Our God

Love this song.  May it bless you tonight.

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Community

In Acts 2, we read of many wonderful events that took place as the Church began to take form.  We see the Holy Spirit make a dramatic entry into the disciples as they are all together.  We read of Peter’s great sermon of how he explained what had happened, gave a great account of Christ and his death, resurrection, and exaltation, and finally a plea for all to repent and be baptized.  About 3000 people who witnessed the events of this day gave their lives over to Christ, but more importantly, gave their lives over to each other.

In the verses following these great events, we read in verses 42-47 of how the Church community began to form.  It was marked by the people devoting themselves to the work of teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer.  From these verses we learn that the church was not just a gathering of people who came together on Sunday for an hour or two, but a group that was dedicated to each other at all times.

The church is facing an interesting dilemma right now across the country.  Generations are growing more and more segregated over issues.  Most of these issues are not even scriptural issues, but traditional issues.  When this occurs, the congregations become even more divided, and you end up with 3 or 4 different camps within one body.  Maybe the reason churches are struggling more over these things is because there is a lack of community in the church.  Sadly, people are more willing to argue and divide than they are willing to devote themselves to each other as the first century church did.

Acts 2:47 says they praised God and enjoyed the favor of all the people.  Because of that, God added to their number daily.  Will you enjoy the favor of all the people you worship with today?  Will you be willing to make that happen more than just on Sunday morning?  Can we put petty differences to the side and join together to spread the good news of Jesus to all?  Let’s be a community of believers, and devote ourselves to each other!

How’s Your Prayer Life?

Lord willing, in two weeks I’ll be preaching a sermon about prayer at the West University church.

I feel somewhat inadequate to preach on prayer.  Probably because its one of the things I struggle with the most in my private life.  Sure, I can lead a public prayer.  I can say one as long as short as you’d like me to.  However, when it comes to personal prayer life, it is definitely waning.

Maybe that’s because I get so caught up in life, that I forget to pray.  Maybe, its because prayer takes time, and I feel like I don’t have time.  Maybe, its because I feel I don’t need to have conversations with God.

Or maybe, its simply because I just don’t pray.

I am placing an informal, private poll below on prayer life.  I would love for you to just check one of the following options below.  It would really help me in my sermon prep if you could comment on either this blog post or on my facebook post about your prayer life.  If you don’t want to comment, that’s fine, but please at least place a vote in the poll below.

Singing During Communion/Lord’s Supper Time

Please take a moment and vote in the poll below.  I would love to hear some comments as well as why you selected what you did.

I’m interested in how people take Communion, and what you do to help reflect on what you are doing.  I personally love to sing during Communion, because it helps me focus.  For years, I’ve tried the prayer during the Communion time, reading the scriptures, thinking or reflecting with my eyes closed, and so on.  It just seems like for me, being such a music person, that this is what helps me.

A few years ago, there was a large debate at the Freed Hardeman Lectureships in their Open Forum about whether or not it was scriptural to sing during Communion.  I’d love to hear from people why they feel it is unscriptural to do such a thing.  For those who feel like it should not be done, please elaborate as to why.  This is not a debate, nor is it a place where we’re trying to prove you wrong, its just a place for input.  Thanks for voting!

What do you worship?

Taken from the Louie Giglio book “The Air I Breathe”:

You, my friend…are a worshiper!

Every day, all day long, everywhere you go, you worship.  Its what you do.  Its who you are.

We all are worshipers, created to bring pleasure and glory to God who made us.

I don’t know if you consider yourself a “worshiping” kind of person, but you cannot help but worship – something.

Its what you were made to do.

Should you for some reason choose not to give God what He desires, you’ll still worship something – exchanging the Creator for something He has created.

Think of it this way:  Worship is simply about value.  The simplest definition I can give is this:  Worship is our response to what we value most.

That’s why worship is that thing we all do.  Its what we’re all about on any given day.  Because worship is about saying “This person, this thing, this experience – is what matters to me.  Its what I put first in my life.”

That “thing” might be a relationship.  A dream.  Friends.  Status.  Stuff.  A name.  Some kind of pleasure.  Whatever name you put on it, this thing or person is what you’ve concluded in your heart is worth most to you.  And whatever is worth most to you is – you guessed it – what you worship.

Worship tells us what we value most.  As a result, worship determines our actions, becoming the driving force for all we do.

So how do you know where and what you worship?

Its easy.  You simply follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money, and your loyalty.  At the end of that trail you’ll find a throne; and whatever, or whomever, is on that throne is what’s of highest value to you.  On that throne is what you worship.

Not too many of us walk around saying “I worship my stuff.  I worship my job.  I worship this pleasure.  I worship her.  I worship my body.  I worship me!”

But the trail never lies.  We may say we value this thing or that thing more than any other, but the volume of our actions speak louder than our words.

In the end, our worship is more about what we do than what we say.

Sermon in Song

This Sunday, we’ll be doing something a little different at West University Church of Christ.  I currently serve as the Associate Minister, but I also serve as the Worship Minister.

Many people have different philosophies on worship.  Should we use a praise team?  Should we use instruments?  Should we raise our hands?  Should we clap?  Should we kneel?  Should we use a song leader?  Is there a difference between a song leader and a worship leader?

We will be focusing on worship this week at our assembly.  Recently, I posted a poll about how long my readers feel the average sermon should last on Sunday morning.  One of the options I gave was to have more songs and scriptures, intermingled with sermon points in between.  That is what we will be trying this Sunday.

I’m eager to see how people will receive this.  I feel that many of us, when we “go to church”, expect a certain thing.  We feel that there is only way to do that certain thing.  If we don’t do that certain thing, many feel that we haven’t worshiped properly.  I suppose that’s my question — is there a certain way you have to worship?

We will be singing many new songs, many old songs, and many favorite songs.  If you have a chance to stop by the West University Church of Christ at 3407 Bissonnet Street in Houston, TX, please do!

Odes of Solomon

Taken from the Odes of Solomon – 41

Let all the Lord’s children praise him,
And let us appropriate the truth of his faith.
And his children shall be acknowledged by him;
Therefore let us sing in his love:
We live in the Lord by his grace;
And life we receive in his Messiah.
For a great day has shined upon us;
And marvelous is he who has given us of his glory.
Let us, therefore, all of us unite together in the name of the Lord;
And let us honor him in his goodness:
And let our faces shine in his light;
And let our hearts meditate in his love,
By night and by day.
Let us exult with the joy of the Lord.
All those that see me will be astonished.
For from another race am I.
For the Father of truth remembered me;
He who possessed me from the beginning.
For his riches begat me, and the thought of his heart:
And his Word is with us all our way,
The Savior who makes alive and does not reject our souls:
The man who was humbled, and was exalted by his own righteousness;
The Son of the Most High appeared in the perfection of his Father;
And light dawned from the Word
That was beforetime in Him;
The Messiah is truly one;
And he was known before the foundations of the world,
That he might save souls for ever by the truth of his name:
Let a new song arise from them that love him.  Hallelujah.

Providing a Second Rate Worship Service

worshiphim1Think about it — the worship service takes up a big bulk of of our Sunday morning.  If a typical morning service lasts an hour, probably 20 minutes of that will be devoted to singing, scripture and prayer time.  Ten minutes may be devoted to Communion.  20 -25 minutes will be devoted to sermon time.  5 minutes will be devoted to announcements.  This post is to discuss the thoughts of chapter 3 of the book 10 Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing” by Geoff Surratt.

I could very easily rant about this one for a very long time.  Worship in song and scripture and prayer has always been a very important thing to me.  I remember sitting in chapel at Friendship Christian School, when no one else would sing, I would be singing.  I was the go to worship leader for our youth group at Maple Hill.  On mission trips, if you volunteer one time to lead songs, you’re stuck with it.

At three of the four churches I have worked for now, I have been a worship minister.  I may not be the best singer in the world, but I feel like I have a talent for putting together a worship service effectively.  I started doing this when I was a child, singing and performing in front of others.  I used to think that if you had a desire, and you had a decent voice, you could lead worship.  I also used to think that if you just had a good voice, you could be a song leader.  I’ve learned that this is simply not the case.

I prefer the phrase “leading worship” or “worship leader” over “leading singing” or “song leader”.  When I put together a service, its much more than just songs.  Its scriptures and prayers and songs all combined.

For one to just randomly pick out songs and throw them into an order of worship is just not right in my opinion.  There needs to be purpose.  Verses of songs need to connect together.  Scriptures should tie in.  It should take the worshiper to a place where they can let the Spirit of God overflow out of them, and not just sing a few songs that sound nice.

Too many leaders just pick out a few songs that go with an agenda, such as make sure you pick out an invitation song that tugs at your hear, lead a song with the same key word as the sermon in the title before the sermon, and make sure the closing song is peppy.  Be sure the Communion song makes you focus on the death of Christ.

I don’t subscribe to that theory.

Worship should flow from one end to the other.  It should encapsulate the entirety of heart and mind.  We should have a purpose and direction with our worship.  If the theme of the day refers to all older and slower songs, then use those.  If the theme of the day is upbeat and talks about new ideas, maybe new songs with a fresh take on things are the prescription.

I talked about this before about trying to balance new songs and old songs in a worship service.  Ultimately, if there is no heart or dedication behind the service, none of it matters.  A worship leader can not expect the members of the church to really get into their worship when the worship leader himself has not even gone over the songs.

This topic also encompasses a right or wrong mentality of whether we can clap or not, whether we can use instruments or not, whether we can have a praise team or not, etc, etc.  I grow so weary of the church majoring in minor issues over whether these things are doable, acceptable, or sinful.  Some people act as if when you lead a new song that you may as well go ahead and sign up the whole church for failure.  If a child, or even an adult, claps during a song, there are people who will literally stop their own worship, and enter into the sin of judging.  If a person feels the need to raise their hands to God, whether all the way or just out in front of their own personal space, other people may think they are trying to show off.

When a congregation asks people not to do these things, they are guilty of telling people how to worship God, which I don’t feel is out place.  Yes God said to worship in truth, but before that he said to worship in Spirit.  We are called to make a joyful noise to the Lord.  David danced before out God in a time of worship.  Teenagers are dropping out of church after high school in record numbers, and all some churches care about is making sure they don’t clap on their way out.

So what would happen if all worshiped in spirit and truth.  What would happen to our worship if we removed the stigmas placed on songs we don’t like, people we don’t like leading the worship, time restrictions we put on the service, or even the physical acts of worship we can participate in?

haiti

Jason, with Jean Robert, teaching the men and women at the Preacher's Training Seminar in Haiti.

I’ll never forget being in Port-au-Prince, Haiti with my good friend Jason.  We were conducting a preacher’s seminar there.  Neither of us spoke the Haitian Creole, which is a blend of French, Spanish, Portuguese, English, and some African languages.  People had traveled from all over Haiti to be there. Wives sat in the back, husbands sat in the front.  The building was reminiscent of a covered shelter at a state park.  The floor was part concrete, part packed down dirt.  There were primitive pews and broken chairs crammed into this small worship space, that could not have been more than about 1800-2000 square feet.  Inside, there were about 200-250 people packed tightly.  Jason and I, getting rather claustrophobic, but also not understanding what was going on, decided to step out the front door and just listen.

The singing that night was mind-blowing.  Never had I experienced such a euphoric worship service.  There was swaying, dancing, clapping, foot stomping, hand raising, but most important – joy and emotion.  There wasn’t one person who refrained from giving themselves completely over to God in that worship service.  There came a time when everyone was to pray.  I have to admit, at first it was a bit scary.  Everyone started talking, with their eyes closed and hands raised.  We asked our translator what was going on, and found out they had asked everyone to pray to God on their own.  That experience was phenomenal.  Men and women, on their knees with tears streaming down their faces, praying out loud to God, all at the same time.  People were even coming in off the street to experience  this.

I had a moment that night as well.  I realized that I would never experience that.  Not in that way.  Its just not how we do things here.

When we have someone who just gets up and picks a few numbers out of the song book, and someone who just gets up to pray, and someone to ask God to help us remember the sacrifice of Jesus during communion, and we do this over and over and over and over again, I gotta tell you, it gets old.  And if our heart never changes or grows, and if our heart is never filled while do this, I’m afraid it gets old to God as well.

There’s a great blog entitled “Upgrading a Church of Christ Worship Service Without Buying a Guitar” that you can read.  I find it to be pretty descriptive about how things are in our brotherhood.  I hope all of you will understand that it is up the entire congregation to make the most of your worship service.

I have many many more thoughts on this, but I will stop for now.  I welcome any and all comments.