes,
From crimes as great as mine.

16. Murderers, and all ye hellish crew,
Ye sons of lust and pride,
Believe the Savior died for you;
For me the Saviour died.

17. Awake from guilty nature’s sleep, 
And Christ shall give you light, 
Cast all your sins into the deep, 
And wash the AEthiop white.

18. With me, your chief, ye then shall know, 
Shall feel your sins forgiven; 
Anticipate your heaven below, 
And own that love is heaven.

Let us celebrate a man, whose conversion, some say changed the course of history in the 18th Century England.

All Who Love Me…

Sixth Sunday of Easter | May, 26, 2019

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Acts 16:9-15 • Psalm 67 • Revelation 21:10, 22-22:5 • John 14:23-29

23 Jesus replied, “All who love me will do what I say. My Father will love them, and we will come and make our home with each of them.24 Anyone who doesn’t love me will not obey me. And remember, my words are not my own. What I am telling you is from the Father who sent me. 25 I am telling you these things now while I am still with you.26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.

27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.28 Remember what I told you: I am going away, but I will come back to you again. If you really loved me, you would be happy that I am going to the Father, who is greater than I am. 29 I have told you these things before they happen so that when they do happen, you will believe.

John 14:23-29 New Living Translation (NLT)

This week we are again in a passage that occurs before Jesus’ crucifixion. This conversation that he his having with his disciples occurs after he states that he is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. The disciples aren’t so sure that they know the way to the Father, and Jesus reminds them if they have seen Jesus, they have seen the Father. He promises them that they will do the same things that He did and even greater works because the Holy Spirit will come and dwell within them.

The Holy Spirit will do the work of the Father in our lives. This is where we pick up in today’s text. He reminds his disciples that if we love Him, we will do what He says. If we don’t love Him, we won’t obey Him. Jesus makes it seem all so black and white. It really is our love for God and our obedience to Him that shows to the world that we are His disciples.

During this conversation, Jesus reminds his disciples that He is going away, but the Holy Spirit will come and be an Advocate. When we think of this, think of the lawyer who is with you at a trial. We also use the word Counselor – this is the same thought. The Holy Spirit is there to guide us along the way – the Holy Spirit is on our side and directs us in our Christian living.

Jesus tells us that if we love him, we will obey him. He is not requiring anything of us that He isn’t already doing. Jesus knew that his time was coming to a close and that in order to bring salvation, he must endure the cross and the same and be obedient to the Father.

Sometimes we say, but if I could learn more about Jesus that would make me a better Christian. Many years ago, I heard a quote – and it is haunting. I heard it in a class that I was taking on the life of Jesus. Most of that class was focused on the gospel of John. The professor said this, “We are educated well beyond the level of our obedience.” Ouch! We know what to do – the Holy Spirit, if He is dwelling in us (and He should as believers) will guide us into the truth. The Holy Spirit will guide us into obedience if only we let Him.

Let’s truly love Jesus by doing what He says.

Sunday Night Thoughts

The sun has already set, and the sky is starting to darken – but we didn’t get the bad thunderstorms they were calling for – at least yet.

It’s been a wonderful weekend – full of rest, relaxation and worship. The week was spent in meetings – one our local board meeting and a district pastor’s meeting. I had the privilege of leading worship at our monthly meeting. That is always a great time. I was also putting the finishing touches on our community baccalaureate service. Yesterday, I was also able to get a handle on our yard.

Today – the third Sunday of May is the birthday of this blog. It marks 13 years of blogging. Many blogs have come and gone over that span of time, but I keep pressing on. I’m not as good at it as I once was, but I still find it valuable.

This morning we had a wonderful, Spirit-filled service. The Holy Spirit guided us in our planning and the service really had a wonderful theme. I spoke on having beautiful feet. We are called to use our feet to spread beautiful news. It was our Faith Promise Sunday and I spoke on the importance of missions.

This evening we celebrated the Otto-Eldred Class of 2019 with a Baccalaureate Service. This is a service of blessing for the graduating class we had several seniors participate in the service. It was a great service. I only had one tech glitch. I couldn’t figure out why my guitar wouldn’t come through the sound system, even though it worked before the service. Oh, well. It was a wonderful service.

So at this point, I am relaxing – tomorrow I plan on a morning run after picking up kids for school. Have a great week!

Prayer for the Week

Fifth Sunday of Easter

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Squirrels and Chipmunks | Running Update

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This morning we woke up to a foggy morning, but after struggling to get out for runs this week, I really wanted to go. Pam wanted to go as well, but she walked the track at the Y. I took the Allegheny Valley River Trail and was very surprised. To say that my runs have been slow of late would be an understatement. Over the last two weeks, I have not cracked the 11 minute mile barrier. Today I started out and hit a 10:40 on the first mile and that pace continued all the way through. I was very happy. Along my run I met quite a few squirrels and chipmunks. They are always cute to watch. I only have 12 miles for the week, so that means I’m really going to have to kick it up a notch for the remainder of the month if I want to hit 108 miles. I’m currently at 46. Hopefully the weather will cooperate. With all of that said, I continue to Press On!