The Question that Never Goes Away

I enjoyed Philip Yancy’s book titled “Where is God When it Hurts?” There is actually a sequel to this book titled “The Question that Never Goes Away.” Of course the question that he is talking about is the subject of the first book.

I read this second book with great interest because he spends a few chapters dealing with the Newton, CT shootings which occurred in my home state. Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the second book:

“Affliction is the best book in my library” – Martin Luther

Why do we continue to think that good and evil, pain and pleasure are doled out according to our merit, when the Book of Job teaches just the opposite?

I kept thinking of the verse in First John: ‘the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.’

The wealth of lament and protest in the Old Testament makes clear that we cannot count on God to intercede directly in human history, no matter how monstrous the injustice.

“I will fear no evil, for you are with me. . . .” God has come close. Those few words, “you are with me,” reveal the one thing we can count on in calamitous times.

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us,” wrote John in the prologue to his Gospel. In the face of suffering, words do not suffice. We need something more: the Word made flesh, actual living proof that God has not abandoned us. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, “Only a suffering God can help.”

The Word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood.

From Jesus I learn that God is on the side of the sufferer. God entered the drama of human history as one of its characters, not with a display of omnipotence but in a most intimate and vulnerable way.

We go through suffering not alone, but with God at our side.

Christ’s suffering shatters the iron walls around individual human suffering,

God can make good use of suffering itself: “There is no pain, no suffering, no frustration, no disappointment that cannot be cured or taken up and used for higher ends.”

Jesus said he could have called on legions of angels to prevent the crucifixion. He did not. The redemptive way goes through pain, not around it.

To redeem a planet, Someone must die.

This is not the worst thing to ever happen! Cancer is so limited. It cannot cripple love, shatter hope, corrode faith, eat away peace, destroy confidence, kill friendship, shut out memories, silence courage, quench the Spirit or lessen the power of Jesus.

May God’s love spill out into your lives in unexpected ways

Life is on loan, and will return to the Lender.

Jesus did not eliminate evil; he revealed a God willing, at immense cost, to forgive it and to heal its damage.

Where is God when it hurts? God is now in the church, God’s delegated presence on earth.

One commentator worried that Newtown had forever “spoiled” Christmas, as Virginia Tech and Columbine had spoiled Easter. Perhaps—but only if you celebrate them merely as holidays rather than as real events.

Christianity doesn’t in any way lessen suffering. What it does is enable you to take it, to face it, to work through it, and eventually to convert it.

From Jesus I learn that God is on the side of the sufferer. God entered the drama of human history as one of its characters, not with a display of omnipotence but in a most intimate and vulnerable way

And my favorite quote from the book, when Philip Yancy was asked by a mother – “Will God protect my child”:

“No, I’m sorry, I can’t promise that.” None of us are exempt. We all die, some old, some tragically young. God provides support and solidarity, yes, but not protection—at least not the kind of protection we desperately long for. On this cursed planet, even God suffered the loss of a Son.”

If interested, you can get both books on Amazon in either paperback or E-Book formats. Here are the links:

Where is God When it Hurts:
http://amzn.to/1p1oQjm

The Question that Never Goes Away:
http://amzn.to/1NaKPzG

My book, “Lifestyle Worship”:
http://amzn.to/1p1oSrh

The Apostle’s Creed with the song “We Believe”

The Apostles’ Creed Read Responsively with the Song Titled “We Believe” by the Newsboys

Praise Band Sings Verse 1 and Verse 2:

In this time of desperation
When all we know is doubt and fear
There is only one foundation
We believe, we believe
In this broken generation
When all is dark, You help us see
There is only one salvation
We believe, we believe

The Band then plays the chorus softly in the background during the following readings

M: I believe in God, the Father almighty,
C: Maker of heaven and earth.
M: I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.
C: who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.

Congregation Joins the Band and Sings the Chorus 1:

We believe in God the Father
We believe in Jesus Christ
We believe in the Holy Spirit
And He’s given us new life
We believe in the crucifixion
We believe that He conquered death
We believe in the resurrection
And He’s coming back again, we believe

Praise Band Sings Verse 3:

So, let our faith be more than anthems
Greater than the songs we sing
And in our weakness and temptations
We believe, we believe!

The Band then plays the chorus softly in the background during the following readings

M: He descended into hell.
C: The third day he rose again from the dead.
M: He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father almighty.
C: From there He will come to judge the living and the dead.
M: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian Church, the communion of saints
C: The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and life everlasting.
All: Amen.

Congregation Joins the Band and Sings the Chorus 2:

We believe in God the Father!
We believe in Jesus Christ!
We believe in the Holy Spirit!
And He’s given us new life!
We believe in the crucifixion!
We believe that He conquered death!
We believe in the resurrection!
And He’s coming back again!

The band sings the Bridge:

Let the lost be found and the dead be raised!
In the here and now, let love invade!
Let the church live loud. Our God will say
We believe, we believe!
And the gates of hell will not prevail!
For the power of God, has torn the veil!
Now we know Your love will never fail!
We believe, we believe!

Congregation Joins the Band and Sings the Chorus 3 and the Tag:

We believe in God the Father
We believe in Jesus Christ
We believe in the Holy Spirit
And He’s given us new life!
We believe in the crucifixion!
We believe that He conquered death!
We believe in the resurrection!
And He’s coming back,
He’s coming back again!
He’s coming back again!
We believe!
We believe!

To view the song video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WjZ01FcK0yk

Worship Leader = Pastor

Worship Leader = Pastor

In my denomination, the “worship leader” is the Pastor – end of discussion, and I wholeheartedly support this.  He has given 8 years of his life to higher education, he has pursued a Masters in Divinity and he has learned the Greek and Hebrew languages.  What the rest of the Christian world refers to as a “Worship Leader”, we use the term “Musical Director” or “Musical Coordinator” or “Praise Band Leader” or some other similar term.  This just seems right with me.

So, in the traditional church that predominantly uses hymns, what are the traits of this elusive “Praise Band Leader?”  I can only tell you what traits I strive for after doing this for over a decade.

  1. I stay in the Word as much as possible by reading God’s word, devotional books and praying as often as possible.
  2. The only music that I listen to is Christian music. I keep on top of the new releases coming out of this genre and I collect lead sheets and piano arrangements.  I also make it a habit to categorize all of my music by scripture reference.
  3. I attend church and bible class regularly and am active in my membership. It is an inseparable part of my life and is woven into my daily and weekly routines.
  4. I know my congregation well. I know them better than my own fretboard and believe me that says a lot.  I know what songs they can sing and what songs they will enjoy in worship.  I use this knowledge in choosing music.
  5. I follow my Synod and read as much of their correspondence as I can. I use their APPS, I bookmark and use their websites, I listen to their podcasts and I subscribe to all of their email lists.  I strive to know their teachings and doctrines and apply these principles in choosing music.
  6. I am diligent in my work. I do my worship planning at least one month ahead of time and I submit my song choices to our Pastor so that he can review the lyrics for false teachings (and they do exist in some of today’s music) and for appropriateness for the intended Sunday.  If it’s a new song, I also include a youtube link so that he can not only hear the lyrics but the style of the song as well.  I respect his opinion and never second guess his responses.  I trust him and I learn from him.  He is responsible for our worship and has to answer to God and to his Synodical leaders if things go bad – not me.  I fully understand this.
  7. I am well prepared when I am scheduled to accompany worship. I arrive early, do a sound check and organize my arrangements.  We are well rehearsed and I know what lines I am singing, all the transitions and the song flow.  Sometimes I will express my musical creativity through my guitar playing but never in a showy manner.
  8. I turn the other cheek when someone calls a song a “7/11” song or expresses other hurtful remarks with regards to either contemporary music or traditional hymns because both are worshipful and powerful and because I want to follow Jesus’ lead.
  9. I do my best to fix my eyes on Jesus at all times.
  10. I acknowledge the presence of the Spirit inside me and rely on Him to inspire, to teach and to lead me.
  11. I am not a leader, I am a servant.
  12. I am a sinner. The above characteristics are my goals and oftentimes I fall short.

Note to Self

Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  – Matthew 22:37-38

Interesting, He said the word “all” three times – all your heart, all your soul and all your mind. He really wants it all, all, all. Three times is a charm.
Note to self…

He did not say “worship”
serve
conform
bow before
obey
lay down
surrender

He didn’t even say the greatest commandment was to believe!
He said to love God with everything you’ve got – all, all, all!

That, right there, is the first and the greatest and the most significant thing you can do in all, all, all of your life. Love, love, love God!

If I have faith that can move mountains, but do no have love, I have nothing. – 1 Cor 13:2

Now go and love God.
Just do it.

Fill Me Up

Fill
Me
Up.

Lord, fill me up with confidence.
Fill me with love.
Fill me to the brim with wisdom.
Fill me with understanding.
Fill me with courage.
Fill me to overflowing with hope.
Fill me with your Spirit.
Fill me with truth.
Fill me with kindness.
Fill me with patience.
Fill me with peace.
Fill me with perseverance.
Fill me with You.

Fill
Me
Up.

The Garden Prayer

God, please bless my soil and plants; that my soil will yield her strength.  I thank the Lord for the privilege of being a sower, the honor of being a tender, and the blessing of being a harvester.  Amen.

The Gardener 
by Bobby Brown, excerpted from “Seated Above, the Journey Continues”

There within the silent acres,
Between the burrowed rows
He’s scratching and he rakes,
He’s digging and he hoes

Early each summer’s morning
The sweat slides down his face
As he goes about his business
In this most sacred place

And the gardener has a quiet faith,
An enthusiasm and a mirth
For he loves to till the soil,
He loves the good green earth

And one day in the early autumn,
He’ll lay down that rake and hoe
For the harvest will be ready,
As the crops continue to grow…

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that just crushed it.” – Mark Twain

In Remembrance of Him

In Remembrance of Him…

I pray (and you can too):

Father, I need help to devote my life, in remembrance of Him who gave His life for mine.

I need help to forgive others, in remembrance of Him who forgave me over 77 times/day.

I need help to give to the poor, in remembrance of Him who gave everything.

I need help to be kind, in remembrance of Him who healed the broken-hearted.

I need help to be patient, in remembrance of Him who always gave me a second chance.

I need to love, in remembrance of Him who first loved me.

I need help to be generous, in remembrance of Him who is continuously gracious to me.

I need help to pray more, in remembrance of Him who even prayed for those who were murdering Him.

I need help to be more humble, in remembrance of Him who washed others feet.

I need help to control my mouth, especially gossiping, in remembrance of Him who paid a price for my sins.

I need help in being merciful, in remembrance of Him who offers mercy when I do not deserve such grace.

I need help to be more sympathetic, in remembrance of Him who cares.

I need help to be compassionate, in remembrance of Him who shows compassion towards me.

I even need help to control my thoughts, in remembrance of Him who taught me where my sins originate.

 

These are what I need to think of as I partake of the Lord’s Supper, in remembrance of Him.

 

We can and should strive to do all these things in remembrance of Him whose name is Jesus.  He is our motivation, our example, our mentor, our guide, our friend, our confidante, our healer, our teacher, our comforter, as well as our King, Savior, Redeemer, Lord and Messiah.

 

And lest I forget, I also need help to remember Him as my role model for life.

 

Father, I pray all these things, in remembrance of Him, your Son, the one who saves, Jesus.

 

May the Holy Spirit use these words to change my life, in remembrance of Him.

 

Amen.

 

“Christ is God, crying I am here!” – Philip Yancy

A Call to Worship for Palm Sunday

A Call to Worship for Palm Sunday
Based on Psalm 118:25-29

M:        Lord, save us!
C:        Lord, grant us success! 

M:        Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
C:        From the house of the Lord we bless you. 

M:        The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine on us.
C:        With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar. 

M:        You are my God, and I will praise you;
C:        you are my God, and I will exalt you. 

M:        Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;
C:        his love endures forever.

A Toolbox for Worship Leaders, Pastors and Musicians

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