Why Do We Sing Songs in Worship?

How many people know why hymns (or any songs) are sung in worship? And more importantly, how many of them are prepared to sing in a way that will delight the Lord?

The outward command to worship comes from God himself, whose very nature demands our praise. The inner compulsion emerges from hearts full of gratitude and love toward God.

God initiated worship. If He had not first revealed Himself to His people throughout history, we would not know who He is, what He has done, or how He is to be worshiped. You see, God acted first. This idea is symbolized in corporate worship when a “worship leader” issues a call from God to worship Him. God is there before the worshipers arrive, waiting to invite them into His presence.

Worship is two-sided. God acts first, then humanity answers. God reveals, then humanity responds. Worship can never be a passive observation of the pastor and choir/praise team. Worshipers are not spectators, but are active participants working in their service of praise.

Worship is an action word. It is an activity that requires preparation, attention, understanding, and exertion. The goal isn’t for us to get something out of it. God is supposed to get something out of the service; songs are to be sung for God’s enjoyment.

Why do you worship?

Faith in a Pandemic

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks. I know how anxious and stressed a lot of people are. I know how disappointed you are right now with life in general. This virus has caused us to make a lot of short-term changes that seem…painful. It’s not just a viral pandemic but in this country and community it’s a pandemic of human disappointment. Things that folks have planned for, worked toward, got excited about are postponed or worse, cancelled. I feel awful for the students who couldn’t do planned trips to Europe or compete in state tournaments. I’m sad for my daughter who was in the middle of her last semester at Centre College and now feels abruptly pushed out of her community of friends who are all having to leave campus. I’m disappointed that we didn’t get to see a classic University of Kentucky vs. Michigan State Spartans championship basketball game!

But seriously all that pain is real for a lot of folks. Those cancellations brought the viral pandemic to reality for a lot of people. So more than ever, we need to show grace to each other. I’m sure anxiety and fear are much higher today than a week ago.

I don’t speak as an expert on science. I don’t know exactly where this is going. But I’ll try to speak into it from a faith perspective, while also mindful of what health experts are telling me.

I’m not going to make any long term and permanent decisions today. I’ve found in times of crisis and panic it’s best not to project out into the future. It’s always best to make wise decisions based on what we know today.

As disciples of Jesus, the filter that forms our decisions is different. Why? We are not of this world! We are not to be conformed to this world! Do not live like those who have no hope!

There are 3 ways we are not like this world. #1, We live by faith, not fear. God’s not sitting in heaven thinking, “I didn’t see this coming.” Our God is faithful—He’s in control. Our God is good—He has a plan. Our God won’t leave us or forsake us. He’s working in all things. Do you belioeve it?

We live by fear, not faith. #2, we are sacrificial, not selfish. The Christians of the early church faced extreme persecution, even losing their lives for their faith. The first century Christians didn’t hoard their goods! They weren’t rushing the Jerusalem Mega-Mart to grab emergency supplies. We are the body of Christ—We put others ahead of ourselves.

We live by faith, not fear. We are sacrificial, not selfish. #3 We shine the light, we do not hide it. During this time, people are afraid, unsettled, anxious, looking for hope. We are the world’s hope dealers. We are the light shiners. We are the love givers. This virus may be highly contagious. I’m praying for some Christians to be more contagious. Spread hope. Spread love. Spread life in Christ. I’m believing that the love and hope of Jesus spreads faster than any virus.

In many ways, I think there’s a good chance that some will look back at this time in history and call it the “lost” months of our lives. I hope that’s not true. Because Christians from the very beginning of the early church have sought the opportunities in the most difficult times, and made them into Kingdom building opportunities.

Listen to God’s word, which is just as relevant today as it was two thousand years ago. The Apostle Paul writes in Colossians 4:2-6, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains [or maybe in our day we might say, “Pray for us that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in social distancing.” He continues,] Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversatation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” 

I know we’re disappointed to say the least to cancel Spring Break vacations. I know that pain is real. I also know that there are a lot of people who have had to deal with the real health complications of this disease. We pray for them. And because we value the health of the most vulnerable in our community, I support the decision to limit our meeting together. But this does not mean that we hole up in our houses, under our blankets or tucked in our backyards. No, we’re called to be the peo. who love their neighbors. Now is the time to check on those people in your cul-de-sac or apartment bldg. This is an opportunity, not just a burden.

The church isn’t a gathering on Sunday morning. I’ve been saying that for years! Let’s prove we are the church by how we respond outside one hour a week with how we manage this issue. WE are the church, you and me, the body of Christ in the world. How do we show this world what it’s like to follow Jesus? Is it by showing up for that hour to try to prove the experts wrong? No, it’s being a good citizen. We practice keeping distance in order to love our neighbor. But distance isn’t separating ourselves completely from others. It’s checking on each other & helping each other get things from the store or pharmacy or wherever. It’s checking on our neighbors & seeing how we can help them.

It’s also important during this time, especially for those of us with children, to continue as many of our routines as we had before or create new ones. There is a comfort in routines

When I went to Haiti two summers ago with a group from my church along with my then 16 year old son Micah, we got stuck in Port au Prince. Our plane arrived at the moment that the government made an announcement that effected the livelihood of every Haitian. It was a silly and even ridiculous announcement to make and so the people got angry and began protesting on the streets immediately. And when I say protest, that’s putting it mildly. There were some looting and closing of streets. And here we are, Americans far from home and far from the safety of the Mission in northwest Haiti.

Now, we were being well cared for at a hotel in PAP but we couldn’t safely leave the hotel for several days. During that time we could hear gunshots and smell the smoldering remains of burnt tires.

Now, I can put on a pretty brave face for a group of people amd I did. I needed to. But I’m not going to lie to you now…I was a little scared. Just a little. But I was more disappointed because we were basically quarantined from our mission. I mean I hadn’t seen my daughter in two months, and she was already in NW Haiti serving and I’m in the country and unable to see her. I was disappointed because we couldn’t get to NW Haiti to break bread and serve with our brothers and sisters in Christ in the small village of Mayette. Those Haitian Christians depend on us for encouragement. I was devasted a little more each day we were delayed.

It also gave me a lot of time to pray and read the Scriptures and think. Every morning I would wake up to the sound of this older employee of the hotel who was sweeping the walk ways. Sweep, sweep, sweep. And there was a comfort in hearing that noise. Sweep, sweep, sweep. It meant that the sun had risen and that he had gotten out of bed much earlier than me despite the economic conditons of that impoverished country. And he went to work. Sweep, sweep, sweep.

And about the third day I heard that sweeping, it would make me smile. On the fifth day I heard that sweeping, it made me cry. Because I knew God was good. He is faithful as the sun rises each morn. And was the routine of that man, who has overcome much more than I have in my life, it was his daily faithfulness, that brought ME hope.

We will get through this, but it will be much easier together. Remember. we can’t do life alone. We need each other…more than ever, but for now let’s keep six feet apart.

Claiming our Identity is the Key to the Christian Life

Romans 12;1-2 (NLT), “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

Claiming our identity is key to the Christian life. Immediately after deciding to trust and follow Jesus we are given a new life, a new beginning, a new identity. We are adopted children of the King who are given the promise of His inheritance. And yet, sanctification (that process of becoming more like Jesus day by day) is progressive. It happens in bits and pieces over a lifetime. We have to continue to be new…in our thoughts and living out the identity Christ has given us as his children. WE are His family of servant missionaries.

Maybe the Purpose of your Life IS your Daily Routine of Life and Love

When George Mallory was asked why he wanted to climb Mount Everest, he famously answered, “Because it is there.” But in a personal letter to his wife, Ruth, he revealed even more about what drove him to climb the mountain. “Dearest, you must know that the spur to do my best is you and you again…I want more than anything to prove worthy of you.” Certainly George’s legacy proved worthy of history’s remembrance. But George’s son, John, wrote something about this too. Proud, but sad, John wrote, “I would so much rather have known my father than to have grown up in the shadow of a legend, a hero, as some people perceive him to be.”

The answer George gave concerning his motives have confronted my own. The mountain “was there,” but so was John, George’s son. The mountain brought a sense of joy and gave a sense of striving for the purpose of life too. Climbing the mountain enabled George to prove worthy of his family. But so would have loving and providing for his family in the ordinary routines of a long life, day upon day. So why did George choose to engage the challenges of the mountain but not the living room?

Why did George Mallory choose the mountain when he understood that it might take his life? Why was Mallory’s pursuit of joy, the meaning of life, the worthiness of family, and the loyalty to complete a task connected more with climbing a mountain than with daily routines of love and life, work and play, in community at home?

Do the Best You Can and Leave the Results to God

Sometimes I get discouraged because I see little results from my ministry. It’s then I have to re-read the story of Noah. He worked for 100 years and didn’t get discouraged. If he did, the Holy Spirit didn’t ensure it was recorded. So if the Lord wants me to work I will work on. I’ve seen transformation of people from death to life spiritually and Noah preached for years without a convert. So I’ve made my mind up: I will do the best I can and leave the results with God.

So Christian! Expect good results and never get discouraged; but if we don’t get good results, let us not look on the dark side, but keep on praying, and in the fullness of time the blessing of God will come.

Do I Possess the Stamina to Go Unnoticed?

How I crave words like these spoken to Jesus, “Everyone is looking for you” (Mark 1:37).

Those are “fame” words.

And yet, Jesus is fame-shy. He seemed drawn not to the spotlight but from it. Disciples had to search. He wasn’t tweeting. His blog wasn’t updated. His email responses were not immediate. Where they often found him was alone and in desolate places praying (Luke 5:16).

Do I possess the stamina to go unnoticed? Can I handle being over-looked? Do I have a spirituality that equips me to do an unknown thing for God’s glory?

But God remembers us, even if others don’t. Being remembered by Him means we no longer fear being forgotten by the world.

When You Don’t Know What To Pray

When I don’t know what to pray I like to look at Philippians 4:6-7 which says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

I love this verse because it gives us direct instruction on what to do when we’re needing direction in our prayer lives. Not knowing what to pray isn’t an excuse not to pray. God wants us to come to Him with anything and everything. We could talk to Him about something as simple as our agenda for the day and He would love that time spent with Him.

Pray for guidance, joy, peace, or whatever you need at that point in time. God will NEVER turn you away, no matter how long you’ve been pushing him away.

Jesus Knows What It’s Like

Jesus knew what it was like to experience poverty (Luke 9:58). Jesus was homeless, so he can identify with those who have to do without.

Jesus knew what it was like to experience exhaustion. Jesus walked everywhere he went. he had to deal with disciples who argued about who was greatest and didn’t get the lessons he was teaching, not to mention religious leaders plotting his death while he healed and fed countless people.

Jesus knew what it was like to be betrayed. He was betrayed by religious leaders and his own family (Mark 3:21). Peter denied knowing him and Judas sold him out for 30 silver pieces.

Jesus knew what it was like to suffer grief. Jesus weeps over the condition of Jersualem (Luke 19:41) AND at the death of a friend, Lazarus (John 11:35). See also Isaiah 53:3.

Jesus knew what it was like to be tempted. Although Jesus never committed a sin, he was still tempted (Hebrews 2:18).

Jesus knew what it was like to suffer. It’s hard for us to find meaning in our suffering this side of eternity. Jesus confided his emotional pain to this disciples (Matthew 26:38). And he obviously endured the physical pain of his extremely gruesome death on a cross.

Jesus knew what it was like to feel forsaken by God. God the Father had to turn his face away from His Son while he became sin on the cross in our place (Matthew 27:46). And as for us, we are never forsaken even though that feeling ight be strongly felt (Hebrews 13:5).

Jesus knows what it’s like to be human. He was fully human. He got hungry and thirsty. He slept. He had to learn things. He grew. He loved. He was glad. He was angry. He prayed. He exercised faith. He read the Scriptures. He cried. As the old hymn What a Friend We Have in Jesus says, “Jesus knows our every weakness.”

What a massive comfort to know that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

God’s Home in Us

John 14:23 says: 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.”

It is astounding that God Himself would make His home in us. Is there any greater privilege than to be in the fellowship and presence of Almighty God?

We are the choice that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit made. We were created in the likeness of God from the beginning of creation. We are heirs of God and joint heirs with Jesus Christ. We are agents of Heaven enforcing Christ’s victory on Earth.

That the God of the universe would want to love us is hard to conceive. That He would want to visit us might be amazing enough, but the triune God is making a home with us!

There is nothing greater than to feel His love and to know that He is listening to me and enjoying my company as I am enjoying His.

Faith’s Object is the Promise of God

Abraham didn’t just believe in God in general; he believed a specific promise God had made, and he adjusted his life around it.

And because Abraham “was fully convinced that what God had promised, he was also able to do it…it was credited to him for righteousness (Romans 4:21-22).”

Tim Keller says, “Saving faith is not believing that God is there. Further, it is not believing in a God who saves. It is believing God when He promises a way of salvation by grace.”

Faith’s object is the promise of God. Faith is believing that God will do what God said He’d do and adjusting your life around that promise.

Paul goes on to make the bridge to us in 4:23-25, “And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.”

Just like Abraham believed God WOULD send a son that would bring salvation into the world as he was promised, we believe that Jesus IS that Son.