Tag Archives: Christ

Do I Care What Others Think?

When it comes to corporate worship we can’t escape the fact that we are in the presence of others.  Wherever we sit or stand, we are surrounded by other worshipers. (And non-worshipers) In a world where image is everything, do we concern ourselves too much with what others think, when we should be focusing on God?

“What if they see me crying?”

“If I raise my hands, they will judge me.”

“Remember to turn the offering envelope upside down, so no one sees what I give.”

“Nobody complimented my shoes!”

“If I put the envelope in slowly, everyone can see how much I give.”

With the popularity of social media formats such as facebook, twitter and pintrest, etc… we are more concerned than ever before about maintaining an acceptable image.  Haven’t we taken this image conscious mindset to an unhealthy level?  Social media can be a great place to interact with friends, but in our humanness, we tend to only put forth the image we want others to see and we hide our real selves. I’m sure this isn’t true all of the time, but it’s true enough of the time.

Does this same tendency toward image influence our corporate worship?  Scripture teaches that God is the audience of our worship, not others.  When we make God alone our audience, we will care less about maintaining our image in front of others.  The next time you participate in corporate worship set aside the image you want others to see and lay your life open before God.

When we drop the image facade, our worship can be a testimony.  Let us be Spirit and Truth worshipers who enter His presence without our masks and worship the Savior without pretense.

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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.


O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing

In the past I haven’t blogged in series.  I have simply tried to get the one blog in per week as faithful as I can.  Well, I suppose it’s time for a change.  Introducing a new series for The Schoeneblog: Why Do We Sing That? In this series I will attempt to break down a lyric within a worship song and ponder it’s biblical purpose for worshipers. This idea has been on my heart for some time.  I even had a previous blog in December in which I reflected on some lyrics within a Christmas hymn. You can read it here.  Anyway, I think my explanation has gone on long enough.  If you like were this is going or have some ideas of worship songs you’d like to see here, please leave a comment below.

WHY DO WE SING THAT?

Sing what you believe and believe what you sing.

As I sing out my praises to the Father with songs, old and new, I try to meditate on biblical truths within the lyrics.  One such text I have had on my mind over the last several weeks is a verse in O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing.  It goes like this;

He breaks the power of canceled sin

He sets the prisoner free

His blood can make the foulest clean

His blood availed for me.

In most traditions this is the 3rd verse, however in my denomination we sing it as the 4th and last verse.  But, did you know that in the original song which Wesley titled, For the Anniversary Day of One’s Conversion, it was the 10th of 17 verses!  Let us never again accuse our worship leaders of songs taking too long!

The beginning of the verse is the part I’ve really been pondering. At times I had sung this great Charles Wesley hymn before (that is the shorter version, O For A Thousand Tongues to Sing), and thought that this phrase seemed redundant. The words “breaks” and “canceled,” I had determined meant the same thing.  One was in present tense and the later in past tense, but that is the only difference, right?

I meditated on this and pressed forward in my regular studies and reading. I’ve been reminded through the tweets of pastors and theologians I follow that “The gospel is just as important after you become a Christian as it is before.” –Tullian Tchividjian  And also that the same God who has paid the penalty for our sin has given us His power to overcome sin daily.  In light of these encouragements, it struck me that this one verse was not restating the truth of our pardon for sin but was reminding us of the two dimensions of Jesus’ victory over sin on our behalf.

The lyric isn’t redundant after all.  It really is saying these two things.

1. Jesus canceled the penalty of our sin so our future with Him is secure.

2. Jesus breaks the power that sin had over us in this life.

Child of God, not only are you Forgiven and Redeemed, in Christ you are also Over-comers!

Hebrews 12:1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. NLT


Worship in Truth

worship

worship (Photo credit: vicki wolkins)

Last month, I posted what it means to worship in Spirit.  You can read it here.  Jesus said…

But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. (John 4:23 ESV)

Again, I will borrow some ideas from Henry Blackaby and Ron Owens found in their study on worship; Worship Believers Experiencing God.  You can purchase it here.  I cannot recommend this study highly enough! You should get it!

  • Worshiping in truth means we respond to what God says is true about himself.

One of the tasks for a worship pastor is to evaluate whether or not a song choice communicates biblical truth clearly.  Believe it or not, we don’t just pick songs we like and avoid the songs you like. (Though some may think we do.)  As stewards of an hour on Sunday, it is weekly task to plan services that are biblical in content, balanced in context, and abundant in Christ.

  • Worshiping in truth means we worship in and through the One who is Truth.

Jesus is the Truth.  He says “I am the way, the truth and the life.  No one comes to (can worship) the Father except through Me.”  Jesus said to the woman at the well that true worshipers will worship in truth. And He is truth.  Blackaby and Owens put it this way “Worship under the New Covenant is always through Christ, in Christ, and for Christ.   Our Lord is the embodiment of truth.”

  • Worshiping in truth means we read and preach God’s Word.

This is at the core of our worship.  How can we respond to what God says is true about Himself unless we understand what it is He is saying about Himself?  It’s easy to see that the first two statements are true of both private and cooperate worship.  This third statement must also be practiced in private as well as public.  Within our own private settings we must sink ourselves into God’s word.  If we claim to love God but in private we don’t spend time reading His words to us, then what is true about us and our worship?

Father, I long to be the kind of worshiper You seek – one who worships You in truth.  Jesus, be the center of my life and my worship.  Forgive me for the times I have passed up the opportunity to read Your Word and instead have given my time to lesser things. Teach me what is true about You so that I may worship You as You really are.  Strip away the false ideas I have of how I think You should be and forgive me for that idolatry.  Draw my heart again and again to You, my Fountain that does not run dry.


The Day After The Day After Easter

Twas the day after Easter? No, the day after that, folks returned to the lives they had lead.

For the most part, all life settled back to its norm and many or most felt their hearts were still warm
from Sunday and spiritually fed.

They let their minds wander toward worry and pleasure forgetting the power of Christ’s precious treasure,
they settled for luke warm instead.

“Easter’s alright.  It does have its place” said a red-headed boy, chocolate still on his face.
Said a sweet little gal “The people looked swell; men in suits and ladies in lace.”
“But when it’s all done, I’ve a business to run,” said a gent as he packed his briefcase.

Seems the world had moved on and forgotten the song ’bout victory over hell, sin and death.
“Those words that bring cheer don’t apply to us here, on Tuesday” said Lori and Seth.

“Could there be a way” another did say “to keep Easter alive all the year?”
Then he turned up the show with his TV remote to drown other sounds from his ear.
Another repined, “Lord just give us a sign…” as she helped her son on with his jacket,
“…that You still care when life isn’t fair, falls apart and I’m caught in a panic.”

Easter’s crescendo flew out through the window as they sped through the tasks of their day.
The Sun overhead brightly shined, but instead no one noticed and busy they stayed.
Rather than hope, their souls would still grope for the something they’d let slip away.

Then the voice of a younger cried out much like thunder, “He’s Risen! He’s Risen, indeed!”
“But that was on Sunday, the day before Monday. On Tuesday that’s not what we need!
So mellow, young fellow.” said Art with a bellow, “Don’t be a fanatic, I plead.”

But the voice of the younger cried out even stronger, “He’s Risen, He’s Living again.”
Repeated and then, other voices joined in with “Alive, Forever, Amen!”

Remember to live out the faith that you sing out.  It matters on Tuesday the same,
as it did, when on Sunday, you said “Jesus Loves Me.” Don’t forget you’re the reason He came!


More Christ Please

We all pray for more – more money to get us to the end of the month, more time with our kids, more patience with the people who annoy us, more time in the day to get things done.  In one of the famous prayers in history, St. Patrick prayed for more too.  But unlike most of our ordinary prayers, St. Patrick prayed for more Christ.

Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

The first time I heard this portion of what has been called St. Patrick’s “Breastplate prayer,” I was in my college Chorale and it was the text of an anthem we were singing.  Since that time, I have remembered this prayer and often come back to it, especially when my prayer life is in a rut and my prayers start to sound selfish.  St. Patrick’s desire to increase the presence of Christ in every nook and cranny of life is something I want for my life too.  And I believe it is what Jesus wants for all of us.

When your prayer life feels dry and you find yourself using the same words and making the same requests, take a cue from St. Patrick and pray for more Christ.  What richness we have in our Savior!  Oh, how Jesus longs to give us more of Himself! We have only to ask.



This article originally appeared in “The Connection,” – the weekly bulletin for FSBC Lawrence.