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Posts Tagged ‘worship’

God Is Here!

 

In 1979 Fred Pratt Green wrote a simple worship hymn which has been a favorite of mine, though it is hard to sing.  He wrote:

God is here! As we his people meet to offer praise and prayer,

may we find in fuller measure what it is in Christ we share.(1)

 

I frequently use the lyrics of this hymn as a Call to Worship and as a reminder to all worshippers to forget the people who are leading worship or and the people worshipping with them as they worship God.

 

If you worship with a sole concentration on God and His presence in worship’s particular time and place, you will always leave worship knowing that you were with God.

 

Christians have a ghastly habit of evaluating worship by measuring human traits, actions, and quantities.  Of these, the worse measuring stick is to evaluate worship by measuring your emotions.  

 

Unfortunately, too many Christians never truly worship because they come not to meet God, who is present, but to have their emotions and feeling massaged, as if they are part of a religious focus group directed by a Pastor and resident musicians.

 

Hannah Whitehall Smith provided this bit of wisdom to her daughter who was wondering why she did not always feel the presence of God in worship:

The whole reason is in you, yourself.  Say to yourself, “The Lord is here just as much as He ever is with me, but I am such a dunce as to be looking at the people instead of at Him, and so I do not see or feel His presence so much.  Ignore your feelings altogether.  How strange it is that feelings will crop up all along the line as stumbling blocks.(2)

 

Worship is not so much a matter of what you or someone else makes of it, but rather it is more about who you focus on when you worship.

 

I am with David, when he wrote:

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” (3)

 

 

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  1. Fred Pratt Green, God is Here!, The Presbyterian Hymnal, (Westminster/John Knox Press, 1990).
  2. Hannah Whitall Smith and Melvin Easterday Dieter, The Christian’s Secret of a Holy Life: The Unpublished Personal Writings of Hannah Whitall Smith (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Psalm 122:1.
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Fellowship with Jesus does not guarantee loyalty to Him. 

It takes more than that. (1)

 

My Dad raised me to be loyal.  It is one of those values which he holds to tightly.  I am not sure why loyalty is so important to him, but it is.  Perhaps he was once stung by the kiss of betrayal. 

 

Jesus had 12 close friends into which he had poured out His heart and soul.  They were together 24/7 for three years.  Who could ask for a more loyal group of friends?  Jesus could!

 

In the moment of His greatest need, after unveiling the disloyalty of one of His friends, Jesus asked His remaining friends to stay awake and pray for Him while He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane.  The friends slept.  This was only the beginning.

 

For three years they had been with Jesus, worshipped with Him, prayed with Him, and grew in faith as He discipled them.  Jesus had fed them, protected them, saved them, inspired them, and strengthened them.

 

Then one dark night, it was all for nought.

 

I see many Christians do the same thing.

 

They worship, sing, pray, listen, and use His name frequently.  They have tight fellowship with Jesus, until the world offers them a better deal.

 

The world’s offerings are varied.  You may be offered 30 silver coins from men in power or you may be desperate for popularity when a little girl asks you a question among campfire friends.  

 

Quietly we slip away from Jesus enjoying the jingle in our pocket and hoping the rooster does not crow.

 

Regret always comes before sun rise when you are disloyal to Jesus.

 

Being tight with Jesus today does not guarantee you will be tight with Him tonight.

 

What are you doing to protect yourself from being disloyal to Him?

 

I pray:

“Lord, lead me not into temptation. Protect me from the Evil One, the great tempter.  Guard my heart and mind, keep me close to You.” (2)

 

Will Jesus find you worshipping Him tomorrow?  It’s going to be a beautiful day!

 

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  1. Jim L. Wilson, Fresh Start Devotionals (Fresno, CA: Willow City Press, 2009).
  2. Matthew 6:13 and Philippians 4:7

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In many ways, the church isn’t much different 

than lunch time at any middle school.  (1)

Happy chaos best describes my middle school cafeteria.

The space was expansive, yet packed with hundreds of loud untamed boys and an equal number of laughing girls dressed like 18 year olds.

It was a madhouse, but it was a happy house.  We ate and were nourished.  Freed from the teacher’s iron fisted rule we released anxiety, energy, and hormones.

We spilled milk, threw food, and left crumbs all over the place.

Surely the 90 minutes lunch period struck terror in the hearts of the staff.

Worship as a middle school cafeteria lunch period is a provocative image.

The sanctuary is filled with depraved sin-ridden wild beasts.  Whether from an organ, piano, or big band the noise level is high.  Spirited conversation fills the room whenever the Pastor lets the natives be themselves.

The Pastor preaches, providing spiritual food and nourishment.  This spiritual food is spilled, tossed to and fro, and frequently crumbles on impact.  Yet, some food always manages to hit the spot feeding the hungry soul.

I do not remember a single meal I ate at lunch in the 7th grade.

Yet at the end of the lunch period, my friends and I had come together, bonding as friends and buddies, our bodies were nourished, and the room was filled with spirited energy and joy.  It was a joyous and fulfilling place.

Can we say the same about church?

Hmmm … perhaps more churches should seek to be like a middle school cafeteria during worship rather than being an art museum.  Doing so would honor Jesus’ command recorded in John 4:23

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  1. Jim L. Wilson, Fresh Start Devotionals (Fresno, CA: Willow City Press, 2009).

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This is my Father’s world, 

and to my listening ears all nature sings, 

and round me rings the music of the spheres … (1)

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The carols of the songbird which greet the morning and welcome the evening are one of the blessings of God.  

In the morning their songs are grateful praise thanking God for bringing them through the night.  In the evening their songs thank God for the provisions of food, water, and shelter during the day.

Life is simpler and more joyous when each day is opened and closed in grateful praise.

Music is the universal language of praise and prayer.  It is the balm which soothes the troubled soul and which lifts the downcast spirit.

It is easier to sing your worries away than to reason them away! (2)

When trouble overwhelms me, when peace eludes me, and when Satan pursues me, music delivers me into the loving arms of God and causes my enemies to flee.

I have been blessed with a deep appreciation for all styles of music, as long as it praises God.  From David Crowder to Bach, from Isaac Watts to Jason Upton, from Michael W. Smith to Leigh Nash, I find God’s grace in every song.

All music which is written and sung for the glory of God is good music.  

We will find common ground in God’s holy kingdom when we gather to praise Him as Heaven’s Choir as we sing traditional, contemporary, blended, country, cowboy, sacred, spiritual, and a-cappella music to our Lord and Savior.

All music breathes the praise of the saints, the vision of the prophets, the prayers of the penitent and the spirit of the martyrs.  All praise brings solace to the sad, assurance to the perplexed, faith to the doubter and comfort to the oppressed. (3)

Sing to the Lord a new song! (4)

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  1. Hymn: This Is My Father’s World, by Maltbie Davenport Babcock. 
  2. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, Mrs. Charles E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 183). Zondervan. Kindle Edition. 
  3. Kenneth W. Osbeck, Amazing Grace : 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Kregel Publications, 1990), 8.
  4. Psalm 149:1

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The cross is desecrated

by the feet of forgetfulness. (1)

In the weeks after the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger and the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, church pews were filled with worshippers.  Some came to mourn, some came for hope, many came for good news.

Yet it did not take long for the crowds to dissipate.  I do not know a single pastor who was surprised by this quick reversal in worship attendance.  We are use to it.

Christians rush to worship for Christmas, for Easter, for baptism, for confirmation, for marriage, and for death.  Each time they come longing for the Good News of the Gospel, which is secured for us in the cross.

With equal speed they rush home, back to the world, and fail to return to the cross until the next crisis or holy-i-day.

I wonder how frequently God must sigh at our forgetfulness of His grace and His heart’s desire that we gather around the cross for worship.

Our stampede towards the cross and our ensuing absence from worship is a desecration of the cross and all of the grace, mercy, and hope it brings. 

David said:

“I was glad when they said to me, let us go up to the house of the Lord!” (2)

Jesus said,

“Take up your cross and follow me!” (3)

Lord forgive me when I trust your grace, ignore your presence, and flee from your cross.

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  1. Charles H. Spurgeon, Morning and Evening : Daily Readings, Complete and unabridged; New modern edition. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2006).
  2. Psalm 122:1
  3. Matthew 16:24

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Today’s post are my preaching notes for my sermon at Kishwaukee Community Church.  If you are at Kishwaukee today, you may follow these notes as I preach.  If you are not at Kishwaukee today, click here to go to our  website on Monday and follow the links to hear the sermon. You can then follow these notes as you listen to the sermon.

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How We Hear God Speaking to Us, Part 2

I.  Review from last week

Hearing God speak to you,

should be a common experience to all Christians

This is a tough issue for us because

  1. Unfamiliar territory for most – for me a common experience
  2. Spirit driven – we prefer certainty and precision – never vague
  3. Abuse by others for personal gain

Three Areas which I will cover

  1. How God Speaks
  2. How to Hear God
  3. How to confirm it was God speaking

4 Boundaries to confirm God spoke and I heard correctly

Whenever God speaks to you, what you hear will be:

  1. Consistent with scripture
  2. Confirmed with a specific scripture
  3. Confirmed through someone else or the body
  4. Requires you to change plans

How God Speaks to You –

1st Way Through Scripture

Tells us His Heart/Will – His will for you

If you tell me, “God does not speak to me!”

Then I know that you are not reading the Bible

II.  2nd way God speaks to you – Prayer

Jesus frequently withdrew to pray alone

Prayer not only to commune, share heart, ask for intercession

Prayer to shape your heart

Transform and conform your will to His

2 prayers –

Lords and Garden “Your will be done”

John 17 – “I have done your will

The greatest issue in hearing God is the battle of wills

Confusion of my agenda as His will

Allow God to speak – not a jabber-hour prayer

Instead a Psalm 46:10 prayer

When seeking guidance

Read scripture and then pray

Present question don’t sell the question

Listen, listen, listen

Do not be in a rush – several prayer sessions

(My worse decisions, rushed out of hunger, want, envy, pride)

III. 3rd way God speaks to You – Worship

God will speak to you every week at worship

Despite what does or does not happen up front

Worship praise – any style

Prepares and softens the heart

Provides God an entry

Makes space for the Holy Spirit to speak

Personalize your corporate worship

God will use your Pastor, even a bad one to speak to you

My lifelong preaching experience

Parishioners telling me That was just for me

Then restating points, I never spoke

I simply Praise God

IV. 4th way God speaks to you – Dreams, Visions, and Theophanies

SVHS Play Joseph – about his dreams and interpreting

God continues to speak through dreams and visions

Theophanies – God appearances in our lives

I had some – shared one last week

Many highly personal to you or one you love

Still will be confirmed by God

Scripture, consistency, others, call to change

V. 5th way God speaks to you – Circumstances and Life Events

God puts you in a place to act at a particular moment

Usually obvious

Frequently serendipitous

Pulling together what He spoke to you recently

Making sense out of purpose of previous message

How we see, hear, and observe daily events in our lives

Critical to hearing God

Which will be our focus next week

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