worship

True Worship Practice

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Peanut

My daughter got a hamster for her birthday this year.  This hamster is probably the most well-loved hamster that has ever lived.  She talks to him, sings to him and reads here Bible to him.  If hamsters could know Jesus, Peanut would be a follower of Jesus by now.   Often we will be just sitting in the other room and she will say “I am going to go sing to peanut” and off she goes.  She will sing “Jesus loves me, this I know” over and over again to Peanut.   Anyone who comes to the house has to see Peanut.  Everyone she sees has to hear about Peanut.  She is glad we moved to a place that has a pet store so she could get a hamster.  Her hamster is loved!

There is something refreshing about hearing my 4 year old daughter talk to her hamster about Jesus.  This is just a natural way she loves him.  I think it is an important link to make for us ‘older’ people.   Psalm 76:1 says that in Judah God is known; that His name was great.  The reason?  Because God was there and His people worshiped Him.  Worship naturally leads other people to God.   My daughter is learning to make Jesus known; she is practicing what it means to make His name great!  That is such a treasure for me to have her being able to articulate that.

Worship is more than just Sunday mornings.  Worship is all day and worship is everyday.  And it seems to me that the more we practice this, the more natural it becomes to just praise God in every circumstance.

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Goal: Be a Worshiper of God

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Set your gaze on the Lord in 2016

Since I started this blog, many things have changed.  My kids are continuing to grow up- despite my efforts to slow them down.  I started writing this when my daughter was just a newborn baby.  She is now 4 years old.  In that time, I have moved from Cape Cod to Wisconsin and then to Minnesota.  I have learned a few life lessons and I have gained new skills.  I am a pastor, yes, but I have developed a wider ministry.  I have also become an EMT , which has opened up opportunities all over the place.  Why do I share all of this?

I want to provide some context for the things that are now on my heart.  I care a lot about the local church and what it does.  I have read many things about the health of churches, making disciples, and strategies that have worked all over the place.  I believe in the church (obviously) and still think that it is the primary means by which the message of Jesus Christ is shared with the world.  I also care about the message of the Word of God, which is still relevant and real today.  I care about people and the complicated issues that so many are facing.  But the more I think about all of that, the more I realize that what drives it all is a desire to live with a proper view of God.  I want to be a better worshiper of God.  Being a worshiper of God is a full-time, life-changing, decision-making, Jesus-honoring pursuit.  It means that all of who I am somehow exalts God.  This involves some inward looking because there are plenty of things that will distract any of us from this. But  doesn’t it seem like worship of God is really what is lacking today?  Why so many issues in the church?  Why so many issues with people deciding for themselves what truth is and what it isn’t?  It is because we are not worshiping God well.

I have started a series in the church to start the new year focused on worship.  I believe it is so foundational to who we are as believers.  We must get it right!   I wonder what would happen if we really were worshipers of God.  What if our lives reflected a sense of awe?  Would it change our relationships?  Would it change our attitudes?  Would it change our communities?  Would it make us appealing to those who are searching for answers?  One thing I do know is that inwardness increases as worship of God decreases.  It is at times when I lose sight of God that I start to look at me and then the complaining starts.  God why don’t you do this for me?  God why is my life so difficult?  God why do I need to reach out to that person when they don’t even care about me?  A worshiper approach would be “God you are….good…faithful…loving…kind..forgiving.”  Starting prayers with God you are, I believe, is one way to help get us in that right mindset.

So a goal this year for me:  Be a better worshiper of God. So I wonder:  What are you doing to keep God center this new year?   How do you keep your heart close to God? Do you think there is more to it than what I suggest here?   May the worship of God increase in our hearts, homes, and churches this year!

Yes, Christmas is Coming — That is a good thing!

wpid-IMG_20140119_144828.jpgEvery year we get to this time of year and two things happen:  People start playing music and other people start complaining about it.  It generally strikes me as funny how Christmas decorations start to whip people in a frenzy.  It is as if they have suddenly realized that this holiday is now coming and there is so much to do.  I am one of the people they are annoyed with because I have embraced fully the season of Christmas.  In fact, I look forward to it all year.  I do this because it brings such excitement to our home (and also there are cookies)  At the same time, I tend to keep it simple when it comes to Christmas.  We set a budget and we stick to it.  We do not use credit cards for gifts.  We don’t waste time trying to impress people because they know better anyway. We just enjoy the season.  There is no reason getting stressed out and maxed out in debt in order to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  In fact, I think it misses the point of the whole season.

Jesus Christ came as a baby in a most humble way, to extremely ‘insignificant’ people and the world has never been the same.  What are we to learn from that?  I think it comes down to two salient truths:  1)  Focus your heart on gratitude and worship and 2) Take time with people over time with stuff.

Focus your heart on worship and gratitude

The point of our lives is God’s glory.  We exists for His glory.  When we remember this, it makes each day significant for us.  I realized that my life is in His hands and my heart leaps with joy.  This is the heart of this season.  God did not just leave us alone in our sin; He came so that He would die for the people (even me and you) that rejected Him.  It is amazing that Christmas actually has very little to do with pickled herring.  (and that is probably a better thing than I would like to admit)

Take time with people over time with stuff

We have spent time over the past few years helping family and friends not buy us gifts.  We would much rather spend time doing something with people than receive a package in the mail.  Sure we get our kids a few gifts, but we save more money for things we can do throughout the year as a family.  This actually creates a better overall family atmosphere and sets up our family time as important and an integral part of our entire year.

So Christmas is coming and yes it is a good thing.  Who knows maybe your humble Christmas might be the one Christmas you remember for the rest of your life and aren’t paying off for the same period of time.

Time to Worship

Tonight before I put the kids to bed I was able to have a brief conversation with my oldest son about heaven.  We were listening to a version of the song “Be Unto Your Name”  I told him that around the throne of God there is constant worship going on.    It was a special time in the midst of a chaotic day.  The kids have gone a little stir crazy with the cold weather we have had.

Yet,  for all that we do with our kids to try to entertain them, what could be better than helping them worship God on their own.   They need an authentic sense of worship.  They need to catch a vision for the glory of God! Maybe you need some time in the throne room of God right now.

Honoring God in Relationships

There are days when I look at my wife and say “isn’t this fun?”  That sarcastic remark generally comes in the context of our children fighting with each other.   My children, like all children I have ever met, have this intense desire to irritate their siblings.  It is something that we do not have to teach to our children.  When I was a kid I fought with my siblings as well and drove my parents crazy too!  The good news it that summer is winding down, and I guess that is also the bad news as well.

We all learn how to have many different types of relationships.  We have work relationships, family relationships, casual relationship, and formal relationship.  Sometimes people irritate us and sometimes they don’t.   There are even times when we irritate other people. (I know, shocking)  The difference is that as adults we should be able to work things through with people in a way that honors God.  This is in contrast to the complaining or screaming that kids might do.  The key to this has little to nothing to do with our own skills;  it has everything to do with the work of God in us.     Let me highlight three examples of this as an encouragement to all of us who want to live as Christ calls us to live.

They need to grow up honoring God above all else!

They need to grow up honoring God above all else!

Sing Praise to God With Each Other 

As churches we do this every Sunday because it lifts up the name of Jesus Christ and encourages each other to do the same.  When we worship together our focus is placed solely on the Lord and away from our own potential issues.

This works in my home when the kids want to start fighting about something.  We often turn on a song that they can sing along with.  Singing to God diffuses those areas of conflict.  Try it!

“Speak to one another with psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.  Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord,” – Ephesians 5:19

Be Thankful — Say Thank You 

Being thankful is not an add-on to the Christian life; it is a core piece of a Christian’s life.  Why?  Because we realize how much we have been given in Jesus Christ compared to what we deserve.  God is so good to us!

Try thanking someone for something they did and watch how it changes the relationship.  There is something amazing and affirming about genuinely thanking someone.  If there is someone you are having a difficult time with, it might be time for you to not only show them kindness, but also to thank God for them.  It will change your heart.

“always give thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Ephesians 5:20

Honor Christ

The most compelling reason we need to really watch how we relate to each other is because it honors Jesus Christ when we love one another.  We need to remain connected to Him in order to accomplish anything.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of this in our homes and churches.  Jesus Christ deserves all our praise.  He is exalted as we are united in Him.  It could be time to set petty disagreements aside in favor of His glory.

“Submit to one another out of reverence to Christ. ” – Ephesians 5:21

Relationships are not always easy, but we are called to serve God in the context of relationships.  When we keep the focus on God and how He directs us through His Word we find a unity that brings honor to His name.   As I tell my boys all the time, maybe it is time to calm down and share your Legos.  At the very least it is time to stop and praise God with each other.  He will work in our hearts when we do.

Thank You God For Each Moment

Waste Nothing!

Waste Nothing!

Taking time out of the normal settings of life can be refreshing and joy giving.  This past Sunday we were able to worship together in a different church.  It allowed me the opportunity to be a part of worship without a role in leading it from the platform.  I love being able to take a break and absorb what is going on around me.   However, during the service there was a time to share what things people were praising God for that particular day.  I had no intention of saying anything and had nothing really that I felt was worth sharing.  Without prompting from me my 6-year-old son said out loud, “I am thankful that I am with my family today.”

This comment did a few things to me.  First, it made me proud as a dad because my son was willing to praise God for something in front of a bunch of strangers.  It is encouraging to see him step out like that.    It also made me think about the nature of worship.  We are told to offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God because it is all that we have to give.   This means on the days that we meet to worship together and the days we don’t.  Everyday is a day to worship God.  Everyday is a day to thank God for something, even if the only thing you feel the need to thank God for is the breath in your lungs. Every moment is a gift from the author of life.

Without realizing it, he had caused me to stop and consider how many things I miss because I am not in the moment.  It is like my boys at breakfast asking me what is for dinner.  I always tell them not to concern themselves with that now because it is breakfast time.   It is the same with life.  Praise God for each moment.  If you are sitting with your family in church, praise God.  If you are watching a movie with your spouse, praise God for that.  If you are driving to work, praise Him.  I guess the lesson here is that God does not waste moments and we shouldn’t either.

Keeping Rocks From Crying Out

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— Public Domain Image – From Wikimedia Commons

Sunday mornings have always had somewhat of a busy feel to them.  There are many things to think about and do in preparation for worship.  It can be so busy that it is hard to really prepare ourselves for worship.  I doubt I am the only one that finds that to be the case.

I was struck this morning with the whole Psalm Sunday scene.  Think about this setting.  I know in our picture books it is a cute scene similar to the scene in the movie Aladdin where he comes in as the prince to great fanfare.  That was not what it was really like.  There were some who were not in a place to worship Jesus.  They were irritated with the crowd and busy with their own lives. They might have heard of Jesus, but were indifferent about who He was.  There were others who were ready instantly to wave palm branches and shout praises to God.  These people were overwhelmed with Jesus and all they had seen Him do. There were also those who were there to watch what was going on to stop it.   What an incredible scene!

The rebukes were predictable in this case.   The Pharisees didn’t like this at all. They told Jesus to rebuke His disciples.  Jesus says something that is so profound, He tells them that if the disciples were quiet that the rocks would cry out.  Did you know that rocks could make noise?  They certainly weren’t meant to, but if we don’t do our part that is just what could happen.

We were made to worship God.  It needs to be a part of who we are.  All of the process we put into the worship service should never get in the way of the One we worship.  Yes, we want to do well in our worship times.  We just don’t want to be so busy getting it right that we don’t actually worship God.   The disciples on that first Palm Sunday did not have anything except a few branches and hearts willing to shout praise to their King.  I think this week is a good week to stop and consider both the simplicity and richness of this.  We must praise the Lord, or else miss out on what God has for us.