All posts in "Devotions"

Have we divorced worship from service?


I’m afraid we’ve almost divorced worship from loving our neighbor as our self. The first and most important commandment is “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.” And we go, Oh, stop right there. That’s worship. Yeah, but keep reading. Jesus isn’t finished yet. And the second most important commandment is this: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” And I think I read somewhere that we should weep with those who weep. But I think most of the Christian church is focused on rejoicing with those who rejoice. It’s hard work. It can be depressing if your focus is constantly on the pain and the suffering and the sin and the poor and the homeless and the marginalized, the racism that goes down in this world and even in the churches. I’m not a macabre person. But the bottom line is that worship of God cannot be disconnected with loving your neighbor as yourself. Yet for the last eight or ten years, when Christians are talking about worship, we’re really talking about the songs. That’s so one-dimensional. Worship really is lifestyle, and it includes suffering alongside of my neighbor. Worship includes not just bringing my offering to the temple, but for the one who has two coats, to give one to him who has none. And I think that there is a divorce among many Christians when it comes to loving their neighbor, particularly their poor or their marginalized or their not-so-groovy-never-drive-a-Lexus neighbor. That kind of attitude. These folks think they’re worshiping God? Because they’re singing “the top ten” worship hits on Sunday morning? Excuse me. I’m hearing the prophet Amos hollering in my head. Glenn Kaiser, Singin’ the Blues (Interview with ChristianityToday.com, June 13, 2005)


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Help for pooped (worship) pastors


Have you ever felt like this? If so, you should know Steve Brown. Although you probably wouldn’t guess it, he’s a former Presbyterian pastor, writes helpful material, and hosts a couple of radio shows that are both informative and entertaining (no small feat).  In fact, he’s quite funny. His website – www.poopedpastors.com – is a resource you should know about.  Although he’s targeting pastors, much of what is there is helpful for music directors or anyone involved in a ministry leadership capacity. From the site: I’m no longer a pastor but I haven’t been away from it for so long that I’ve forgotten… The discouragement, The battles that I sometimes won and sometimes lost, The hypocrisy I often felt in thinking that my being a pastor was insane, The times when I didn’t know what I was doing and pretended that I did, The criticism that often came from those who I thought were friends, The 24/7 schedule with work that was never done, The people who left my church because they “weren’t being fed,” The blank page late Saturday night and my reminding God about the sermon, The incredible guilt over my family and my ministry, The loneliness, The fear of discovery, The neurotics who hated me, The congregational meetings when I was sure it was coming apart, The hard road of authenticity when everything I did worked against it, The efforts at humility when people thought more of me than was justified, The questions about whether I and what I did even mattered… Well, you know. It goes on and on. If you touch base with Steve, please tell him I said hello.


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The Gospel, discipleship and orphan care


Care for orphans is mercy at its most poignant, no doubt. But every act on behalf of the orphan also proclaims the Gospel, revealing to a watching world the heart of the God who “sets the lonely in families” (Psalm 68:5-6); it re-tells the story of the God who pursued and adopted us when we were destitute and alone. A passion for orphans also plunges believers into discipleship as well.   To care for orphans in any meaningful way most always requires personal, sustained involved in the life of a child.  In the process, we are drawn beyond a comfortable religion of self-actualization to a costly but vibrant faith; and there we encounter Jesus Christ as never before in the need, sorrow and beauty of the orphaned child. – Jedd Medefind, President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans via CatalystSpace.


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“God actually delights in exalting our inability”


Pastor David Platt on the American church and following Christ via the New York Times: The tension between good and plenty, God and mammon, became the central tension in American life, propelling ferocious energies and explaining why the U.S. is at once so religious and so materialist. Americans are moral materialists, spiritualists working on matter. Platt is in the tradition of those who don’t believe these two spheres can be reconciled. The material world is too soul-destroying. “The American dream radically differs from the call of Jesus and the essence of the Gospel,” he argues. The American dream emphasizes self-development and personal growth. Our own abilities are our greatest assets. But the Gospel rejects the focus on self: “God actually delights in exalting our inability.” The American dream emphasizes upward mobility, but “success in the kingdom of God involves moving down, not up.” Platt calls on readers to cap their lifestyle. Live as if you made $50,000 a year, he suggests, and give everything else away. Take a year to surrender yourself. Move to Africa or some poverty-stricken part of the world. Evangelize. Although you don’t have to go overseas to evangelize or serve the poor.


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Leading worship during trials


Bob Kauflin of Covenant Life Church discovered his 2-year-old grandson had leukemia prior to Sunday services. Here’s some of what he says from the experience: I guess I could have struggled with the apparent dichotomy between my circumstances and the songs we were singing. Or ignored what my family was going through altogether and pretended that nothing was wrong. Or complained  about how hard life is sometimes. By God’s grace, I actually drew great comfort from God through the truths we sang. So after the first song, which is based on Psalm 150, I shared a few thoughts not only for the church, but for my own soul. The conclusion: We don’t lead others out of a vacuum or a sanitized form of Christianity that bears no resemblance to normal life. It’s important that we take time to grieve, acknowledge pain, and confess our struggles. But when, not if,  you find yourself leading out of weakness, challenges, and trials, don’t minimize what’s going on or succumb in despair to your burdens. Lift your eyes, even as you lift the eyes of others, to the Father whose compassions never fail and to the Savior whose mercies are new every morning. Whether God changes our trials, or more importantly, changes usthrough our trials, we praise him now in joyful anticipation of the day he will wipe away every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). The whole post here.


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Called to community


Via Tim Chester: The church is not a building you enter. Nor is it a meeting your attend. It is not what you do on a Sunday. To be a Christian is to be part of God’s people and to express that in your life through belonging to a local Christian community. Michael Card’s “The Basin and Towel” comes to mind (posted below or via YouTube here). “Day after day, we must take up the basin and towel.”


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Rightly picturing Jesus


To only think of Jesus as a long-haired, gentle man in a robe and wearing sandals has devastating effects on the church.  This perception has permeated the attitudes of many who perceive Jesus as a weak character but a good teacher. The world seems blind to the Bible’s description of the resurrected Jesus, full of power and authority.  This description is highly offensive to the world.  But to worship Jesus as the artists have portrayed him instead of as the Son of Man in all his glory, is nothing short of idolatry. Adrian Warnock, Raised With Christ (Crossway, page 68). Read the book on-line here.


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Resolutions for the worship leader


Regardless of what you may think of New Years resolutions, this list by colonial pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards is worth contemplating if not emulating: RESOLUTIONS (by Jonathan Edwards, age 19) “Being sensible that I am unable to do any thing without God’s help, I do humbly entreat him, by his grace, to enable me to keep these Resolutions, so far as they are agreeable to his will, for Christ’s sake. Remember to read over these Resolutions once a week. 1. Resolved, That I will do whatsoever I think to be most to the glory of God, and my own good, profit, and pleasure, in the whole of my duration; without any consideration of the time, whether now, or never so many myriads of ages hence. Resolved, to do whatever I think to be my duty, and most for the good and advantage of mankind in general. Resolved, so to do, whatever difficulties I meet with, how many soever, and how great soever. 2. Resolved, To be continually endeavouring to find out some new contrivance and invention to promote the forementioned things. 3. Resolved, If ever I shall fall and grow dull, so as to neglect to keep any part of these Resolutions, to repent of all I can remember, when I come to myself again. 4. Resolved, Never to do any manner of thing, whether in soul or body, less or more, but what tends to the glory of God, nor be, nor suffer it, if I can possibly avoid it. 5. Resolved, Never to lose one moment of time, but to improve it in the most profitable way I possibly can. 6. Resolved, To live with all my might, while I do live. 7. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do if it were the last hour of my life. 8. Resolved, To act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings, as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God. Vid. July 30. 9. Resolved, To think much, on all occasions, of my dying, and of the common circumstances which attend death. 10. Resolved, when I feel pain, to think of the pains of martyrdom, and of hell. 11. Resolved, When I think of any theorem in divinity to be solved, immediately to do what I can towards solving it, if circumstances do not hinder. xxi 12. Resolved, If I take delight in it as a gratification of pride, or vanity, or on any such account, immediately to throw it by. 13. Resolved, To be endeavouring to find out fit objects of liberality and charity. 14. Resolved, Never to do any thing out of revenge. 15. Resolved, Never to suffer the least motions of anger towards irrational beings. 16. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any one, so that it shall tend to his dishonour, more or less, upon no account except for some real good. 17. Resolved, That I will live so, as I shall wish I had done when I come to die. 18. Resolved, To live so, at all times, as I think is best in my most devout frames, and when I have the clearest notions of the things of the gospel, and another world. 19. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which I should be afraid to do, if I expected it would not be above an hour before I should hear the last trump. 20. Resolved, To maintain the strictest temperance in eating and drinking. 21. Resolved, Never to do any thing, which if I should see in another, I should count a just occasion to despise him for, or to think any way the more meanly of him. 22. Resolved, To endeavour to obtain for myself as much happiness in the other world as I possibly can, with all the power, might, vigour, and vehemence, yea violence, I am capable of, or can bring myself to exert, in any way that can be thought of. 23. Resolved, Frequently to take some deliberate action, which seems most unlikely to be done, for the glory of God, and trace it back to the original intention, designs, and ends of it; and if I find it not to be for God’s glory, to repute it as a breach of the fourth Resolution. 24. Resolved, Whenever I do any conspicuously evil action, to trace it back, till I come to the original cause; and then, both carefully endeavour to do so no more, and to fight and pray with all my might against the original of it. 25. Resolved, To examine carefully and constantly, what that one thing in me is, which causes me in the least to doubt of the love of God; and so direct all my forces against it. 26. Resolved, To cast away such things as I find do abate my assurance. 27. Resolved, Never wilfully to omit any thing, except the omission be for the glory of God; and frequently to examine my omissions. 28. Resolved, To study the Scriptures so steadily, constantly, and frequently, as that I may find, and plainly perceive, myself to grow in the knowledge of the same. 29. Resolved, Never to count that a prayer, nor to let that pass as a prayer, nor that as a petition of a prayer, which is so made, that I cannot hope that God will answer it; nor that as a confession which I cannot hope God will accept. 30. Resolved, To strive every week to be brought higher in religion, and to a higher exercise of grace, than I was the week before. 31. Resolved, Never to say any thing at all against any body, but when it is perfectly agreeable to the highest degree of christian honour, and of love to mankind, agreeable to the lowest humility, and sense of my own faults and failings, and agreeable to the golden rule; often, when I have said any thing against any one, to bring it to, and try it strictly by, the test of this Resolution. 32. Resolved, To be strictly and firmly faithful to my trust, that that, in Prov. xx. 6. ‘A faithful man, who can find?’ may not be partly fulfilled in me. 33. Resolved, To do always what I can towards making, maintaining, and preserving peace, when it can be done without an overbalancing detriment in other respects. Dec. 26, 1722. 34. Resolved, In narrations, never to speak any thing but the pure and simple verity. 35. Resolved, Whenever I so much question whether I have done my duty, as that my quiet and calm is thereby disturbed, to set it down, and also how the question was resolved. Dec. 18, 1722. 36. Resolved, Never to speak evil of any, except I have some particular good call to it. Dec. 19, 1722. To read all 70 (!), click here. HT:  Desiring God


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Song for the New Year


Psalm 90 BOOK FOUR From Everlasting to Everlasting A Prayer of Moses, the man of God. 1Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. 2 Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. 3You return man to dust and say, “Return, O children of man!” 4For a thousand years in your sight are but as yesterday when it is past, or as a watch in the night. 5You sweep them away as with a flood; they are like a dream, like grass that is renewed in the morning: 6in the morning it flourishes and is renewed; in the evening it fades and withers. 7For we are brought to an end by your anger; by your wrath we are dismayed. 8You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. 9For all our days pass away under your wrath; we bring our years to an end like a sigh. 10The years of our life are seventy, or even by reason of strength eighty; yet their span is but toil and trouble; they are soon gone, and we fly away. 11Who considers the power of your anger, and your wrath according to the fear of you? 12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom. 13 Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants! 14Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days. 15Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us, and for as many years as we have seen evil. 16Let your work be shown to your servants, and your glorious power to their children. 17Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands! Courtesy of Biblegateway.org


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