Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pirates, Britney, and the Songs of the Faith

Music can be used to accomplish a lot of good things.  Music can set a romantic mood at dinner or inspire people to dance at a wedding reception.  Music can even save people from pirates.  Yes, it is true.  Music saves people from pirates. 
Fox News reports that cargo ships traveling the Arabian Sea ward off pirates by blaring Britney Spears songs.  Evidentially, pirates in the Arabian Sea hate U.S. music and popular culture, including Britney Spears.  Cargo ships have been playing Britney’s music in order to keep pirates away and it has worked. 

While few of us will ever need to ward off a pirate attack, we do need help with spiritual attacks.  Our faith can be tempted, challenged, and discouraged on a daily basis.  It is important to know that music helps with those types of attacks too.  When challenged, we can turn to the songs of the faith.  We can sing, “Great is Thy faithfulness…morning by morning new mercies I see.”  Or, we can hum, “I need thee, oh I need thee.  Every hour I need thee.”  We may not easily recall the exact words of scripture or the three points of last week’s sermon, but we can remember a song.  Songs can help us focus on God when we are tempted not to.

Psalm 47:6 says, “Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.”  Over and over again, we are told to praise God with music.  I think the Psalm writer stresses the importance of singing praise, because it is an easy and practical way for God’s people to keep focus on Jesus - especially during challenging times.

As obstacles rise this week, sing praises to God.  Sing of His goodness.  Sing of His mercies.  Declare His faithfulness at the top of your lungs or under your breath.  Join the praise band at church, the singers on the radio, and sisters and brothers at Growth Group.  Sing praise to God.  As you do, you will find a great source of encouragement and joy in a world full of spiritual pirates.           

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Expressing Worship

Every Sunday, our church family has a lot to say about God.  We sing songs that praise God for who God is and what God has done.  We pray prayers that appreciate God’s qualities.  We read scriptures describing God’s incredible character.  We communicate a lot of big ideas about God and God's character in worship.
In the midst of all the big ideas, we also clap our hands.  Some tap their toes.  Others extend their arms in surrender or bow their heads in reverence.  We get expressive when communicating the big ideas about God.

Some might wonder why we do this.  Theology seems like serious business.  You wouldn’t think that people would get excited about Christian doctrine and belief.  But, we do.

We do these things because we see a connection between spiritual belief and physical expression.  Our spiritual posture is connected to our physical posture.  Psalm 95 begins by saying, “Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation…” Six verses later, the Psalmist continues: “come let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our maker.”  The author of this Psalm encourages the faith community to praise the Lord in words as well as physical expression.  Words and actions are both expressions of praise.

As you worship this week, express words of praise to the Lord.  Clap your hands, raise your hands, and stomp your feet.  Kneel in prayer.  Bow your head in reverence.  As you do, you will find great ways to love the Lord your God with heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Trust and Worship

Psalm 37:5-6 says, “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.”  Basically, the Psalm writer tells us to have faith in God in all we do because He is the only one who can ultimately provide.  The Lord is the only source of our salvation. 

Throughout the week, there are a thousand different things that try to pull that faith away from Jesus.  We get a little money in our bank account and greed tells us that money will make us worry free.  We drive past the car lot and materialism tells us that fancy vehicles will make us happy.  We hear a political candidate on the television and ambition tells us a human system is our best hope for redemption. Though money, cars, and politicians are not bad in and of themselves, the moment we place our trust in them over and above Jesus, they become idols. 

As we worship this week, cast all idols aside.  Use this time to follow the Psalm writer’s direction: commit your way to the Lord; trust in him.  He is the only one who can meet your needs.  He is the only one who truly saves.  After all, that is why Jesus Christ is worth or worship. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Runaway Camels and Grace for Worship

A church in Washington State puts on a large Christmas production every year at the holidays.  The production ends with a large processional of cast members and animals making their way to see Jesus in the manger.  When they arrive, the cast bows in worship, kneeling before the Son of God.  It is a very moving image and a great moment of worship at Christmas.

A few years ago, one of the animals broke character during the processional.  A stubborn camel threw a fit, pulling its handler to the ground.  After being drug a few feet, the handler lost control of the reins.  The camel fled the scene, hooves clopping across the parking lot pavement, out into the darkness of that holy night.
Some may have been disappointed by the mishap.  The worshipful atmosphere was lost.  The hundreds of audience members in attendance were distracted from Jesus at the very moment they were supposed to focus on Jesus the most.

That mishap teaches us an important lesson about worship.  We need God’s grace in order to worship.  In our broken world, there will be mishaps.  We are all people trying to redirect our attention toward Jesus in the midst of a world where things go wrong.  That is ok. 

Jesus told the Apostle Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you.”  I think Jesus says that to each of us when we worship too.  Though we may not get it perfect, God’s grace is sufficient.  The important thing is to keep turning your attention back to Jesus in worship, trusting in His grace. 

As you go through the coming week, root your worship in God’s grace.  Recognize that your prayers and praise don’t have to be perfect.  Then, keep on praying and praising.  As you do, you will find God’s grace is more than sufficient for life in a world of runaway camels.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Worship and Relationship

Have you ever received a compliment from a total stranger?  Maybe someone at the store complimented your shirt or a store employee commented on how cute your kids are.  That is nice.  Most people like it when others take time to express appreciation.

Now, compare that to compliments from a close family member, a spouse, or a dear friend.  Maybe a sibling described qualities they admire in you; qualities they have noticed over years of relationship.  Maybe a friend toasted an achievement, pointing out all the time, energy, and talent that went into the accomplishment.

Which compliment meant more?  My guess is that the compliment from the person that you’ve had longer and deeper relationship with you meant more.  They knew the particularities of your life to such a degree they could get specific in their praise.  The relationship behind the compliment made the compliment more meaningful.
Our worship of God works in a similar way.  We are able to compliment and praise God in more meaningful ways when we have relationship with Him.  That is a big reason why Jesus encourages us to get to know Him.  It prepares us to worship Him, His Father, and the Holy Spirit to the very fullest.

The Gospel of Matthew describes Jesus’ disciples living in close relationship with the Lord.  They walked and talked and lived with him.  One time, they witnessed him calm a raging storm.  Matthew describes their response in saying, “Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’"  Relationship with Jesus led to worship of Jesus.

As you go through the coming week, invest in your relationship with Jesus.  Talk with Jesus.  Study Jesus.  Think about Jesus.  As you do, you will be better equipped to recognize Him and His work in the world.  That relationship will help you grow in worship of the Lord.