Monthly Archives: May 2012

Here and Now

Here And Now (song)

written by Brenton Brown and Paul Baloche

Chorus 1

Here and now here in this moment
Here and now I turn to You
All that my searching heart has longed for
Can be found
‘Cause You’re in this moment here and now

Verse 1

What majesty what mystery the God of all eternity
Stepped into time and gave His life for me
Your hand is seen in galaxies
Yet Your Spirit dwells in me
So vast and yet You’re still within our reach

Bridge

There is nowhere You can’t be found
Nothing on earth could ever keep Your presence out

When we worship it is important that we worship God according to what is true about God – found in his word.  The best way I know to assure that we do this, in both our private and corporate worship, is to sing scripture – especially when we declare the attributes of God.

The lyrics for the bridge in Here and Now stand out to me.  They communicate the samethought we find in Psalm 139 – There is nowhere that we can escape from God’s presence and nothing can keep us from his hand.

    Where shall I go from your Spirit?
        Or where shall I flee from your presence?
    If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
        If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
    If I take the wings of the morning
        and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
    even there your hand shall lead me,
        and your right hand shall hold me.
    If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
        and the light about me be night,”
    even the darkness is not dark to you;
        the night is bright as the day,
        for darkness is as light with you.
(Psalm 139:7-12 ESV)

The theology of God’s omnipresence is made clear throughout scripture.  And it is an easy one to understand, though mysterious to fathom.  God’s presence is everywhere.  Now, just name any place you can think of and ask “Is God’s presence here – on the moon, in the ocean, cave, polar caps, unmapped jungle, Epsilon Eridani?” and the answer will always be yes!

“Canon W. G. H. Holmes of India told of seeing Hindu worshipers tapping on trees and stones and whispering “Are you there? Are you there?” to the god they hoped might reside within.  In complete humility the instructed Christian brings the answer to that question.  God is indeed there.  He is there as He is here and everywhere, not confined to tree or stone, but free in the universe, near to everything, next to everyone, and through Jesus Christ immediately accessible to every loving heart.  the doctrine of divine omnipresence decides this forever.” – from Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer

We sing this song and recognize that it is appropriate to worship every time we find ourselves in the presence of God. And then, just before we end the song, we confess that we are always in His presence.  Therefore, we should always choose to turn hearts to God, everywhere we are and in every situation.  As Pastor Joe Stiles said Sunday – “Worship is ongoing.”


Evaluating Our Personal Worship

Pastors and Worship leaders evaluate the Sunday morning worship hour each week.  Many times that evaluation is intentional and facilitated by a list of evaluation questions.  Other times the pastor enters his office on Monday, sits behind his desk, buries his face in his hands and mutters, “Well that didn’t go well!”  Clearly, intentional evaluation, done well, can be used to guide leaders to make necessary adjustments and improvements.  Reactionary evaluation, however, offers little or no building blocks for the leader to improve the plan.  There is no opportunity for the evaluated one to discover “a better way.”

I have been a part of many conversations on how to evaluate worship.  All of these discussions have been from the perspective of the ones who plan or lead worship services.  But I have not aware of many conversations which our own personal worship.

Worship leaders can attend conferences, enjoy conversations with fellow worship leaders, participate in webinars on worship leading, all in an effort to be better worship leaders.  But what process is there for disciplining all believers to become better worshipers – the kind of worshipers the Father seeks?  Sometimes I wonder if we just expect that developing and training better worship leaders will automatically translate into having churches full of better worshipers – the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

If Pastors and worship leaders don’t intentionally guide their evaluations process, the default will takes us to the ABC’s of Sunday morning evaluation.  Attendance, Baptisms, and Cash – though these are important to the church’s ability to continue to grow and function, they are not very good indicators that Spirit and Truth worship has taken place.  So what is?

In our modern church cultural, we tend to ask questions like:

  • “Was there and attitude of excitement?”
  • “Did we enjoy ourselves?”
  • “Did I sing all the notes correctly?”
  • “Did I sing harmony?”
  • “Did the sermon move me?”
  • “Did the prayers motivate me?”
  • “Did the leadership inspire me?”
  • “Was twenty dollars enough? Should I have given more? The usher kinda glared at me.”

I won’t say that I’m a divinity expert, but I don’t think that there is a biblical standard for these kind of questions.  In fact, when I read through them a second time, they seem rather self serving.  These questions, however represent the unwritten worship rules in most church worship services.  Perhaps there’s a good reason they are unwritten.  If we were to examine ourselves using the gift God has given us – His Word – then we would commit to a completely different standard for evaluating our own personal worship.

  • Did I present myself with HUMILITY  -Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.(James 4:10 ESV)
  • What about my worship offering communicated to God that I am COMPLETELY HIS?    -I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.(Romans 12:1 ESV)
  • Did I offer HONEST CONFESSION or try to deny and justify my sin to God?     -Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. (Psalm 24:1-4 ESV)
  • Does the LOVE I claim to have for God in this moment overflow to the other areas in my life?     –Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)
  • Are others encouraged and uplifted in Christ, because of my TESTIMONY?       – And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, (Ephesians 5:18-19 ESV)
  • Did I express my THANKFULNESS to God or merely complain about all my misfortunes?     –Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:20 ESV)
  • Do I SUBMIT myself to everyone else within the family of faith?         –Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21 ESV)

What if we began evaluating worship using the second list of questions? What it that became our new normal?  Would it reform the way we think about worship?  Would it bring revival to our own walk with God?


Before the Throne of God Above

Before The Throne of God Above

by Charitie Lees Bancroft


Before the throne of God above

I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.Image result for Charitie Lees Bancroft
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

As worshipers under the new covenant established by Jesus, we approach the Father, in and through the Son.  In the old testament, God set up a model by which an earthly high priest would enter the Holy place to offer sacrifices first for himself and then for all the people under his priesthood.  This sacrifice was temporary and did not last.  The high priest would need to return and offer sacrifice again and again.

The writer of Hebrews explains how Jesus is King AND Great High Priest forever – “in the order of Melchizedek.” Melchizedek was King of Salem and was also priest of God Most High.  Abraham came upon Melchizedek in the Valley of Shaveh.  To learn more about Melchizedek, here is a message on him from D.A. Carson. 

I would encourage you to read Hebrews.  Try to do it in one sitting, or in as few sittings as you can.  We are so used to memorizing the chapter and verse of a piece of scripture that too often we miss the panoramic view of what is really being presented. (Ok, this was a side note.)

The writer of Hebrews presents Christ’s worthiness as the One who presents the sacrifice on our behalf.  Add to that, the sacrifice which Jesus presents is Himself.  The only One worthy to present the sacrifice also presents the only Sacrifice worthy of being presented!

“But he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.  Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”  Hebrews 7:24-25.

Recognizing Jesus incredible worthiness in his priesthood is appropriate when we worship.  I’ll even go as far as saying that it is crucial to Spirit and Truth worship for it is by his act that we are made worthy to come before the Father.  And only in and through Jesus can we offer worship worthy of our Lord.  And that’s why we sing it.

Father, thank You for the worthiness of Your Son, Jesus!  Because of Jesus, the plea for our pardon is perfect.  Because Jesus is the worthy offering AND the worthy presenter, ALL accusations against us will fail.  How blessed we are to own the privilege of entering into Your presence.  How privileged we are to sing Your praises and the praises of Your Son!  May the name of Jesus be blessed forever! Amen

 

Do you sing Before the Throne of God Above in your church?  What other songs do you know that present the utter worthiness of Christ as great high priest?


Evaluating The Hour on Sunday (part 2)

Last week I posted the standard questions we ask when we evaluate the worship PLAN from the previous Sunday service.  As promised I am putting up our questions we use to evaluate the PRESENTATION layer of Sunday morning worship leading.  The reason we distinguish our questions between PLAN and PRESENTATION is because the work is done by different individuals or teams.  Therefore, the solutions to problems that arise will be handled by different teams.

The regular evaluation is done by the pastors and the creative planning team (the ones who create the PLAN.)  The PRESENTATION is done by the worship team (worship leader, choir, band, vocal team, drama team, sound team, video team.) They are the ones you follow and execute the plan.  I know it can sound kind of sterile to use these terms, but Christ is our center as we plan and we always seek to follow the Holy Spirit throughout the process. He works in Monday planning team just like he works in Sunday worship team.

When we evaluate the PLAN we want to know if it was a good plan?  Did put the pieces in place that allow and encourage biblical Spirit-and-Truth worship to be offered.  When we evaluate the PRESENTATION we want to make sure that we did everything we could do (or not do) on Sunday morning to engage the worshiper and invite them to join us in worship before the throne of God.  Here is our non-exhaustive list of questions;

Evaluating the PRESENTATION

MUSIC

  • Was the music presented at a high level of quality? Introductions? Transitions? Song Endings?
  • Were the transitions in and out of the singing portion appropriate? Clear? Well executed?
  • Did the musicians work well together? Did the band gel? Did the singers blend?
  • Was the volume of the music appropriate? Individual instruments and voices? Too loud/too soft? Overall?
  • Were the songs achievable and enjoyable to sing? Complicated melody? Key too high/too low? Too fast/too slow?

DRAMA

  • Was the drama presented with a high level of quality? Actors well prepared? Enough time given to prepare? Where actors believable?  Was the scene believable?
  • Was there smooth transition between drama and the elements surrounding it?

VIDEO

  • How was the transition into and out of the video?
  • Was it introduced (if needed) or set up properly?
  • Was the volume set well from the start? Was a special sound check performed for the video before the service?
  • Were the lights adjusted to an appropriate level during the video?  Was the sound person prepared/informed?

For follow worship leaders reading this, I hope this will help you the way it helps our team.  Feel free to use any of these evaluation questions for your teams.  If you don’t lead worship, but are a worshiper yourself, I hope this list helps you feel that worship is such a high priority for you church that we spend a lot of time making sure that we do our very best to steward the hour on Sunday.  Speaking for myself and many other worship pastors out there, we have a passion to see that the body of Christ worships the person of Christ for His benefit and for the encouragement of one another.

Do you have additional evaluation questions that aren’t covered in our non-exhaustive list?  Feel free to bring them into the conversation in the comment section below.


What a Friend We Have In Jesus

What A Friend We Have In Jesus

by Joseph M. Scriven

What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

It was never Joseph Scriven’s intent to write a hymn that would become famous and be sung by Christians from generation to generation.  He simply penned a poem that hoped would comfort his ailing mother. (What are you giving your mother for mother’s day?)  Scriven’s poem, originally titled “Pray Without Ceasing,” not only reminds us that Jesus cares about our needs and wants us to bring them to Him in prayer, but that He also desires to gift us with His intimate friendship.

12 This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.13 There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.14 You are my friends if you do what I command.15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.16 You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. –John 15

When we worship, both individually and corporately, it’s important that we recognize all that Jesus is to us – Savior, Redeemer, High Priest, Wonderful Counselor, Spotless Lamb of Sacrifice, King of Kings, Risen Lord, Intermediary, and Friend.  We should not focus on only His friendship and leave out his majesty, for instance.  Everything the Bible says about Jesus is true.  Everything He declared Himself to be is real.  He is the Bright and morning star, He is the Prince of Peace, He is the King who saves His people, He is the Everlasting High Priest, He is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and He is our friend.  We can’t skip that part.  He made it possible to approach the throne of God in awe and at the same time be embraced by the Son. WOW!

Many other hymns and spiritual songs refer to the friendship of Christ.  I Am a Friend of God, Jesus What a Friend for Sinners.

Who is Jesus to you? What other songs have you sung/heard that remind us of Jesus’ friendship to us? Please leave a comment.


Evaluating The Hour on Sunday (part 1)

Most worship leaders and pastors have a process of evaluating the Sunday morning service.  For some it may be as simple as sitting down Monday morning and reflecting on the events of the previous day.  For others, they have a group of people they trust who will give loving, honest feedback.  These people have a healthy understanding of what the goals are on Sunday morning.  They also have a nurturing and encouraging relationship with the worship leader or pastor.  There are also those worship leaders who have a set list of questions they go over, from time to time, to make sure their worship planning efforts are focused and balance.  As worship pastors, we continually want to make sure that we plan and lead worship from a healthy perspective – one that makes it easy for the church to focus her attention on Christ .

I am fortunate enough to have all three evaluation mechanisms in place. 1) Time on Monday to reflect on Sunday. 2) A team who I trust to give loving and honest feedback. 3) A list of questions to help us evaluate the planning and leading efforts for the hour on Sunday.

My list of questions used for evaluation has two sides; On the left side are questions to evaluate the Plan and on the right side are the questions to evaluate the presentation.  In essence; 1) Was it a good plan and 2) Did we successfully carry out the plan?  Following is the list of questions we have used to evaluate.  We don’t keep the list in front of us like we used to because we have developed the practice of asking ourselves these questions as a part of our evaluation procedure.  It took a few years of evaluating for this list to take shape and all the members of my team contributed, but it  hasn’t changed much over the last five years.

Evaluating the PLAN

MUSIC

  • Were the song lyrics biblical? relevant? appropriate to the sermon topic? encouraging? enriching?
  • Was an appropriate variety of songs utilized? variety in instrumentation? variety of tempos? balance of new and old?
  • Did we rejoice AND adore AND reflect AND commit AND pray?
  • Did we reinforce the essential truths about Jesus AND the cross AND the trinity AND eternity AND our sin?
  • Was the music portion too long? too short?
  • Did the music portion lead to meaningful congregational participation
  • Did the overall service have a logical flow? Did the order in which we progressed make sense?

DRAMA

  • If we used drama, was the message of the drama piece relevant?
  • Did the sketch set up the theme? Was it applicable?
  • Could seekers with the theme and characters?
  • Was the content of the sketch appropriate with the theme and audience? Too juvenile or mature? Too abstract or simplistic?

VIDEO

  • What was the purpose of the video? Prepare worship? Present the theme? Highlight upcoming event?
  • Were appropriate backgrounds used for songs and theme?  Was background motion too busy? Did theme art help the listener understand what the sermon was about?
  • Was video relevant for the way it was applied?

As stated, all these questions help us evaluate the PLANNING aspect of worship leadership.  I have a separate list of unique questions specifically geared to help us evaluate the PRESENTATION aspect of worship leadership.  I’ll share that list next week.

As a worship leader, do you have a process for evaluating the hour on Sunday?  Worshipers, do you evaluate your personal worship offering or do you expect that since worship was lead well, then you must have worshiped well?  Do you have any questions you would add to evaluate your worship service PLAN?  Please leave a comment.


Let My Words Be Few

Let My Words Be Few

by Matt and Beth Redman

You are God in heaven and here am I on earth
So I’ll let my words be few
Jesus I am so in love with You
And I’ll stand in awe of You
yes I’ll stand in awe of You
and I’ll let my words be few
Jesus I am so in love with You

If you grew up in church you are probably familiar with the story of Job.  Even those outside church life have likely heard a version of Job’s story.  Job was a man who went through great tragedy at the hand of Satan because Satan wanted to prove to God that Job only loved God because God had blessed him greatly.

If God knows our future, then we can assume he had a grasp on Job’s as well.  He allowed the test.  Satan wasted no time.  He hit Job with incredible tragedies.  He takes his property and his children.  Of course, this hit Job hard.  Imagine how you would have reacted.  Job was human just like you and me.  He was devastated, torn-apart.

And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return.  The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. Job 1:21-22

Satan couldn’t believe it.  So he went to God again and suggested that it was Job’s health that kept him from cursing God. Again, God allowed Satan to attack Job, but this time Satan struck Job with sores from the “sole of his foot to the crown of his head.”

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die.” But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak.  Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:9-10

And Job’s story goes forward.  He curses the day he was born. (shades of Jimmy Stewart) His three “good” friends advise him to repent from what ever it is that God is punishing him for. (Job knows in his heart that he has been obedient to God) Job pleas to God. Job blames God. Job hopes in God. Job questions God.   Then finally God answers.

Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?  Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Job 38:1-3

After the Lord questions Job, (I hope they were rhetorical questions) Job puts his hand over his mouth.

Then Job answered the Lord and said: “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?  I lay my hand on my mouth.” Job 40:3-4

In our modern English Job was saying this; You are God in heaven and here am I on earth, so I’ll let my words be few.

Father, sometimes we get carried away with ourselves. Too often we speak when we should be listening.  Oh how we cheaply view Your glory when we question your wisdom in our circumstances. You told us that in this world we would have trouble, but You also reminded us that You have overcome the world.  Let us not be surprised at the many trials we face, nor doubt Your presence with us during our trails.  Indeed let our words be few.  We love you, Jesus, amen.

Have you ever had a time in worship where all you could do was stand or sit in silence?  Does this song by Matt and Beth Redman speak to your current experiences in your walk of faith in Jesus?  Let us hear about it in the comment section.