in & with

29 Aug

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Around the time hormones started messing up my little girl brain, my family took several snowmobile trips in the winter playground of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. After driving 8-10 hours, we left cars (with keys in them in case they needed moving for the snowplow) at the last plowed crossroads, tied everything we needed for a week onto toboggans behind Arctic Cats and Ski-Doos, and floated through feet of snow into the white wilderness. I loved the beautiful virgin scenery, but I was the only cautious one in a long line of sleds. Other drivers got stuck and rescued from driving too fast into the unknown well before I got to there. I chugged along at the rear of the line way behind everyone else on the tracks they blazed. Holding everyone else up made me embarrassed and frustrated with myself.

A couple of hours into the early northern darkness, we arrived at camp and unloaded by sled headlights. The cabin was the same temperature as the air outside – every chair, table, and piece of fabric – including bedding – stole heat from anything above zero. We kept our snow suits, even our mittens, on and wished the heat of the fire in the stone fireplace into every corner way faster than physics could keep up. Rather than wedge ourselves into a circle around the small fire (there were about 15 of us), most of us kids headed for bed. Without water to wash up and brush our teeth (snow had to be melted on the cookstove to prime the pump), we lugged sleeping bags and blankets up the ladder into the (even colder) upstairs dorm room. I rolled out my bag on a creaky top bunk and climbed in with my snowsuit still on leaving only a breathing hole for my nose and mouth.

And then it began.

I sobbed, shaking uncontrollably. I didn’t like being the center of attention or exposing raw emotion, and that made me cry harder. After a few minutes, my dad came up and asked what he could do for me. It was sweet for him, but I was really embarrassed about the crying and probably said something like, “I’m OK.” He went back downstairs, and I started crying again. I wept until I fell into an exhausted and stressed-out sleep.

———-

After being gone on a ministry tour during which they healed people and drove out demons, the disciples witnessed an incredible miracle. Somehow they had fed 5000 men (with women and children) using a couple of fish and loaves of bread. Immediately after, Jesus sent them off by boat, and he went up the mountain to pray.

They were most likely exhausted mentally and physically as they struggled to row against a storm that came up. (I can imagine as they boarded they assumed the nightly land breeze would enable them to sail across without effort as they slept.) If this isn’t enough, they see a ghost walking toward them on the water!

At this point Jesus did something beautifully simple. When the disciples called out in fear, he got in the boat with them.

Presence is powerful.

In my preteen hysteria, I didn’t know what I needed. Looking back, I think I just needed my daddy to hold me. I needed him. He wanted to “fix it” for me; he didn’t realize he was the fix.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

In the account of these events in Mark  6 Jesus gave the disciples (and us) a concrete picture of one aspect of what takes place during worship. After the disciples had come to the end of themselves and their ability, life continued to hammer them. In their fear and exhaustion they needed Jesus. And he shows up!

Much is said about relationship when talking about worship– for good reason. The disciples didn’t need intellectual assistance or advice. Another boat coming to the rescue wouldn’t have been much help. They needed their Teacher, their Lord, and he climbed in the boat with them.

He was, and still is, the fix.

 

 

 

Glimpse of Jesus’ Heart

22 Aug

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All around Jesus the cries of his followers proclaimed:

Hosanna!”

Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!

The praises rang out so loudly the Pharisees feared reprisals from the Roman governor for disturbing the peace. They told Jesus to quiet his followers, and Jesus replied, I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out.

Much can be learned about worship in this exchange in Luke 19, but the juxtaposition with the next passage is what grabs my heart as I read this morning:

And when he drew near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up a barricade around you and surround you and hem you in on every side and tear you down to the ground, you and your children within you. And they will not leave one stone upon another in you, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”

The crowd exalted Jesus at the top of their lungs– loud raucous praises filled the road from the Mount of Olives into the city. As they rounded a bend, Jesus saw Jerusalem and wept. Silent tears did not slip down his cheeks, the Greek word for wept means to convulse into sobs– the kind that would erupt from a father at the sudden death of his son.

Can you see it?

The crowd, wild with delight that their King has come at last, praises the Son of Man while his body shakes with unspeakable sorrow.

Did anyone notice? Did the crowd stop cheering? One by one, did they drop their arms and palm branches turning to one another in confusion? Did anyone ask Jesus what broke his heart? When he was finally able to speak and describe his pain, did anyone respond? If someone did, no record of it exists.

What we do know is that, as people praised the One who could save* them, they glimpsed his heart for those who don’t know him.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Often my worship of God with other believers is concerned with our relationship with Jesus – how much he loves us, that he has forgiven us of all our sins, when we’ll see him in heaven, etc. These are wonderful reasons to praise him and glorious realities to contemplate as we worship.

I’m not sure, however, that I have ever tried to glimpse his heart and see what breaks it during worship. Tomorrow will be the first time.

Will you join me?

———-

*Hosanna means: God saves

Outsiders on the Inside

16 Aug

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Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ,

To those who are elect exiles of the Dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood:

May grace and peace be multiplied to you. 1 Peter 1:1-2

 

The Christians Peter wrote to were outsiders, scattered all over the Roman Empire, not clustered together in Jerusalem. Outsiders, especially in the First Century lived at the bottom of society. If they had a job it was most likely feeding pigs or washing feet. Some were probably beaten, others had their possessions confiscated, and most likely anyone trying to climb socially avoided them altogether.

These undesirables focused not outwardly, but on their relationship with God. While they saw the haves and the standard of living they enjoyed from the outside, they saw life from the inside of the Kingdom! These believers knew the sanctifying work of the Spirit and the regenerating power of Jesus’ blood.

And they possessed grace and peace – possessions of which those around them knew very little.

The mathematical word multiplied means an abundant increase in something that exists already. Elementary math students know that zero cannot be a multiplier. In other words, zero can’t be reproduced into two or three (or any other number of) piles. It literally doesn’t compute. In order for grace and peace to be multiplied to the Christians Peter addressed, by definition they must already possess them to some degree. In this introduction of his first letter, Peter prays that God will multiply, bestow a many-fold increase in, the amount they already have.

Peter knew what it was to be harassed– and he knew how much greater the grace and peace of God were compared to the life’s difficulties. He reminds his readers that the grace and peace of Jesus do not simply negate the hard stuff of life, they exponentially surpass it.

Abundance is a God-sized concept. He lavishes blessings like grace and peace on us until they fill and overflow our finite containers, spilling over onto those around us.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Put all the hard stuff of you life in one place in your head. Or make an actual list. Include the unfair, as well as things you deserve, that hurt and make life difficult.

Now, in your heart gather up what you have in Christ, all of which you (and I) don’t deserve: grace, peace, forgiveness, redemption, joy, eternal life, inheritance with Christ, a new heart…

Now compare lists.

The troubles we have in this world don’t come close to what we have in Christ. I’m ready to worship God now; I don’t have to wait for Sunday!

Back?

16 Aug

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Several times over the past month, I have had opportunities to lead devotionals before worship. Perhaps I will resume posting weekly. For now at least, I will post as the Lord leads, and let him decide if this will become a weekly routine again.

Thanks for reading.

As always, I welcome your comments as we learn together how to be worshipers in spirit and truth.

Where are the flags?

6 Jul

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Yesterday before the worship service, I was stopped by a longtime member with a very concerned look, “Where are the flags?”

For years the American and Christian flags stood at the front of our worship center. During a renovation project they moved to a protective closet home… and have stayed there.

Here’s why.

Most people of our church gather together for about an hour and fifteen minutes a week to worship God – omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, awesome, great, powerful, loving, wonder-working, merciful… God. He is worthy of worship! And He is the only one worthy.

Over the Independence Day weekend people from our church attended family parties, lit fireworks, watched parades, and celebrated our country’s birthday in all manner of ways. I figure I spent about 10-12 hours engaged in activities like that. (And this was a light 4th for us due to other obligations.) To be fair, some of the events allowed for great fellowship with believers and wonderful connection time with those who don’t follow Jesus yet. However, the reason for the gatherings was to celebrate America – to sing her praises and be thankful for the freedom we enjoy. I could have been busy all weekend (and even the weekend before!) celebrating red, white, and blue.

Yesterday, the body of Christ met for an hour and a half.

Please understand– I’m not complaining or foisting a guilt-trip on anyone for partying all weekend, but I am making the case for why we didn’t recite the Pledge to the Flag yesterday in church– that hour and a quarter we are together is so short and incredibly precious! Every minute counts!

Why would we give up even one to look away from Jesus?

I am grateful to live in the USA! I will cheer loudly and stand as the color guard parades the flag down main street. I belt out The National Anthem at sporting events. But I fiercely protect the time we gather to worship God.

It is holy – set aside for Him and His Church.

It is pure – for Him only, for none other.

It is a sacred trust – that I will continue to guard.

Because the God of the universe is the only one worthy of our worship.

13 Sep

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Good Morning! It’s a beautiful day in America’s midwest. The sun is shining and skies are blue with white puffy clouds. It’s a great day to praise the Lord!

Over the past few weeks, I have been sensing the Lord asking me to take a break from this blog. For several weekends, I’ve writen anyway. He is so wonderful, awesome (in the correct sense of the term), good, powerful, loving, and so much more, I could go on writing a post on Saturday for the rest of my life encouraging us to worship Him. There are times when God’s direction seems harsh – like a parent saying, “Do not cross the line I’m establishing!” This is not one of those times for me. His leading has come with gentle nudges to lay this blog down.

So, for now I am saying that I’m taking a break. He may be redirecting me to another opportunity, or just asking me to step back for awhile. Right now I’m not sure which.

While we wait together, the archives are here for you. Looking back over them, I became aware that even through a blog about worshiping Him, God has been faithful! I had no idea I’d written so many posts! And, honestly, I’d forgotten many of the points in posts I’ve written! How like God to give clarity, and then give it again at a later time!

Thank you, dear fellow-worshiper for your encouragement and trust. And most of all, for worshiping the God of Gods and King of Kings. He is matchless and completely worthy of our worship.

At His feet with you….

Slow Down

6 Sep

All week I work hard and fast because Sunday comes every seven days with unrelenting regularity. I scan and answer email quickly; I make sure meetings start and end on time; all with the goal of providing an atmosphere in which people can worship God and hear from Him collectively.

Part of my responsibility is to check and maintain our church’s Facebook page. While scrolling through lots of statuses, a video caught my attention. As it played, I felt my soul slow down and rest as others prayed… FOR ME! So much of my week is spent caring for others, and although those praying have no idea who I am or that I exist – God knows me intimately. He knew that I needed to rest for five and a half minutes while prayers of other worship leaders washed over my soul.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Can you sit still for that long and allow the Holy Spirit to calm, empower, and encourage your heart before leading others tomorrow? Whether you are the worship leader, on the team, the pastor, or have some other role during the worship service tomorrow, you will benefit from quieting your heart in preparation.

WD’s Best Of: Heaven Meets Earth

30 Aug

Today did not go as planned! So, since I’ve been writing this blog for a couple of years, and many of you are new followers, I went back into the archives for one of my favorites. Click on the link for this week’s re-devo.

Next week I hope to write about what’s in my head and heart concerning Victoria Osteen‘s exhortation for people to worship– for themselves… because God wants them to be happy. My thoughts will probably surprise you!

See you next Saturday.

 

Ultra Sonic

23 Aug

10608590_831490100573_8387665045652513522_o A baby will come into our family this December. The ultrasound images of our little one give us shadowy glimpses so life-like that our arms ache to understand why we can’t hold him/her. On the screen we have seen ten perfect fingers at the end of two flailing arms. Two little feet– every bit as active as the hands– each have five nubby toes. But we are most captivated by the wee little face.

We have seen the baby!

When God was knitting our kids together in my womb, ultrasounds were expensive and not routine. We spent nine months wondering if the baby was OK, whether we would have a boy or a girl, and who he/she looked like. By a miracle of technology, this week we got to see our first grandbaby swimming and wiggling via ultrasonic waves.

An ultrasound image is created from sound waves pitched too high for our ears to hear traveling in two directions– toward the baby, then bouncing off and returning back. Ultrasonic waves are exactly the same as those within our hearing range, just pitched much higher. As the sound returns to the ultrasound device, the sound waves are translated into an image by an computer interface. We are seeing sound.400px-Sonar_Principle_EN.svg

 

Creator God spoke. “Let there be light,” and there was light. “Let there be sky, and water, and dry ground. Let there be plants, and day and night, and moon and stars. Let there be creatures in the deep, and birds in the air, and animals on the land. And let us make mankind in our image.” And it was so, and God saw that it was good.

Sound translated not just into an image, but into physical reality.

Jesus said, “I chose you,” and “Father forgive them, for they don’t know what they do,” and “It is finished.”

Sound translated into spiritual reality and relationship.

Hi words wash over us and are reflected back to Him. All He sees is the blood of His Son.

The ultimate ultrasound.

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

That God sees me through the blood of Jesus which has fundamentally changed my nature, grabs my soul… and my knees collapse under me in utter amazement and profound thanksgiving. This single truth causes me to worship Him (without having to think of any of the myriad of reasons).

Today, as I was looking at the ultrasound image of our grandbaby above, I imagined the ultrasound waves going between this little one and his/her Creator as the knitting continues every minute of every day until the time for birth is right. Then I thought of us, His followers, and imagined more sounds waves coursing through the air – “I created you and love you with an everlasting love” – “My Lord and My God” – “I see you, perfect and righteous, completely cleansed, new, and beautiful” – “There is no one like you, perfect in love and beauty” – Back and forth, God speaking from His Word, and each one of us answering in worship.

On Sundays it may be easier to hear what has been happening all week.

———-

Bonus Question: If an ultrasound device emits a sound in a forest and no one with a receiver is around to hear it, does it make a sound? (Sorry… I couldn’t resist!)

Needy

16 Aug

Driving at 70 mph for a day and a half gives me time to think. A LOT of time to think about the previous week spent with a very dysfunctional family that doesn’t follow Jesus.

My heart aches for them to know Him. My soul feels so helpless… and worn out. I read the Word and prayed in the morning and in the moment constantly. I’m not sure whether I’m beat from the hard work of praying so much, the constant interaction of so many who need Jesus, the very, very long roadtrip… or maybe the combo. In any case, I need the family of God.

While driving I was also thinking about getting ready for Sunday.  Man, am I ready! I am needy. Having been in the fray all week, I need the fellowship of kindred hearts like all these cars going in the same direction have. I need perspective like the hawks have hovering above the tangled strings of highway. I need the family of God.

During the week I have not been apart from God. I have had to be close to Him. But I have been alone with Him.

I need to lift up His name with those who also love Him.

Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:23-25

———-

READY FOR SUNDAY

Sometimes I take worship for granted, or at least I value it more at times. This week is one of those high-value, can’t-wait-for-Sunday kind of weeks. How about you? When was the last time you deeply desired to worship God with your brothers and sisters in Christ? Why?

I can’t wait for Sunday! Until then, this is on… at 11!

 

 

 

 

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