Tag Archives: worship

You Are Never Doing Nothing

If for some reason you are ever rendered incapable of doing much of anything, you will likely know the insecurity and restlessness that goes with it.

Insecure

Insecurity, because as people we have so much of our perceived worth wrapped up in what we do. Our capabilities, responsibilities, and hobbies are what make us who we are. When we are no longer able to take on those things, we are left with little left to talk about, and find it painfully difficult to relate with those who are busy doing things.

You have a sense that you are existing more than living, and that is an incredibly difficult feeling. I wrote last year of this experience:

And some had easy laughter
And a carefree kind of sway,
They flittered and they fluttered,
Humming through the day.

“What have I to offer?”
The bruised reed said
From the ground,
“The glory’s gone over my head
But I am sinking down.
Up above the light is shining,
Sweet perfume fills the air,
But down here is decaying,
And an awful load of care.”

There is a potentially crippling sense that because you are not accomplishing things you are not valuable, nor are you even interesting.

Restless

I say restless, because we are used to doing things and being busy, and when life becomes slow and monotonous, all the hours rolling into one, it is easy to be anxious. But a sadder thing happens when you are stuck in that place for a long period of time. You accept your current reality and even if you are able to hope for improvement, when that hope is a long way off (even weeks or months), it is a dreadful wait. You begin to look forward to nothing more than going to sleep at night, and perhaps, if things are particularly bad, even night does not bring relief. Continue reading

A Word on Worship Styles

Note: From the start I want to clarify that when I use the word “style” I am not referring to words, or lyrics. By the word “style” I mean varying instruments or sounds, as well as the posture or outward appearances of worshippers. Words, particularly words of truth that honor God, matter immensely, but that is a whole other topic.

Few topics can get Christians more heated up then worship styles. Some churches pride themselves most emphatically and almost solely on having “great worship.” If they visit a church that doesn’t use drums and the worshipers don’t raise hands, they might say something like “the sermon was great, but it’s too bad the worship is dead.” Or even “It’s really too bad the Spirit’s not there.” You might think I’m joking but sadly I’ve heard it with my own two ears.

On the other hand, organ only, hymn only, Psalter only (etc, etc) church goers can see concert clips of people jumping up and down, hand raising, clapping (etc,etc) and think there’s a lack of reverence and nothing happening other than an ecstatic, hyper-emotional, rock fest.

I guess the question we should all ask ourselves is this: Does God want us judging one another’s worship styles? Should we dissect the way, or style, in which another person offers praise and thanksgiving to God, specifically in song?

I don’t think so. Here’s why: Continue reading

Abide With Me: A Hymn For the Dying

When I search my mind for a favorite hymn “Abide With Me” rises quickly to the surface. CyberHymnal.org gives us this information about the circumstances surrounding the writing of this hymn by Henry Lyte in 1847:

Lyte was inspired to write this hymn as he was dying of tuberculosis; he finished it the Sunday he gave his farewell sermon in the parish he served so many years. The next day, he left for Italy to regain his health. He didn’t make it though—he died in Nice, France, three weeks after writing these words. Here is an excerpt from his farewell sermon:

“O brethren, I stand here among you today, as alive from the dead, if I may hope to impress it upon you, and induce you to prepare for that solemn hour which must come to all, by a timely acquaintance with the death of Christ.”

I know of no greater hymn which so honestly puts into words the experience and struggle of those dying under the curse of disease, a thing I have not experienced but have seen. The lyrics in full may be read here, and below is my favorite rendition of this song. Please take time to listen and to read the words.

You might wonder why I would love this hymn so much, when its’ topic is dying. But it is not just about dying- it is about dying in and dying for the Lord. “If we live, we live for the Lord, and if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s (Romans 14:8).”

Jesus can “deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery (Hebrews 2:15).” He did this “by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This He set aside, nailing it to the cross (Colossians 2:14).” “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law (1Corinthians 15:56);” He has removed that bitter sting and broke that power which stood against us, condemning us, and He gives and will give us victory over these things. The bible testifies that a day will come when death will be destroyed, and resurrection life will be ours. For the Christian, death needs not be a topic of dread, but of anticipation.

Yet for all the good death will bring to us, anyone who has witnessed death knows- it is usually not as glorious as Hollywood makes it out to be. Disease has no pity; It has no respect for human dignity. It is a cruel tormentor, ugly and stealing from its victims, wasting them, and crippling with pain. Not always, but surely this is often the case. It is not so much the death, but the dying that can surely cast a Christian low, even in agony. Continue reading

Just As I Am: Singing to God

It would be hard for me to fully express the role that worship songs- especially hymns, have had in my life. God used the lyrics to “Amazing Grace” to reach me when I was a teenager, finally and reluctantly confessing I was a sinner on my bed at night. Words I never knew existed in my memory bank came rushing back to me from childhood and all at once the word “wretch” struck my heart with tremendous force. I was a wretch, it was true. But the song said God had an interest in saving wretches like me. I didn’t know how yet, or why He could save a wretch like me, but I’m grateful He shone a light in my heart and kept on drawing me.

I had started attending church around that time, and having not grown up in one, witnessing people worship was fascinating to me. It just seemed amazing that people could really sing to God, and the looks on their faces were like they actually knew Him. I still have a poem I wrote as a teenager reflecting on what I experienced during this time they called “worship”:

I stand, swaying just enough
To blend in with the world
As they are wrapped up in their ecstasy.
Shouts of joy bounce off the walls
And I try to reach out;
To catch it without making a statement
Of my obvious attempts.

There are those who wear their love so
Glorious across their faces,
And I would expect them to be proud
Yet they are the meekest.

Often I hear words of great inspiration,
And the thirst deep inside of me pleads
To be filled.

(I smirk every so often, so that the
Stranger next to me won’t know the ways
Of which I have been intrigued)

I walked to the back of the room
Into a corner where no one would see,
And tried to speak a word to God
(To the air?)
My heart raced…
“It’s because you fear God!”
Or is it only for the people who have glanced back?

It’s kind of funny to have this poem as a little reminder of the foreignness and intrigue a “worship service” held for me then. I remember having a sense of the seriousness of singing songs to God. One Sunday morning I was singing a song, something about giving Jesus all of my life. But it wasn’t true. He didn’t have my life, and I knew it full well. I also knew the guy leading worship- a highschool friend, and that Jesus didn’t have his life either. I just remember shutting my mouth mid-song. How could I sing to God words that weren’t true? Words that I didn’t mean? The weight of it felt heavy enough to crush me so I fled, but on the way I asked the worship leader’s mom to send him outside when the singing was over. Continue reading

“A Meaningful Life”

There is an innate desire in human beings for our lives to be meaningful, a God given desire that has all too often gone astray from Him.

One of my best memories from childhood is laying on the grass in our backyard and staring at a baseball. I would hold it above my face, rolling it in my fingertips, and feeling the stitches. Baseball was to me a marvelous sport, one that I loved everything about. I loved the dust that would fly and hover in the air when I slid to home base, I loved the crack of the bat followed by instantaneous sprinting, I loved the comfort and smell of my well broken-in Wilson leather glove, and the ball rolling off my fingertips and striking people out. I just loved it.
And I loved to be good at it. I loved for my talent to be recognized and to be “the” pitcher and feel as if winning a tournament was an honor to be solely bestowed on my shoulders.

The child like delight of playing faded over the years and in grade 11 I found myself on a rep team that had already primed the “it” pitcher. It wasn’t me. I didn’t look forward to the game anymore; I was stuck in the outfield. That was my last year of baseball, one in which I felt unrecognized, unappreciated, and unimportant. My team won tournaments, and had success, but I couldn’t enjoy it. I skipped the end of the year celebration, because well- it wasn’t about me. When it was all said and done my coach phoned and asked why I hadn’t been there. I can’t remember what I said, but I’m sure I had a lame excuse. He told me that the girls had voted for the Most Valuable Player on the team, and they had chosen me. I wasn’t there to accept that award. I was shocked that they had chosen me, proud, but also ashamed. Ashamed because I’d been too proud to imagine I had any value unless I was the star pitcher. I’d let a good year pass by miserably and I had missed the celebration.

As a kid you do the things you do because you love to do it. When you grow up, reality strikes and in a big way life becomes about making money. It’s a natural progression I suppose. In Christian communities, for women, it’s not so much about the money, but about the home making and children raising. Whatever you find yourself doing you wonder, is it enough? Enough for me? Enough for God? Enough in the eyes of others? Important enough? Impressive enough? Worthy? Valuable? Memorable? Continue reading

Praise that Kills the Gospel

I’ve noticed a trend in some of today’s popular Christian music that disturbs me. There’s a song that’s been playing on our local “praise” station, where the artist sings his prayer to God: “Yeah, I want to believe, Jesus help me believe, that I am someone worth dying for.” In the end the artist turns to the listener and exhorts them “You gotta believe, ya you gotta believe, that you are someone worth dying for.” Continue reading

Wishing

Many times I have found myself wishing for a stronger desire for God. I wish I had a stronger desire to fellowship with Him, to serve Him, worship Him, and to read and obey His Word.

 I use the word “wish” because I’ve realized that sometimes that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Wishing. And in case you didn’t know, wishing really doesn’t get you anywhere. Continue reading

I Serve An Emotional God and I Am His Emotional Follower

God is an emotional God.  His book is an emotional  book.  Yet it would seem to me that there are many professing followers of Jesus Christ who seem to lack emotional responses to Him, to His word, to each other, and to sin in themselves and in the world.  Yet, I have also known those who can jump up and down in a worship service, and weep and wail whenever it seems appropriate, yet they live in unrepentant sin and have little understanding about the God of the Bible.  Continue reading

I Was Once A Slave To Sin, Satan, and Music

Romans 6:20-23 “When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed?  The end of those things is death.  But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Like everyone else I started life out worshiping one thing: myself.  This way of worship didn’t involve bowing down physically to myself, or even necessarily making loud boasts about myself, but was more like that of most people, an inward exaltation of my own ways and wants above those of others. 

As I got older I became deeply infatuated with music.  I suppose in my self-seeking way, I wanted to find something that identified with my own life experiences and feelings, whether they were good or whether they were sinful.  I found this experience in music. Continue reading

What I’ve Learned Lately Through Suffering: Speaking Openly and Honestly From The Heart

My greatest, and most overriding desire in all forms of trials I face, is no longer that they would be removed but rather that they would not be wasted.  If God would be pleased to use suffering to make me more like my Lord Jesus Christ, and if He would refine me in the fiery trials in a way that would  bring Him glory and draw men and woman, boys and girls to Him, then I will rejoice in my sufferings.  I might trip and fall along the way, and find myself in doubt and sorrow, but this I know: by Christ’s power He will be certain to bring me back to a place where I can rejoice and thank Him, even for my pain.  This I know, because He has done it for me time and time again and because His word assures me it is true.

I may sound bold, and strong to say this, but I can assure you I am the farthest thing from it.  If you knew how fiercely I have fought in the past against temptation, and how close I have come to caving in to it and heeding the advice of Job’s wife “Curse God and die (Job 2:10),” then you would know that I am nothing but a weak and empty vessel, in desperate need of God.  The only reason I can say such things as above is because of the slow and painful work God has done in me.

How pleased I am that God saw fit to bring trials into my life, when I thought that I was strong, and when I stood in shallow faith.  What a gracious and awesome God I serve, that He would treat me like a daughter!  I thank God that He would not withhold from me that which “for the moment…seems painful rather than pleasant, but later…yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:11). Continue reading