Tag Archives: Worship

I’m Content

But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Timothy 6:6 WEB)

No matter what people may think, I’m content with my life, my family, my work and my faith; so, stop telling me I need something more. I was thinking about this while lying awake in bed one morning. When I look at things in my life and consider what I’ve done, where I’ve been and what I’ve acquired (physical stuff, experiences, etc.), I’m content. Unfortunately, sometimes, when my frustration over things around me percolates to the top of my patience, I might present a temporary persona that doesn’t portray a contented soul. But that’s another subject.

One of the first things I thought about was my wonderful wife quietly asleep beside me. It’s the precise planning of God that brought us together at the right place and time to embark on an amazing busy, full and fantastic life. Two-thirds of our lives we’ve been together and I’m looking forward with anticipation to undertaking together the next 40 plus years of life and adventure God has planned. Like most married men I know; I often wonder how my love tolerated me all these years. But I’m content knowing God was gracious to me and gives her lots of patience.

We’ve lived through raising four children, watching them leave the nest and start a life of their own with their own families. I like my children’s spouses. I love them all and I believe they like me. Our children are doing well in a variety of jobs. We’ve got service managers, restaurant managers, teachers and soldiers carrying on the family line. I’m proud of them all. They’ve had their problems, we haven’t always seen eye to eye, but as family we work through things. Thanks to them I have a number of grandchildren that I love dearly. I think they love me as well. I know why God gives us grandchildren. It’s to insure we still have that delightful spark of innocence to encourage us in life. They have good and bad days, they’re little children and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. I’m content with my family.

I’ve spent the majority of my life serving and working with the same organization in various places around the globe. I’d like to say everything was rosy and delightful all these years but the truth is there were hard times along with good times. Still, I’m content with what God has been able to accomplish through my work around the globe. More than once I felt ill-equipped for the job. It was then I watched as God stepped in to show His grace and let me know that I can do all things through Him. I can’t say I never had doubts about what I was doing. They would raise their ugly heads now and then until I reset my vision on the one who gives me strength. I can say I never had doubts about God’s calling me to this life. I’m content in my work and ministry.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve turned to God and asked, “Why?” Sometimes I found the answer. Some questions remain unanswered. I’ve railed at God in my frustration and anger and praised and worshipped Him at all times. Yes, even when I was furious I still worshipped God. I didn’t understand what was happening at the time, some things I still don’t understand, but I trust in God in all things. I’m comforted understanding that I can come to God with praise, anger, questions and the small issues of daily life and He listens. He shows me grace, especially in my stupid times. He loves me always, even in my disobedient times. I’m content with my faith in God.

In all this I find myself wondering why I would consider not being content. I can stop and think and realize that this is a great life God has provided and like the verse above I have great gain. Sometimes people think I’m discontent because I’m frustrated with things or get angry over an encounter with massive stupidity. So I wonder if we’re not confusing contentment with emotionless living. Are they the same? I don’t think so. God gave us emotions to help us deal with life on this spinning rock. We can let them get out of hand but to dismiss them as ungodly just doesn’t ring true for me. There are some things, regardless of my godliness or contentment, which I suspect will always increase my blood pressure.

There are inconsistencies in the behavior and reliability of computers, an area I’ve worked with for over thirty years that make me want to test the aerodynamic characteristics of the device from any open window (which I have done). There are vehicle drivers who apparently didn’t attend driving school, forgot all they learned or had incompetent teachers. Some folks standing in line for ten minutes or more to pay for items wait until they reach the counter to fish through their fifty gallon purse looking for their credit card. Sometimes I just sigh and roll my eyes. Other times, for whatever reasons, I just get frustrated or angry.

Then there’s the modern church. As a faithful member of the congregation we’re never doing enough “for God.” We hear preaching about contentment and at the same time a message of “do more” which creates discontent because we’re not doing enough, in the eyes of the local church, to justify our claiming to be faithful believers. Rubbish! I’m concentrating on my walk in this world as a faithful follower of Christ. Just walking faithful with God through normal tivities of life is doing something “for God.” Where that intersects with a church ministry, such as being a full time missionary, I’m glad to go as God leads. I don’t doubt some future heavenly residents might need a little fire under their backside to get them moving but who lights the fire, God or man? Without getting into a pet peeve let me say I’m content with the ministries where God has place me and I’m not looking for more. If He gives more I’ll undertake it. Otherwise I’ll be content with the here and now.

That’s probably where contentment lies. It lies in knowing you are where God wants you to be. It’s understanding the abilities God has given for the particular task and being content that God knows what He’s doing. Does it remove all emotion so we can be like good southerners and just say, “Bless their heart” when they do something ridiculous. At times it might. At other times life boils to the top and we are reminded we are humans, designed with emotions, by a God with emotions, to live in an emotional world. I’m content to live here, with all my foibles, until He takes me to that perfect mansion. Are you content?

Leave a comment

Filed under Missions

Where is the Cross of Christ

If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. (1 Corinthians 15:19 NIV)

I remember growing up attending church most of my life. At the front of each church was a platform with all the appropriate trappings including a cross, pulpit, communion table, organ or piano and seats for the choir. Many churches included a prayer or altar rail as well.

In most of those churches the cross was at the center of the platform. It was usually as large as practical for the space available. In all cases it was the center of focus for all entering the auditorium. The pulpit or lectern, where the Pastor stood, was located on either side of the platform in many cases. Thus the center of attention was always drawn to the empty cross of Christ, not to the efforts of men.

2007_06_01_ruineburgmodeling-076Today, in many churches, the cross is no longer center stage but is behind the pulpit which has moved to center stage. The effectiveness of recognizing the empty cross of the resurrection is often overshadowed by the animated preaching of the Pastor. I have even recently experienced churches where the cross was colored to blend into the wall color making it easily fade from sight.

Jews demand miraculous signs, and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 (NIV).

Paul preached Christ crucified. The cross is the crux of the Christian Life. Without the cross and the shed blood of Christ there is no redemption or washing away of sins (Hebrews 10:19-22). The crosses in churches where I was raised were empty. This empty cross pointed to the foundation of Christianity in Christ’s resurrection (1 Corinthians 15).

In the sermons found in the New Testament the messages of the Cross and Christ are central, not the qualifications or efforts of the speaker. How often have you read or seen a church falter as a body when the Pastor takes another position? We see this in areas such as missions, youth ministries, and music where a long time servant of God departs and the ministry suffers and many times stops functioning effectively.

It may appear to be dependent on the servant of God and their method of ministry. This is at times true and we find ministers who preach for their own glory and importance. However, more often than not I’ve found the ministering servant to seek after God and desire to draw others to God and not themselves. Unfortunately this leaves us with the uncomfortable thought that we are partially, if not sometimes fully, to blame.

What are we seeking when we enter the church each week? Are we looking for the Sunday message to inspire us, the choir to lift up our spirits as they sing, or a chance to reveal our own vocal or theological talents to those seated near our Holy pew or chair? Or, do we come because we love and desire to see God through Christ, to worship Him because He is worthy of worship?

I’m guilty! Yes, I must admit the quality of music, the comfort of padded seats or the impressiveness of the message are often at the forefront of my thoughts as I enter one of God’s houses. I have to stop myself when I discover I’m seeking entertainment, not worship. I’m wrong!

Our ability to undauntedly justify our thoughts and actions leads us away from worship into self seeking entertainment. We come telling ourselves we are prepared to minister to others and yet, we minister because we expect to receive. Often we will easily be hampered, if not stopped in our ministry, when we are not praised and lauded for our efforts.

Where is the Cross of Christ? Is it at the center of our life as a decoration? Or, is it on the mantle of our heart providing direction and inspiration? We must be sure our ministry and worship are inspired by a heart overflowing with God’s love and not boiling with the pride of man.

For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel,” (Romans 9:3). Paul saw Christ at the center of his ministry. He desired his own destruction if it would bring salvation to the Jews. We need to be willing to give everything to bring others to the cross.

As we gather together to worship, we must truly give ourselves to worshiping  God, not the inventions and trappings of men or the church. As men we are worthy of nothing but condemnation.

. . .for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,. . .” (Romans 3:23).

God is worthy of worship without question.

You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things and by your will they were created and have their being.” (Revelation 4:11)

Let’s put the Cross of Christ back at the center of our lives and our worship. Let’s be sure it’s not a physical face lift to our spiritual auditorium but a real true building on our foundation of faith.

Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Leave a comment

Filed under Missions

Broken Offerings

“But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? Why not offer it to your governor? Would he be pleased with you? Or would he receive you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts. “But now will you not entreat God’s favor, that He may be gracious to us? With such an offering on your part, will He receive any of you kindly?” says the LORD of hosts. “Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not pleased with you,” says the LORD of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you. “For from the rising of the sun even to its setting, My name will be great among the nations, and in every place incense is going to be offered to My name, and a grain offering that is pure; for My name will be great among the nations,” says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 1:8-11 NASB)

I recently worked my way through the Minor Prophets as part of my morning reading of Scripture. I’m amazed at the depth of revelation concerning worshiping God to be found amidst the condemnations and encouragements to the Israelites. During Malachi’s time the people continued to offer sacrifices to God in their attempt to fulfill the Mosaic law. This was how they showed their devotion, their repentance, their desire to know God better. But it was flawed. Not the process. Not the law. The people were flawed. Their offerings were flawed. Their concept of God was severely flawed. They felt God wasn’t really paying attention!

The Israelite’s implementation of unworthy sacrifice was based on the thought that God either didn’t pay attention or didn’t care. But yet, the people wanted to implore God for assistance and blessing while offering blind sacrifices. They were offering animals which were not perfect but lame. The offerings they brought before God they wouldn’t dare present to the local officials, or friends. If they were the recipients of such low-grade gifts they wouldn’t be inclined to reciprocate with assistance or a polite response. And, neither would God.

We can look back at the prophetic writing, read these words of condemnation, and shake our head in agreement and disgust. They just didn’t understand. They didn’t get the concept that a perfect offering, the best of the flock, the first of everything was appropriate for God. Even that is less than God deserves. It’s easy to be sanctimonious and spiritual when we’re using hindsight. It’s also easy to think we do better before God, especially when we think God really isn’t paying close attention.

Bob and Beth share special music at the TWR retreatConsider Sunday morning. Am I meddling? Possibly. Do we, notice I’m including myself, offer the best to God in our worship? How about in our thoughts? Or how about in our relationships to one another? Then we must ask ourselves, “How is our offering in the financial realm?” All of these are good questions to ask as we enter God’s house for a service of worship and praise. We have choices to make as we join others for worship.

We could just mouth the words and pretend we’re singing because it isn’t our “type” of music. We could, not sing at all, but stand tight lipped and at attention, hoping others will see our disgust. We can sing our choruses, over and over, until we feel happy and at peace with ourselves, in spite of present personal events, broken relationships and anger that God didn’t provide all we wanted the past week. We can make ourselves look good to those around us as we sway with the music, raise our hands, smile at anything and everyone, and keep our plastic smile hardened on our face. If we keep those around us at a distance, maybe God will keep his distance and our feeble stage play will receive applause and acceptance.

Our broken offerings often look good on the outside while the inside reveals all the cracks and blemishes hidden by the external paint. Our real attitudes are often masked by a carefully crafted facial expression guaranteed to appear like a peaceful, obedient, loving Christian. We are no better with our offerings than the Israelites in the days of Malachi.

We need to sing, with all our abilities, or at least, if our abilities are limited, think on the words and bring them before God’s throne in speech and prayer. We can put ourselves in a better position to truthfully, fully, without blemish or lameness, worship God if we seek to treat others better than ourselves.

Contrary to popular myths, wallets don’t feel pain when we open them to give back to God a portion of what he gave us. We can’t blame an inanimate pouch for our reticence to hand over our money to God. When we relate well with one another, trying to set things right, actually forgiving versus sweeping things under the rug, we can concentrate on God, seek his face and give ourselves fully to him in worship and praise.

Our offerings need not be blemished. Our hearts need not be lame. It isn’t easy. It takes effort and time. It takes openness to work with others and listen to faults while recognizing our own faults. God’s name will be praised around the world, with our without us. I, for one, plan to work on being part of that praise to God.

Leave a comment

Filed under Missions

Sunday on the Mountain

Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; Though its waters roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. (Psalms 46:2‑3 NASB)

“I Sing the Mighty Power of God, that made the mountains rise.” High on the side of a mountain in Switzerland the morning activity was slow. The weather was iffy but gave the hint of improving later in the day. Our two families were enjoying a holiday of fresh air, mountains, flowers and fellowship. It was our first trip to Switzerland. The children staggered their way down the stairs from their loft bedrooms to the larger living room.

After a breakfast of French Toast, prepared by Phil’s caring hands, we contemplated worshiping the Lord of Salvation. Sunday morning had dawned and our hearts were ready to approach God’s throne of grace. However, a little cleaning was a must.

15716_019I led the way outside for the boys to undergo a cleansing with water. The cabin was provided with water collected from a stream flowing down the mountain. There was no hot water. There was no electricity to heat the water. The hose hanging from the back of the cabin provided clear and cold mountain spring water. The emphasis here was on the cold. Just the process of washing the hair on our heads created a frostbite headache. Rinsing out the soap was an exercise in steady nerves, fast reflexes and pain. My poor hands hurt for about an hour after the refreshing adventure. With a little coaxing the boys were willing to brave the water and removed a layer, or two, of grime.

The girls were the smart ones.  They cordoned off the kitchen where they had access to the wood burning stove. We brought in buckets of water which they turned into hot water. With their luxurious hot water and a little privacy they prepared themselves for the day. The boys remained sequestered in the living room for the duration until the ladies emerged happy and clean. We all agreed that hot water would be the best addition to this gift of a mountain cabin from God. Now that we were all clean it was time for some cleansing by the Word.

During the bath time, except when I was freezing in the water, Phil and I enjoyed worshiping the Lord with song. I played the guitar for songs I knew and Phil played for those he knew. We moved from one song to the next through the chorus book I brought on the trip. When everyone was clean and present Phil suggested we allow the children, and youth, to provide the morning message.

Beginning with our youngest Evan, and working our way up in age, each shared a verse or passage and then their thoughts on the content. We were encouraged. Here were young people freely sharing what God had taught them from His Word. Our hearts were also encouraged by the words they shared. It was an uplifting time for all of us. Their insight into God and his love for them was more than we expected. I guess they did learn something at home and in Bible class.

Next we each shared a prayer request or two from our hearts. These were requests for ministry to or for others. Everyone was willing to open their hearts and desires before God and the family. Finally, we spent a time in intercessory prayer for these and other items which came to mind. You learn a lot about others and family when they pray for things important to them. You discover their dreams, their fears and their loves.

I believe this is a great way to worship the Lord of our salvation. There’s no need to impress someone with Sunday dress. No theological exposition of impressive schooling. Only hearts, touched and molded by God, seeking to know God and praise His name. I must admit I felt as though I had worshiped God more closely and faithfully that morning than all the Sundays of the previous year.

I think we should each take an occasional Sunday morning, afternoon or evening to worship God with close family and friends. There is a close fellowship, a sharing from the heart, a bond which only exists in close family and small quarters. The facade of public worship is stripped away in the familiarity of family. We are not tempted to impress those who already know us. There we can feel free, accepted, and open to worship God without psychoanalysis by a congregation.

We don’t want to forsake gathering together to encourage and strengthen one another through corporate worship and prayer. We are called to this in Scripture. I’ve spent years studying corporate worship and love times of blessing, singing praises, shouting hallelujah and lifting up God’s name with the body of Christ. But, sometimes we gain more strength and encouragement in a small body of Christians.

Sometimes Jesus drew away only with his disciples. There was a time for the crowds and a time for family. It was in those close gatherings the disciples received most of their training. Maybe we need to draw away, sometimes, with the disciples in our own family. Does your family need to grow and know each other better? There is no better place to learn than before God’s throne in praise, prayer and worship.

Leave a comment

Filed under Missions

On The Right Page

My heart is steadfast, God, my heart is steadfast. I will sing, yes, I will sing praises. (Psalms 57:7 WEB)

For many years I worked in the church as a worship leader. At times others would help out and alternate but mostly I led the services for over ten years. The advantage of such a long period of service was forming close relationships with accompanists, special musicians and the church staff. After a few years I was very comfortable with both Cindy (the choir accompanist) and Jane who played for the worship services. This was a time when most church music came from the hymnal and praise choruses were accompanied by the piano.

Each Sunday morning I would stand beside the quarter-grand piano as Jane, and sometimes Cindy or another pianist checked out the hymns for the morning. Our goal was to insure we used the same tempo and appropriate dynamics for each piece of praise to God. With this out of the way I could lead the service without the necessity of looking over to the piano to provide cues or directions. God worked with us to make things run smoothly, most of the time.

One morning Jane and I discussed the hymns. The timing was this for this hymn and yes there was an unwritten fermata I would insert into that hymn. We knew where we were going and how to get from one to the next. Jane played the end of the last hymn for the service and I sat down and we waited for the service to begin.

I stepped up to the podium, asked the congregation to rise and turn to hymn such and such then waved my hand to set the time and listened as Jane played the last line of the hymn for the introduction. I followed along to confirm the right melody. My hands were lifted to start everyone simultaneously. We sang the first few words and I realized something was terribly amiss. I listened to the next phrase. I was singing the same words and melody as the congregation. Jane, on the other hand, was playing a totally different melody.

I signaled for the congregation to stop singing as Jane stopped playing and turned to see what was the matter. After I sauntered over to the piano Jane and I discovered the problem. I started to laugh and took a moment to regain my composure. Then I stepped back to the podium. It was one of those one in a million events. The last line of the last hymn for the morning was almost identical to the last line of the first hymn. When Jane and I completed our routine walk through the hymns she forgot to turn back to the first hymn. So, I heard the right introduction, the congregation heard the right introduction, Jane played the right introduction, but it was the wrong page on the hymnal.

We both laughed as Jane flipped back to the correct page in the hymnal. With renewed vigor the entire congregation sang the correct hymn with the correct melody and the remainder of the service went smoothly. Jane and I found it to be a humorous for years to come.

Sometimes we find our Christian life starting on one note and suddenly lost in another melody. We have to laugh, seek God’s face and start again with renewed vim and vigor for His calling. When the master director gets our attention the music is glorious harmony between our walk and God’s direction.

Leave a comment

Filed under Missions