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The Difference Between Singing Praise Songs and Worship.

Devotional Thought of the Day:

15  But what could I say? For he himself sent this sickness. Now I will walk humbly throughout my years because of this anguish I have felt. 16  Lord, your discipline is good, for it leads to life and health. You restore my health and allow me to live! 17  Yes, this anguish was good for me, for you have rescued me from death and forgiven all my sins. 18  For the dead cannot praise you; they cannot raise their voices in praise. Those who go down to the grave can no longer hope in your faithfulness. 19  Only the living can praise you as I do today. Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next. Isaiah 38:15-19 (NLT2)

The resurrection of Jesus Christ lays hold on us with all the authority of sovereign obligation. It says that the Christian church is to go and make disciples—to go and make disciples of all nations. The moral obligation of the resurrection of Christ is the missionary obligation—the responsibility and privilege of personally carrying the message, of interceding for those who go, of being involved financially in the cause of world evangelization

“Pray! For hope no longer lies in arms but in God. If anybody defends us against the Turk,18 the poor children who pray the Our Father will. Our wall and firearms and all the princes will probably leave the Turk untouched. I told the master builders too, ‘Dear Sirs, why are you spending so much time building? Unless prayers build a wall that declares that angels surround you with protection, your wall is worthless.

As I am pursuing a doctoral degree in worship, talking to people has been interesting.

They think this is a music degree, that it has to do primarily with the instruments I play, and the songs I have written.

It doesn’t.

My breakfast with a friend this morning was an experience of worship as much as when I pick up my guitar and play with our liturgical band on Sunday morning. As we talked about the brokenness we’ve witnessed (and went at the side of others!) As we talked about where God has guided us on very unique tracks to where we serve, him in the public sector, me in the church, there was a sense of what Hezekiah talked of in the scripture passage from Isaiah above.

We’ve experienced it all, the need to be humbled, the oppressive anguish, the discipline (corrective action) taken, I have had the challenges to health, he’s witnessed others experience them, and we’ve seen God deliver us from it all.

Sharing that is worship. Appreciating, even being in awes of how God has guided us is praising and glorifying God. I left a little less tired, a little more able to expect to see God’s work today, a little more determined to pray before the actions I know are coming, and less time building the walls which cannot protect me.

Tozer talks of a sovereign obligation to be missional—that because of the resurrection, we must share the hope born from experiencing God. I agree there is a need for that action, but I don’t think it is as much a moral obligation as we think of obligations, something done in repayment of something that has benefited us. Rather, it is as a subconscious spiritual compulsion to love those we are sent into the midst of, for surely God has done sent us into these places.

Surely singing is part of this, how this attitude is formed, how it buries itself deep in our sub-conscious, along with hearing the word of God and receiving the sacraments. The Holy Spirit uses all of this to form us in a way where the life of worship is just part of who we are. We struggle with it of course, allowing sin and the brokenness we observe to distract us temporarily us from our life in Jesus. Even then, God is at work, delivering us, calling us back,  and getting our attention.

And because of that, with Hezekiah and all who have been re-born in baptism and faith, we worship Him. In sanctuaries, and our homes, and even over breakfast at Polly’s.

God is good.. and He is with us!

 

 

A. W. Tozer, Tozer for the Christian Leader (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2015).

Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, Vol. 54: Table Talk, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 54 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 419.

Which Do We Look Forward To More: Prayer or Pancakes?

Devotional Thought of the Day:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

6  “I will also bless the foreigners who commit themselves to the LORD, who serve him and love his name, who worship him and do not desecrate the Sabbath day of rest, and who hold fast to my covenant. 7  I will bring them to my holy mountain of Jerusalem and will fill them with joy in my house of prayer. I will accept their burnt offerings and sacrifices, because my Temple will be called a house of prayer for all nations. Isaiah 56:6-7 (NLT)

464  Look at the set of senseless reasons the enemy gives you for abandoning your prayer. “I have no time”—when you are continually wasting it. “This is not for me.” “My heart is dry… “ Prayer is not a question of what you say or feel, but of love. And you love when you try hard to say something to the Lord, even though you might not actually say anything. (1)

It was just a comment by a friend this morning, that came back to mind as I was doing my devotions.  Basically, the comment on FB was something to the extent of, “I am so looking forward to pancakes this morning” (there was something about gluten-free there… but that seems like an oxymoron)  The comment took me back to my youth, to the breakfasts at Downeast Coffee Shop in Salem with my dad (you know the kind of place with the grill opposite the counter where you sat?), the breakfasts with my gramps at the racetrack.

Heck – even though I liked sleep a lot in those days… we would be up before dawn if it meant a good breakfast, incredibly anticipating the bacon, eggs, pancakes, and the fun of going out with grampy or dad.

Which got me thinking – do we desire to have time with out heavenly father like that?  Are we willing to get up earlier, to spend time with Him,  Do we long for our time of prayer?  The way Isaiah describes is, how could we not?  Those of us who were outsiders, are now accepted.  The sacrifice of Christ for us is accepted.  We are made part of God’s family, and He longs to spend time with us.  Conversing, feasting, laughing, enjoying each other!  That is what prayer is, even in Church.  As Josemaria Escriva pronounced, this is not about whether you have just the right words, or have the correct mental attitude.  It is about the love, the relationship, the time together.

I can’t remember the topics my dad and I discussed at the coffee shop. But I can picture us there on the stools, me spinning around, him just enjoying his coffee.  My brother Stephen enjoying a horrid mixture of half coffee half cream.  I can remember the booth at the racetrack.  The conversation there was always about the Red Sox, about whether Yaz was better than Williams, about the being the year of the World Series…  I remember us together, I see it still as if I was still 10.

That’s the nature of prayer, the time knowing not only are we in God’s presence, but that we have His attention, His love. Some of the things we say are probably quiet silly in other people’s eyes.  The problems we bring to Him, the burdens that are lifted… the fun, the joy, the communion.

This is prayer, so act like a 10 year old kid talking to his dad over pancakes…. and as often as you get a  chance, partake of the Bread of Heaven with Him as well!

(1)   Escriva, Josemaria (2011-01-31). Furrow (Kindle Locations 2047-2051). Scepter Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Pastors, Christians and Enforcing “the” Law

Devotional Thought of the Day:Photo: I hope this isnt a comment on what they perceive my role to be as a pastor. ... ( yes I was wearing my collar)

13  “You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. 14  “You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. 15  No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. 16  In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”   Matthew 5:13-16 (NLT)

 15  This is a true saying, to be completely accepted and believed: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. I am the worst of them, 16  but God was merciful to me in order that Christ Jesus might show his full patience in dealing with me, the worst of sinners, as an example for all those who would later believe in him and receive eternal life. 17  To the eternal King, immortal and invisible, the only God—to him be honor and glory forever and ever! Amen1 Timothy 1:15-17 (TEV)

Yesterday, on the way to church, I stopped by my usual fast food restaurant at 6 am.  This has become, if not tradition, something close to it.

One of the reasons is the manager, who at 6 am always has a smile and a warm greeting for me, something I imagine is part of her – for who else is cheery and bright that early in the morning!  ALthough I have noticed her staff is usually that way as well, perhaps because hers is contagious.  About a year ago, I started to notice that she was discounting my large Ice Tea from on the ticket, and thanking me for serving others.  You see, on Sundys, especially, I am wearing my clerical collar.  It’s a nice thing – but the reason I return is their friendliness and attendtiveness – even when I am wearing a polo shirt with the church’s name on it, or even old raggedy clothes.

Yesterday, I actually looked at the receipt and noticed that the discounted Ice Tea was labelled. “Law Enforcement Discount” and I had to chuckle, actually laughed quite a bit.  Because I know that is how some perceive pastors, and far too often, Christians in general.  Matter of fact, people often ask me why I don’t slam those who regularly flaunt God’s law with their very public behavior. The Miley Cyrus’s, or the politicians, or those who would shut Christmas celebrations and signs, those who would justify killing, whether euthenasia, or abortion, or depriving the poor of food.  I get the sense that many Christians are disappointed when I don’t single out one sin, and that non-Christians often expect me to condemn them.

My primary mission isn’t to condemn people, or to enforce the law.  In fact, it is just the opposite.  It is to comfort and free sinners from shame and guilt, carefully using the Bible and the sacraments, the ways in which God has promised His grace to be be delivered.

Neither is “law enforcement” the mission of Christians, it is not in our job description, for were we to do it well – all would stand condemned. That’s why Paul points out that he is the chief of sinners, so that others who have sinned (IOW all of us) can know the joy and peace of being freed from sin’s effects.  That is the light we are called to be, the grace that is the “salt’s” flavor.  Condemning others robs them, and us of the grace of God, which should be so predominant in our lives, that others know it, even before we begin to explain the reason we have this hope.

Yes, there are times, as a pastor, where I ahve to confront some specific sin, some problem that is on going and is wrekcing people’s lives. Yes there are times where it helps to identify the sins and temptations that overwhelm us, to warn of the dangers, to encourage people to come and confess them – so that they can hear those beautiful words, “your sins are forgiven”.  So they can realize the need for Christ’s grace, at that point in their lives, allowing Him to bring healing, restoration, and enable them to peacefully rest in His presence.  Perhaps then, as we understand that pastors are priests aren’t law enforcement officers, we will be less anxious when the guy in the black uniform with the little plastic “badge” at his throat shows up,

So that together, free in Christ Jesus, we can praise and glorify God

Law Enforcement is a good thing, and I thank God, and often those involved in it, for fulfilling their calling.

But mine is different, as is the church’s.

May we get this – and may Christ’s grace bring light whereever we go!  AMEN

 

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