My Weaknesses

www.bible.com/1713/2co.12.9.csb

I’ve never seen myself as a physically strong person. I’ve always been about average, enough to help move furniture when needed or lift the end of a couch to sweep under it, but never like, I don’t know, an Arnold Schwarzenegger or Andre the Giant kind of strength (kind of dating myself here). But then, I’ve only rarely been confronted with weakness to really know what it is.

Since I’ve been working as a hospital Chaplain, I’ve seen dozens of people who fit the description of this verse. I’ve have seen God’s power made perfect in weakness. And this is not because very ill people suddenly demonstrated great feats of strength. No I am talking about people who were dying from cancer, or riddled with a physical disability praising the Lord, so filled with God’s presence as to be animated solely by that strength. I’ve seen such great smiles erupt over the faces of gravely ill people because we were talking about Jesus. There is a power that defies any explanation, and I’ve seen it displayed in those who ought not to have it, but God makes the difference.

It is this extremity of situation that confirms for me the presence of Almighty God. God has been faithful in the past. He has healed and He has delivered. Has God changed? Has God faltered or failed? NO. God’s promises today are just as sure as they were before.

And this is the hope I have today, and the hope that I extend to those whose faith is failing them. Has God healed you, delivered you, shown you His power in the past? Has God been faithful?

It intrigued me when reading through the Bible how often God mentions Sinai and the delivery through the Red Sea, the plagues of Egypt and Israel’s deliverance from bondage. He proclaims it through His prophets many times, to generation removes from those events by centuries. And yet the reminders come. Do you remember when God rescued you from Egypt? Do you remember when God delivered you all through the Red Sea, as if to say, “you would not be here today if I had not been faithful in the past,” all of these reminders that God has been faithful, and to therefore trust Him in the present.

What occasions in your life can only be explained by God’s intervention? Have you even been in a desperate situation, prayed over it, and then find yourself delivered? Have you had that kind of experience? We ought to remember these events to remind us that God is faithful, even to us today.

I know I’ve probably share this before, but I too have been in a desperate situation, more than one. I remember being stranded on a mountain face in Tennessee with my father, praying throughout a cold February night that I would do anything God wanted me to do if only He would get us through the night. Guess what. He did.

I remember praying desperately with my wife one night when we were both on the brink, childless, living out of an apartment, exhausted, depressed, with no prospects, no church, and no hope. And yet within six months, we had a new Church ministry, a new baby on the way, a new job situation, and a new home. These are things that had no idea would come my way at the time we prayed, so I can only attribute them to God’s intervention. And it is these I remember when I come upon hard times, and doubt my faith, and God’s faithfulness. God speaks to me in ways I cannot foresee, but He always speaks in a way that I uniquely understand to be His voice and His work. (Let me be clear: I don’t hear a “voice”, but that God responds to my prayers in ways that I know speak directly to me. But like the examples above, in life events and circumstances that are so obviously God, God is “speaking”.)

I don’t know what you are going through today, but remember, God’s power is perfected through our weakness. That weakness may be simply submitting to His purpose. It may be a surrender because you don’t know what you are about anymore, that you don’t know what God is doing in your life. But when you bow before Him in prayer, acknowledge that He was the One in charge all along, you will find His power.

Dear God, I’ve messed up. It seems everything I try to affect for my own good just falls apart. I don’t know how to do life anymore. Lord may I submit today to Your will. I remember all the times in my own life when I’ve been powerless, and turned to You, and You saved me. You have always had purpose for me. May I remember that even now. You are Awesome. I am not. You are God. I am not. May my life be surrendered to You, because Your ideas are so much better than my own. Lord I don’t ask for blessing, I just want Your presence. I don’t want gifts, I want You. Lord please forgive me for the mess I’ve made, and help me to grow before You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Raising Godly Kids

www.bible.com/1713/pro.22.6.csb

If there is a secret to it, I’m afraid I will not find it here. As I’ve mentioned before, most translations will not translate this verse correctly, but the CSB nails it. Showing a child the way he should go will not guarantee that he will never stray. Sorry parents. It takes a little more effort than that. This verse actually says that every child has their own way, and it is up to you to discover it, because they will not depart from their way even when they are adults.

So what is this way this verse talks about? You might notice that your children are different, and interact with the world differently. Some kids respond to authority well. Others do not. Some kids develop a strong sense of justice. Others don’t care. As a parent, it is your duty to both discover this bent, but also to develop it. Stubborn kids will be stubborn adults. This is hard to deal with when they are young, but taught well, and with good life lessons, that stubbornness becomes determination. Adherence to authority as children become adults who will follow every authority. So those children need to be taught about the highest authority, God Himself, to learn to apply God’s authority in this world. You will find them strong defenders of what’s right and wrong in this world.

Other children are harder to figure out. You work with them, spend time with them to discover their bent, and as they grow, you have the great privilege to shape and transform them into citizens and believers in Jesus Christ, Lord willing.

Lord help me each and every day to learn from my kids, and teach them the right path, so that in their own way, they discover who You are. Thank You Jesus. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

What is Worship?

And how do we do it in the church?

It seems we’ve argued for decades about the nature of worship. From the revival tunes of the 19th century to the Jesus movement in the 1960’s, to the wave of contemporary Christian music that still permeates much of Christian worship today. But all of that is about music, time signatures, instrumentation and so forth. And while these things have a psychological effect that can lead us to worship, those are no substitute for it.

It is the moving of the heart towards God. It is emotional. It is relational. It is motivational. It is transformational.

Worship is emotional. Worship calls for feeling: joy, awe, happiness, sorrow, but there ought always to be feeling in worship. It ought to make you feel something. Worship without feeling is cold and emotionless, and really isn’t worship so much as following time signatures and carrying a tune. Worship ought to elevate your presence in a “hypnogogic” state, a state of semi-prayer, where your awareness is elevated into the presence of God. That ought to cause some kind of emotional reaction, if only fear. Without emotion, worship is dead.

Worship is relational. Worship is a response to God’s own work in us. He has called us to Himself, to be His people, to follow His word! Worship comes out of this relationship. That’s why most of the work of worship needs to be done throughout the week. We pray and read the Scriptures. We fellowship together, participate in acts of service for one another, and help the needy, feed the poor, etc. All of these things we do because we have a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Worship is motivational. Worship ought to inspire us to do. We ought to leave the worship motivated to participate in the body life of the church. We ought to want to draw closer to than before because we want more, and Jesus is the wellspring of the water of life. The more we draw, the more we want. Worship ought to be a conduit for that.

Worship is transformational. It should change us. Outwardly we are wasting away, but inwardly we are being renewed day by day. In Jesus our hearts change. We become more peaceful, more gracious, more self-controlled, more joyful, more patient and so on.

It is our obligation as believers to worship the Lord. A Christian who does not worship is what? Proud? Stubborn? Disconnected? Worship ought to be as natural as breathing for the believer. And yet many Christians today are struggling with worship. I count myself among them.

For a couple years I have been attending a church which practices what I call the “Hillsong” method of worship, which basically emphasizes quantity over quality. So many of the new worship songs that come out are designed for worship bands, not worshiping Christians. They have difficult melodies which require much practice to get right, often have vapid lyrics which emphasize feeling over substance, and are performed only a few times until the band moves onto the next new song. Old favorites are rarely sung again. Songs we we worked so hard to learn over the four weeks we heard them are tossed into the dustbin in favor the the latest and greatest. There is something to be said for keeping current, but it is often at the expense of worship, and the “worship service” becomes a weekly concert of Christian music, and this you have to listen closely to, since it often sounds like any other kind of love songs you hear on the radio.

So I have been challenged in my ability to worship personally. I’ve turned back to some of the old hymns that my heart knows. I’ve re-examined these old familiar lyrics and found fresh meaning in them, something that growing up I never really took the time to think about. I think you can do that when you reflect on those old hymns.

When we all get to heaven,

What a day of rejoicing that will be.

When we all see Jesus,

We’ll sing and shout the victory. (When We All Get To Heaven)

This is an old hymn I’ve sung a thousand times, but just rushed through the words just to sing them. But think about them for a moment. It will be a great day of rejoicing when we get to heaven. It will be the most important day of our lives. And then we will all see Jesus, the One who died for us, Who rose for us, and bears even now the scars of His sacrifice. We will get to see Him, His face. Just … wow. Then we will sing and shout the victory over sin and death, over temptation and the devil. We will sing and we will enjoy the most powerful worship we will ever experiences. Can we sit still at that thought?

In the picture below, I’ve attempted to put some of these thoughts together. We tend to think of worship in one of three ways. Worship as its own thing, the singing of music, and prayers of worship. In subtle ways, these three aspects overlap. When worship and singing overlap, they become songs of praise. When worship and prayer overlap, they become like the spoken Psalms. And when singing and prayer overlap, they become deeply spiritual songs, and for my part, tend to bring out tears. But it is at the combination of all three that I see hymns, those old traditional pieces that have been so rooted in the heart that their words are like prayer, their complexity calls for skill in singing, but their intent is pure worship.

That’s not to say that hymns remain a static group, since many of the hymns in the hymnbooks were not and are still not popular today. I believe in a great settling period for Christian music. There are some hymns that we will always sing (Amazing Grace, Just as I Am, to name a couple), and there is always new music being produced. I predict that many of the songs produced today will be someone’s “growing up” music, and they too will revisit them later on, rediscovering their sense of worship. These too will be added as “hymns” at some point. (A hymn is a piece of music that both encourages worship, and teaches important theological truth in a memorable fashion, for people will more likely remember a hymn as they will a Scripture.) Hymn music ought to say something about God. Hymns (and good worship music) ought to praise God, not how we feel about Him. It ought to be God-directed, not man-focused, and this is the error I feel a lot of “worship” services tend to take today. I want to encourage all of our worship leaders to really put some thought into how they worship and bring others into that space. It really and truly matters to a lot of people.

If I was leading worship, I would work to find the best of the best of the old and the best of the new. Every generation has music that speaks to them. As a leader of worship, it would be my privilege of bringing everyone, as far as possible, to the presence of Jesus through music, depending on them to present themselves in worship to the Lord.

But that’s just my two cents.

Source of Life

www.bible.com/1713/pro.4.23.csb

Being a Proverb, this verse tends to stand its own without reference to context. As such, it exists as a piece of collected wisdom. Considering its source, its probably something that Solomon himself observed and wanted to pass on. It is an important component of our understanding of the human being.

What is the heart? Anatomically, the answer is simple. It is the organ we have so-named because it is the body’s primary blood pump. If the heart fails, we call it “cardiac arrest” and this can often result in death. So the heart is essential for the function of the human body. But is Solomon advocating for proper cardiac care here? A heart-healthy diet? Solomon being who he is, that would not surprised me, being how prescient he is. But I also don’t think that’s what he’s talking about here.

The heart is also considered in Biblical terminology the place of the soul, as distinct from the mind. In my work as a Chaplain, I’ve discovered that people have three distinct layers to their person, as illustrated below:

As you might notice, some things transcend layers. Some things are firmly rooted within their layers. But the innermost layer, as Solomon describes, is the heart. It is the source of life and the source of your being. Diseases which affect the body, or even the mind do not cause eternal damage. But a disease of the heart lasts forever. If your conscience is “seared” or burned through where you don’t care if you sin anymore, is eternal damnation, even for the former believer. The heart needs to be guarded the most closely, the most carefully. And in this we have a ready defense.

You might remember the passage in Ephesians 6 about the armor of God. tucked within verse 14 is this phrase, “righteousness like armor on your chest.” What is it that protects the heart? It is righteousness, namely the kind of righteousness (and holiness) that God affords. We have been made righteous in Christ, exchanging our pitiful rags for His holiness. Since this is the armor of God, it is God’s righteousness that guards our hearts. When you allow the darts of unrighteousness in, behind the armor, your damage your heart. You cannot sin without consequence. Even “small” sins cause heart damage. While there is healing in Jesus, and grace from the cross, sin has consequences. Your witness and your capacity for service may be greatly diminished if you continue in sin. Sin carves out little bits for itself, reducing your capacity to serve the Lord. The Lord can do much with a little, but the less you sin, the more He has to work with.

This heart, this redeemed soul you possess if yours to do with as you will. But the Lord has claimed it as His own when He sanctified you by His blood. The Lord took ownership of your soul and even staked His claim by moving in, for we are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, who works with our own hearts to make us holy. If you continue to sin, you drive out His presence, for God cannot tolerate the presence of sin.

Lord, help me today to guard my heart against all the million little things that threaten it, all the tiny temptations and zillion darts that assault me constantly. Lord I want to serve You more. I want to be as much as I can be in Your presence, so that I can be even more effective at working out Your will in this world. Help me to put that guard over my heart so that I may not sin against You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

The Darkness

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.1.5.csb

Have you seen the darkness? Sometimes when I look into someone’s eyes, I can see it. It’s frightening. I’ve talked with people who’ve been through abuse at the hands of family members, others who’ve contemplated suicide with a certain cold lucidity. Still others whose use of illicit drugs has become normal, even “beneficial” to them. Then there are those who hear voices from the darkness, voices that tell them to kill themselves or others. To hear them tell their stories is chilling. Often the voices begin to be heard after some tragic or critical event in their past or upbringing, often as a coping mechanism dealing with some past trauma. But it is darkness all the same.

Reading this verse is hopeful. I am encouraged that even in the midst of the darkness as I’ve listed above, there is still hope, because the light is GREATER than the darkness. Those who live in darkness have seen a great light. His name is Jesus, who while on this earth illustrated His victory over the world of demons and darkness by liberating many from demonic possession and opening the eyes of the blind.

Consider that for a moment. Jesus opened the eyes of the blind. Why do you think that particular miracle was repeated so often? It wasn’t just because Jesus was compassionate on those who could not see, but over and again we see Jesus healing blind people to illustrate His power over darkness. He could literally liberate someone who lived in darkness and show them light, color, and the face of their loved ones.

I needed this today, because having seen the face of darkness, I need to know that Jesus is greater than the darkness. His light will not be consumed by darkness, but will overcome it. Jesus is stronger. Just remember that the next time you are overwhelmed.

Thank You Lord. You give me hope in the darkness. Though it may surround me and threaten me, I know that You are GREATER. There is no darkness that can overcome You. Help me now, even in this world overwhelmed by darkness, to know Your light. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Loopholes

www.bible.com/1713/php.4.8.csb

Within every code of laws, there exists exceptions and loopholes for those smart enough to figure them out. A notable example of this is the movie “I, Robot” based loosely on the Isaac Asimov tome of the same name. In the movie, the three laws of robotics are repeated for the sake the audience, and the rest of the movie is the antagonist of the movie having actually found the loophole to the laws. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that the laws made it illegal for a robot to hurt human beings or allow them to be harmed. VIKI, the movies antagonistic supercomputer, discovered that human beings hurt themselves all the, and in order to keep them from doing this, she decided she needed to take over management through her millions of android proxies. The movie illustrates the breaking of a few eggs to make this particular omelet. By instructing the computer to honor all human life, individual human lives were sacrificed in the process “for the greater good.”

You might think that the law of Love as described in the Bible might also have some loopholes. The two laws of Christianity are simple: Love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and the second, love your neighbor as yourself. Whereas the Old Testament laws numbered 623, these two cover just about every situation, right? Well, you might think so. But since we are human, we tend to look for shortcuts. I can’t tell you how tired I am of hearing this: “I just want to be able to walk through the pearly gates.” It’s like saying, “I only want to do enough to walk get in the door. I’m not trying to be a saint.” What’s the minimum effort to get into heaven? Is it a marginal faith in Jesus? An acknowledgement that God exists? Apparently it is for some.

But real salvation, salvation that allows you to walk into the presence of God, is the saving faith in Jesus Christ, and submission to his Lordship in your life. It isn’t measuring your life against a list of rules. Jesus didn’t call us to rules, which is why the rules He gave us don’t sound like a list of do not’s. His rules are do’s, and do’s that allow for a lot of creativity. How many different ways can you love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind? How many different ways can you show real sacrificial love to anyone who is your neighbor? Our God challenges us to be creative with our obedience. Who wouldn’t want to serve a God like that?

All of this to bring us back to our loophole. Why do you suppose Paul found it necessary to include this passage at all? Because of whatever loopholes followers of Christ will believe they have found. I have found this passage useful for those who ask about using email, the internet, or modern communications and media. “Is it okay if . . .” kind of questions. All I have to do is point to this verse and ask if what they want to do meet these criteria. I believe God knew that the world would advance beyond the first century. I believe He anticipated advances in media and technology. That’s why I believe the Bible continues to speak to each and every generation in a relevant and contemporary voice. Because for God, there are no loopholes. There are no “bare minimums” when it comes to salvation. Saving faith followed by immersion is the absolute base criteria, and when done ought to result in a Christian interested not in the bare minimums, but in how much they can do to show Jesus just how much they love and trust Him. I believe anyone looking for loopholes are lost.

Dear Lord, You have made me to be Your servant, saved me from the wickedness of my sin, and called out of darkness into light. Lord I know there is not enough I can do to deserve this favor, and I thank You over and again for the grace You have given me. May I ever serve and love You, for You alone cared enough for me to save me. Thank You Jesus. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Those who Fear

www.bible.com/1713/psa.103.13.csb

What is your perception of God like? Is He in close fellowship with you? Or is God distant, standoffish, and disapproving? Are you nervous about when God finally comes in judgment, or do you welcome it, insofar as you anticipate what He’s going to to all those wicked sinners?

It is no coincidence that our perception of God is not unlike the perception of our own fathers. In fact, one plays directly into the other, which is why many people who have “daddy” issues also have God issues. It isn’t by accident either, as our fathers have the task of representing God to us. This comes up in the Ten Commandments when we are told to respect our father and our mother. Why these two in particular? Because our respect for these two bleed over into our veneration of who God is and our respect for authority in general.

This is why we need good fathers, men who will protect us and counsel us, men who will discipline us when we need it, and encourage us when we falter. We need men who model God, and who instill a fear of God in us. When we have no “fear” of our father, meaning we aren’t scared of disappointing him, or fear his anger, we also lose our fear of the same in God.

I would encourage you to seek God’s presence in your life. You have greater responsibilities than just existing from day to day. He has called you to higher purposes, and you can hear His voice when you condition it your hearing through prayer and Bible reading. I encourage you to spend time in each every day to be able to hear the “still small voice” of the Lord.

Lord Jesus, I just need You today. I don’t need money, fame, or any distractions. Let me wholly be devoted to Your leading and direction. Let my mind and my heart wholly fear You, affording You the respect and awe that is already yours. You are God. And I need to me reminded of this every day. Thank You Jesus, for it is in Your Name I pray, Amen.

Genesis 40 Revisited

Genesis 40 presents a short story that 1) establishes Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams, and 2) provides a connection to the Pharaoh later on (when he has disturbing dreams). As such, the chapter feels like connective tissue for the larger narrative, not really significant in itself, but important because it connects the larger story. I really had not given this story much thought on it’s own, until I began to notice significant details, it seems to me, carefully chosen details, that demonstrate significant prophetic elements of the Christ and His dual nature.

To summarize, the story is about two servants of Pharaoh, the cupbearer and the chief baker, who for unknown reasons are thrown into prison where Joseph is. They both have striking dreams which make them unsettled. As Joseph interprets both dreams they discover their unique fates three days hence. The cupbearer will be restored to Pharaoh’s service. The chief baker will be beheaded and impaled on a tree. As you read through the chapter, it becomes obvious that elements of Christ’s story are involved.

The cupbearer represents Christ’s divine nature. He was sent to prison, just as Christ was sent to earth, where he resided for some time. Since he is called a cupbearer, he resembles Christ’s role to the One who bears the cup of God’s wrath. It is because of Pharaoh’s fierce anger that the cupbearer is in prison. But this cupbearer will be resurrected after three days and restored to his position in Pharaoh’s court, just as Christ died, was in the grave three days, and was resurrected to the right hand of the Father. Christ bore the full cup of the wrath of God in Himself, and even prayed that the cup would pass from Him in the garden. Christ was the divine Cupbearer raised to life.

The chief baker, on the other hand, did not see life at the end of three days. As the baker of bread, he represents the body of Christ, just as the cupbearer represents the blood. The baker’s specific charge is never given, just as Jesus was innocent before God. The baker’s three days preceded his death, both beheaded and impaled. He could never be hung by a rope as hanging by gallows had not been invented yet, and he had no head to hang him. He was impaled on a tree.

The specifics to each man, their dreams, and their fulfillments could have been anything. All that was needed was to get Joseph established as an interpreter of dreams and a man at Pharaoh’s side at the right time, and yet, these two men and their two dreams offer pieces of the Christ story to those who look for them. Though the two men themselves are incidental, it seems to me that their stories, intertwined with Joseph, are intended to point to the Savior, Jesus Christ. Joseph in many ways is the Savior of Israel in Genesis. So when we see an episode like Genesis 40 that contains “a filler story”, we need to stop, take a look around, and ask questions like, “why is this story here?” Even insignificant stories in the Bible are important.

The same God who gave these men their dreams also gave Joseph their interpretation. Though no one realized it at the time, God was telling Joseph the story of His own Son, His death by crucifixion, His sacrificial death, even though He’s done no wrong. For the Father’s fierce anger over sin He would bear that wrath, but would also be raised to glory, through these two men, caught in circumstances bigger than themselves, God would tell the story of His Son, who is both bread and cup, flesh and blood, Man and God. All the pieces are there. They are just in a different order.

The problem with this is that no one else in Scripture picks up on it. No one tugs at this thread to unravel the story and show it as Christological. Far less significant texts in Genesis are dealt with Christologically, like Genesis 3:15, the character of Adam, the “seed” of Abraham, the character of Abraham and his justification by faith, the opposition of Hagar and Sarah as Sinai and Zion, etc. Joseph is never treated Christologically in the New Testament. He’s never considered a type of Christ formally, and he,s only mentioned in Acts 7 in Stephen’s sermon, in Hebrews 11:22 and Revelation 7:8. Only Stephen takes any time with Joseph, but not as a Christ figure. In the Old Testament, it seems his progeny, Ephraim, soiled the name of Joseph, as Ephraim became synonymous with the rebellious northern Kingdom of Israel.

So as it is, take this interpretation with a grain of salt. There is no New Testament precedent for taking this story for any more than it is, but as it stands, the details are fascinating. As some have said, Jesus can be found in all the books of the Old Testament. As Jesus said, those with eyes to see and ears to hear will find the kingdom. Maybe this is one place to look.

Like a Tree Planted

I am sorry I haven’t posted for a few days. We’ve been on vacation to Williamsburg, VA, and experienced there where we experienced everywhere, the CORONA! But I did get to do one thing that I won’t soon forget, standing the waves at the seashore at Virginia Beach.

We got there early enough on Saturday to get a good spot on the shore line, before a lot of people had arrived. The sun was up and the temperature was still pretty decent. Even my son who spends his days on his computer enjoyed getting into the water and lazying around in the waves. My wife and daughter also enjoyed themselves. I enjoyed getting down into the waves and just feeling the movement of the waves rolling in. The sound of the waves was enchanting, and had I a place to lay down, I probably would have, fallen asleep, and gotten a worse sunburn than I already have.

But this text above reminds of that day. A tree planted by the waters experiences those same waves (or current). But unlike me, who had to constant adjust my position to stay upright, a tree digs into the shore and is steady and steadfast. That’s really the difference between those who follow current trends and those who stay rooted in God’s word, isn’t it?

“Then we will no longer be little children, tossed by the waves and blown around by every wind of teaching, by human cunning with cleverness in the techniques of deceit.”
(Eph 4:14)

I don’t know what you choose to govern the affairs of your life, whether you choose to follow the latest popular wisdom coming from CNN or TMZ, or if like me you anchor yourself in God’s Word. I suspect if you are reading this blog, it’s probably the latter. But in this age where “truth” changes from hour to hour, I would rather keep my truth well anchored in the shoreline of God’s word.

I have felt the waves, and I enjoyed feeling the waves bob me up and down, but I wouldn’t want to live like that. I need something solid to rest my feet upon. I know of no surer place that the Word of God, an unchanging, immutable Father who never changes, who is the Rock and the shelter of my soul. In Him I rest.

Lord Jesus, thank You for being my Rock, my anchor, and my hope. More than ever, I need You as my support and foundation of a life constantly bombarded with tossing waves and stormy seas. I have no surer Rock than You. In You Name I pray, Amen.

Season of Singing

With the outlook of Corona looking as bleak as it does, it seems odd to put forth this idea of singing. I usually reserve singing for times of joy, or singing along with musicals. Yes, I’ve been known to watch the occasional musical. I also sing at church, but only when I get a feel for the song put forth as worship.

I’ve gotten really tired of singing a new song every week. I really wouldn’t mind going back and singing a new song from a year ago. But I guess I’m used to singing the same 50 songs from the hymnbook and trying to rearrange them every week into a good combination of five. I remember when introducing a new song every month caused consternation and complaints about not being able to worship. Now the shoe is on the other foot for me. Whereas once I tried to introduce a new chorus, now they are being introduced to me.

I am resistant to change, and I’ll freely admit that it is because I am getting older. I miss the church of my youth, when I didn’t know as much as I do now. I used to not know how things worked behind the scenes. I guess ignorance is bliss after all. I didn’t know about the how playing the music required a lot of practice to make it look easy. Of how picking the songs and even how the songs were played caused a lot of blow back if it wasn’t done “correctly” or as folks remember it being played. So, here I am suffering from what others have decided is good worship, and I am the one silently complaining about how songs ought to be played.

As a result, I haven’t done much worship. Oh I could break out my guitar and play a few songs for myself, but in a house of six people, there’s rarely a place just to be myself. Even now I share my office with my daughter who is also working on important things at the moment. She’s in high school so she has many important projects underway.

So I guess I haven’t felt much like singing, and I miss it. When I’m struggling with music at my home church, I’ve been attending church conducting in-person services just down the road. They have a worship leader there familiar with older material, but likes to take liberties with it. The Church of Christ down the street also sings the older songs, but at a cadence I’m not familiar with, and without instrumentation.

I guess this one is just me complaining I guess. I really don’t have anyone to blame but myself, and I guess that is the point. I don’t know how many of you have been in the same boat, but in truth, the only one at fault for not worshiping is yourself. You can control your time and your spirit. If you can’t worship in singing, worship in listening to others sing. Almost everyone has access to personal music devices anymore. How hard is it to fire up your favorite worship music?

I think it is a hard truth that no one will play worship music in a church setting exactly the way you want it. That’s not what church is about. Church is not tailored to your specific likes and dislikes. If it did, it would be the church of YOU, not of Christ. I believe that in every church service, in every church, there is something there for you, just as there is for everyone else present. And Church really isn’t about what you want, but what you bring to it. If you bring a scornful heart, you will receive nothing but scorn. If you bring a complaining heart, that’s all you will receive. But if you bring a worshipful heart, a happy heart, and soul longing for the presence of Jesus, then that is what you will receive at Church. Even when they don’t realize it, the fact that everyone is present at church offers a presence of Jesus that is unavailable by yourself.

“For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there among them.”
(Mat 18:20)

I think that is something we are all missing right now.

Dear Lord, I repent of my lack of worship and my scornful heart. I have not acquitted myself well of the spirit of Jesus that is within me. I have been unfairly critical of others, and my need for worship my way, and forgotten the maxim, “submit yourself to one another.” Father, please forgive my complaining and murmuring against your people, many of whom are blessed by the word and music they have received. Help me to find my place of worship, my heart of worship again, so that I may rejoice in Your Holy Name as I once did. I pray this in Jesus’ Name, Amen.