Tag Archives: Jesus

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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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?


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.


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.


Liar or Lover?

I have some favorite words.  I’m sure you do too.  There are a lot of words I like for the way they sound, like STEADFAST!  What a great word!  I want to be steadfast.  There are other words I like because of what they represent like “breakfast.”  I’m a big fan of breakfast – any time of the day.  I also like the word meat because… well… I like meat!  And when you put certain words together, it’s even better – Breakfast Meat! Are you hungry yet?

As I think it over, it’s more than mere words that bring me elation, but rather it’s what they represent.  If I had to choose between using the WORD “breakfast” or eating a REAL breakfast that was sitting right in front of me, I’d pass on the mere word and dive into the eggs, waffles and bacon!

Substance is always preferred to mere words.  It must be this way with God, too.  We talk a lot about worship, but is it the word or the concept that we love or do we demonstrate to God how much we love Him?  We love to sing about worship, but do we worship?  Does our worship have substance?  Just as I prefer a real breakfast to the mere mention of the word, God’s desire is that we truly worship Him rather than just talk positively about it.

Reminds be of a parable:

Matthew 21:28-32 “What do you think? A man had two sons.  And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went.  and he went to the other son and said the same.  And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. Which of the two obeyed his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you.

We understand that it is not enough to say that we love God and will obey Him.  We have to actually OBEY Him.  Worship is loving God.  How does God expect us to show our love?  Obedience.  The words Worship-Love-Obedience are meant to be used together.  Take away any one of those words and worship becomes something less than substantial – mere words.

We seek to obey because we love God.  We need to be careful that love rather than duty drives our obedience. Duty has its place, but love is God’s greatest command. “Love the Lord your God with all you heart and all our soul and all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37) “Let love be your highest goal!” (1 Cor 14:1)

However, if we say we love God, but do not obey Him, the Bible calls us liars!

1John 2:4-6 If someone claims, “I know God,” but doesn’t obey God’s commandments, that person is a liar and is not living in the truth.  But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him.  Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.

I don’t mean to be harsh, but there are only two things we can do as people who claim to know Jesus.

Be a Lover or be a Liar!

Holy God and my Father, I desire to be a true worshiper, though I know that I have failed to obey You so many times.  Other times I have obeyed out of duty and hated it because my love was for myself and not for You.  And at times I have merely gone through the motions of worship with my mind disengaged from Your presence.  Forgive me for my half-heartedness.  And help me so that my  Worship and Love show through in Obedience and my Love and Obedience make complete my Worship and let my Worship and Obedience demonstrate my Love for You. amen.


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!


Make Way For The King!

The People Seek Jesus to Make Him King

The People Seek Jesus to Make Him King (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Palm Sunday we remember how Jesus entered Jerusalem to the praises of His followers.  They placed the branches of palms on the road to make a path.  Most even took the cloak off their back and placed that on the road to make Jesus’ path. (Matt. 21:8) Would you do that?  Would you ruin a perfectly good cloak to make way for your Savior?  Do you know how hard it is to get out donkey stains?

Remember what happened next? Jesus went to the temple and found the place full of greedy selfish people. They were “helping” outsiders – guests – by changing their foreign currency into the proper form so that they could buy the animal for sacrifice.  They were ripping people off!  The church was full of guests.  But the scribes and chief priests could think only of profiting off of them.  After all, these people only come to the Temple once a year.  Jesus – in righteous anger – dumped over the tables and drove those crooks out of the temple yard.  Temple was to be a place to spend time in prayer and to know the Father.

If it troubles you to think about Jesus’ show of anger, just remember that in a few days he would die for the sins of these money changers.

When guests show up for Easter services next week, let us be humble.  They are not here so we can be proud of how full building is. (Not for our profit)   They are here to seek and to find the Savior, the Redeemer.  They are here at the invitation of the Father. Take off your cloak and lay it down to make a path; a path that leads them to Jesus.   Let’s all humbly serve our guests next week and every week.  In the name of Jesus.


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.