Tag Archives: Worship

When You’re Hungry for More

Barb and I were visiting our son and his family down in Texas. We decided to search for a church we could attend Sunday morning. We were hoping for something somewhat familiar and with their help we found the address of a church very near their home and checked it out on the internet. We decided to give it a try. One of our granddaughters wanted to go with us, so we agreed to pick her up Sunday morning.

Our first surprise came when we found the church building – much smaller than the website made it appear. But not to judge a book by its cover, we parked across the street in the dirt parking lot and bravely ventured forth into the church. We were quickly greeted by a couple of older women who were truly glad to see us. We soon moved into a pew row and sat down – only to look around and discover that among the maybe 30-40 in attendance our granddaughter appeared to be the only child there. The truth is, we were among the youngest there – we now knew why they were so glad to see us!  That was surprise number two.

Surprise number three – the organist began her prelude and as we sat listening the lady in front of us turned to us and whispered with pride, “Our organist is 102 years old.”  In all fairness, for 102 she did a good job. I would hope I could do that well at 102 – especially since I can’t play the organ at all now! But I digress.

Surprise number four occurred at about the same moment – our granddaughter began shivering because the church was cold (it was an unusually cold Texas day) – and the overhead fans seemed to make it worse. Since Barb’s jacket was heavier than mine she wrapped it around her – now Barb, too, was cold! After that the service moved along slowly but fairly well. Then the minister began to ‘preach.’ Surprise number four! As a preacher I tend to be fairly lenient when it comes to judging sermons – but I must say I’m still looking for his point and wondering what I was supposed to bring home. He rambled to first base then to left field then to third base then to center field then back to the dugout then to second base…well you get the point; he never made it home. By this time I was pretty empty – and hungering for some sense of the divine. Oh, Jesus was mentioned but mostly matter-of-factly.

Then surprise number five. When he finally concluded his message He went to the Table and began to serve communion. There was very little introduction or explanation, but the elements were distributed – and I was hungry no more. The bread and the cup placed Jesus before me. Then it hit me: “When you’re hungry for more, give thanks for the bread and cup.” I had fallen into the trap of wanting worship to feed me – I was accustomed to what I’m used to. I had stopped focusing on Jesus. Rather than be thankful for a place to worship and a small family of people who loved their Lord and were sincerely giving their all to Him in worship, rather than be thankful for the opportunity to sit in worship with my granddaughter, I hungered for something more. And to think I shake my head in wonder at the Israelites for clamoring for more than daily manna! I wonder how they could miss the miracle of the bread. But here I was – missing the miracle of the bread, the miracle of Jesus in our midst. “When you’re hungry for more, give thanks for the bread and cup.”

There’s a reason God fed His people manna (bread) and water in the wilderness – that’s enough to sustain life. There’s a reason Jesus said He was the bread of life and the living water – He is enough to sustain life. “But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.” (John 4:14) “I am the bread that gives life! No one who comes to me will ever be hungry. No one who has faith in me will ever be thirsty.”

As I thought about it, the lesson was not just for worship – it’s for daily life. “When you’re hungry for more, give thanks for the bread and cup.” What have you been hungering for? What are you forgetting to be thankful for? Have you looked to the bread and cup? When it comes down to it, what more do you need? “When you’re hungry for more, give thanks for the bread and cup.”

Running Loose in Church

It was a long time ago. But it seems like only yesterday as the memory makes it fresh. It could only happen in the life of a preacher. It was Sunday evening and I was, as usual, leading worship from the pulpit. Sitting near the back of the sanctuary were my wife and our 3 darling young boys. All was going well. Until…

The congregation had just finished singing the hymn before the sermon. I said my typical, “You may be seated” and everyone sat down. Well almost everyone…

As everyone else sat down the youngest of those 3 darling young boys dashed away from his horrified mother and darted up the center aisle straight up the platform steps to his thoroughly surprised father. As my wife wanted to crawl under the pew and hide I had a quick decision to make: what to do? All eyes were on me, and all those eyes were from faces with huge smiles. Some were even chuckling. So I picked our son up, said “Hi” to him, told him to say “Hi” to the congregation, and then told him – politely of course – to go back to his seat in the pew. (Thank heavens we had a wonderful congregation who thought it was all so cute and wonderful!)

Following the service the obvious question for us was “Why?” What possessed our son to do that? While he denied it at the time, our other, older son – years later – admitted he had sent his little brother scampering up the aisle. So, in reality, it was really an act of obedience.

The whole experience, therefore, now points me to ponder my obedience level. How quickly do I obey God? How often do I jump at His commands and directions? Do I dash away from what I’m doing and dart down the road in obedience? Or do I delay, pausing to ponder the pros and cons, or perhaps to bargain with God? I shudder to think how often I’ve hit the pause button and delayed my obedience. True – delayed obedience is better than no obedience, but instant obedience is the best and most blessed. As Jesus said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the Word of God and obey it…If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (Luke 11:28 & John 14:25)

How about you? Where has it been hard to obey? For what obedience are you currently hitting pause?  Realize I’m not thinking so much about God’s grand calls to serve as I am about simply obeying His lifestyle commands. For example:

  • Honor your father and your mother
  • Love your neighbor as yourself
  • Forgive as Christ has forgiven you
  • Get rid of selfishness, jealousy, anger
  • Show the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control
  • Get rid of anger
  • Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up
  • Be kind and compassionate
  • Look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others
  • Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything … present your requests to God

Certainly there’s much more, but these should be enough to assist in answering the questions: Where has it been hard to obey? For what obedience are you currently hitting pause?  Are you ready to dash away from your pause and dart down the road to obedience? Dashing and darting truly is the way to live. It is, after all, an act of love which reaps great reward.

Do you want Jesus to be at home in and with you? Dash to obedience, even if it means running loose in church.




The Importance of the Upward Look

During my seminary days I worked for a furniture store. I once received permission from the owner to borrow the store truck to move some furniture from my in-laws’ home to ours. I hopped in the truck and headed down the street to their home. Since it had been a good day I was softly singing praises as I drove. Still singing I turned into and headed up their driveway – only to run into a low overhanging roof that stopped the truck dead and punctured a hole in the truck’s box. Not cool!

As I later reflected on the incident it occurred to me that the problem was not necessarily my singing praises – it was the location of me eyes while I was singing. The singing led me to be far too casual and therefore to lose the concentration I needed when driving. In fact, if I had looked up just once as I entered the new territory of the driveway, I would have been okay. But getting lost in praise led me to lose perspective.

Singing praises, therefore, can be a problem. Far too often we are more focused on the act of praising than we are on whom we’re praising. So, when singing praises, look up. Only when we look up do we see the focus of our praise and avoid catastrophes.

• We might be praising another person – not bad in itself – but shouldn’t our real praise be for the God who created that person and brought him or her into our lives? When singing praises, look up.
• We might be praising some beautiful scenery – but shouldn’t our real praise be for the God who created that scenery? When singing praises, look up.
• Sometimes we even end up praising ourselves – then it’s really true: When singing praises, look up.
• Or it’s possible we’re singing in church or elsewhere and are sincerely praising the Lord, so much so that we get lost in the act, emotions, and mechanics of praising – only to lose sight of the Lord we  are working so hard to praise. So, when singing praises, look up.

Catch the spirit of the Psalm 103 (New Living Translation): “Let all that I am praise the LORD; with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name. Let all that I am praise the LORD; may I never forget the good things he does for me. He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases. He redeems me from death and crowns me with love and tender mercies. He fills my life with good things. My youth is renewed like the eagle’s! The LORD gives righteousness and justice to all who are treated unfairly…The LORD is compassionate and merciful, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He will not constantly accuse us, nor remain angry forever. He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve. For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him… But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments! … Let all that I am praise the LORD.” He does not say how to praise – the accent is on whom to praise. I have a hunch that the Psalmist, when he sang God’s praises, looked not down at his feet but up to the heavens. When singing praises, look up.

Come to think of it, there is one time when it’s all right to get lost in praise. Charles Wesley captured it:
“Finish then Thy new creation, Pure and spotless let us be;                 Let us see They great salvation Perfectly restored in Thee:    Changed from glory into glory, Till in heav’n we take our place,        Till we cast our crowns before Thee, Lost in wonder, love and praise!” ( 1)

Then we won’t need to look up – we’ll be looking at Him face to face! But until then, when singing praises, look up.”

(1) “Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”

In the Midst of the Chaos

It was one of those wild Sundays. Worship went well and no one knew what all went on behind the scenes. That’s because God is good and honors our best efforts. But I’m getting ahead of myself. I need to set the stage.

As usual, the worship orders were set, the music rehearsed, and the media presentations prepared. But as the Worship Team began to rehearse prior to the service, something went wrong with the technical equipment and we concluded there would be no multimedia for the opening song set.

We had a choice to make: panic or calm. Not to be unglued, our Worship Leader quickly pulled out familiar songs for the opening set, and in the process moved one of the originally planned opening songs to just after the sermon – in hopes things would be up and running by then. Our pre-service prayer was filled with pleas for the Holy Spirit to work powerfully in the midst of the chaos. We knew Jesus would be our glue.

Many things happened during that service, two of which are important to know here. First, the worship went off smoothly, no one missed a beat or note, and people sang from the depths of their hearts. The glue held it together. “In the midst of the chaos, grab the glue.”

Second, by sermon time the technical equipment was working again, so following the sermon we could invite people to sing the number that was moved, Potters Song. A visitor to the service was deeply moved by the song and following the service asked for prayer. Her life was in chaos and she sincerely wanted Jesus to take control. So we prayed. “In the midst of the chaos, grab the glue.”

I was once again in awe of Jesus. Think about it. If there had not been a tech glitch, Potters Song would not have been placed at the very end and been such a powerful plea for submission. If our Worship Leader had not been so sensitive to the Spirit, we would have canceled singing Potters Song. If our media tech had not been able to get the system up and running, we would not have sung the song. If, if, if…but Jesus! Jesus holds it all together. “In the midst of the chaos, grab the glue.”

As He so often does, Jesus took our chaos and held it all together, and took our visitor’s chaos and held it all together. In fact, I believe God created our chaos to lift up her chaos so she could experience Jesus’ healing touch in the midst of her chaos. As the apostle Paul emphatically wrote, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17) And the Heidelberg Catechism powerfully confesses, “Providence is the almighty and ever present power of God by which he upholds, as with his hand, heaven and earth and all creatures, and so rules them that leaf and blade, rain and drought, fruitful and lean years, food and drink, health and sickness, prosperity and poverty – all things, in fact, come to us not by chance but from his fatherly hand.” It all happened by His fatherly hand! God created the chaos of the morning so Jesus could heal the chaos of one woman’s life – and in the process heal ours as well.

I’m still in awe of Jesus, in whom all things hold together. Your life either is, or will sometime again be in chaos. Don’t come unglued. Rather, “In the midst of the chaos, grab the glue.” You’ll be in awe of Jesus.