Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Worship Is... What?!

Two Scenarios:
            Pastor invites friend over to help out on Sunday morning
            Game Time:  “Make Some Noise”
Christian worship joyfully ascribes all praise and honor, glory and power to the triune God. In worship the people of God acknowledge God present in the world and in their lives. As they respond to God’s claim and redemptive action in Jesus Christ, believers are transformed and renewed. In worship the faithful offer themselves to God and are equipped for God’s service in the world.
-       Presbyterian Book of Order W-1.000000
 noun \ˈwər-shəp also ˈwr-\
: the act of showing respect and love for a god especially by praying with other people who believe in the same god : the act of worshipping God or a god
: excessive admiration for someone
-       Merriam Webster Dictionary
(Webster considered education "useless without the Bible")

Scary Stats:
In a 1999 research study by Barna Research Group, Ltd., disturbing statistics were discovered regarding the worship experience of regular church attendees (NOT the Poinsettia and Lily crowd!) in American churches. Results included:

Ø  Two Thirds of faithful church-goers cannot give an adequate definition of worship.
Ø  One-Third of church attending adults stated they have never experienced God’s presence.
Ø  One-Half of regular church attendees asserted they have not experienced God’s presence in the last year.

Biblical understanding of worship:  Worship is not a suggestion it is an often repeated command.
            “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord… (Psalm 29:2)
            “Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness…” (Psalm 96:9)
            “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” (Matthew 4:10)
            “And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures;    and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen, blessing and glory and        wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever Amen."
            (Rev. 7:11-12)
            “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matthew 6:10)

First three of the Ten Commandments are about worship:

  1. You shall have no other gods before Me.
  2. You shall not make idols.
  3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain.

Worship may be the most important thing we teach and do since we will be doing it for all eternity. It is one of our most important purposes in life as is an essential part of our beingness.  

 “Worship is written upon the heart of man by the hand of God… In a broad sense worship is inseparable from and is an expression of life. It is not that man cannot live without worship, it is that he cannot truly live without worship…man was made to worship as surely as he was made to breathe. We may restrict the expression of worship for a season, just as we may briefly hold our breath, but there is an inward craving for worship that cannot be permanently stilled.”  - Judson Cornwall The Practice of Praise

Worship challenges of those who work at church on Sunday mornings.
The enemy of our souls understands the priority of worship. The truth is that Satan will often tempt you and me in the same way he did Jesus. If he cannot get us to worship him, then he will do everything he can to keep us busy with mundane tasks, problems in life, etc. He will even help keep us busy with church activities in order to keep us from focusing on the Lord and worshipping Him. Do not fall for his ploys.
            Worship. It is and always will be our first priority.”    - Tom Kraeuter Worship Is… What?!


1.     Discuss which of these worship experiences you can relate to:

It is the priority of your life.

It starts in your heart.

It proceeds from heart to action.

It is a response to God, a giving to God.

Your conscience has been quickened by the holiness of God

Your mind is fed by the word of God.

You heart is open to the love of God.

Your will is devoted to the purpose of God.

2.     What does your worship life look like on Sunday mornings? 

3.     Is there somewhere else, some other time you practice worshipping?

4.     How do you respond to traditional/liturgical elements of worship? 
            Do they have meaning for you, or are you simply reciting familiar words?
            Does singing familiar hymns bring you into a worshipful, heartfelt, honoring God, giving Him glory           kind      of place?
            When the choir sings is it a worship experience for you, or is it more like a performance to break up the   service?
            Do you feel like you’re brought into the presence of God in our traditional LJPC services?

5.     How does the contemporary worship service style impact you?
            Do you feel like you are brought into the presence of God by the music?
            Do you wonder how many people stand during worship due to peer pressure or because of genuine        heartfelt worship?
            Does the music portion of the service feel like worship or entertainment?
            Do you feel like you’re brought into the presence of God in our contemporary LJPC service?

6.     When have you richly encountered God in a gallery, book, performance, or film? Try to explain what happened to you and why.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

An All Y’All Anecdote

tombWhile on the LJPC Holy Land Tour last November led by Stan and Marie Beard, I often found myself in a state of wonder. Of the many magical moments that moved this old music man, none compared to an extraordinary event at the tomb where Jesus was taken following His crucifixion.  Our group had just finished viewing the tomb and had gone to a shaded area on the grounds. Surrounded by olive trees, we reflected on what we had just experienced and prepared to take communion together.
The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.”
Stan had just finished reading Matthew 28: 5-7 when, as if on cue, a group of Christians under the canopy next to us began singing . . . in Korean. Although we didn’t understand their words, we knew ours by heart and without so much as a nod from anyone in our group we spontaneously joined them through the universal languages of music and Christianity. Truly an “All Y’All moment as we sang:
I serve a risen Savior,
He’s in the world today,
I know that He is living,
Whatever men may say.
I see His hand of mercy,
I hear His voice of cheer,
And just the time I need Him
He’s always near.
He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!
He walks with me and He talks with me
Along life’s narrow way.
He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!
You ask me how I know He lives:
He lives within my heart.
The vastness of the global Christian community overwhelmed me as East met West less than fifty feet apart. A ‘Divine Appointment’ such as this could only have been orchestrated by God Himself. If one little tumbler hadn’t clicked exactly at the right time in the complex itineraries of these two tour groups we would have never touched greatness in this extraordinary moment. Though normally separated by miles, cultural differences, and languages, we joined in the same place at the same time sharing our common faith in the risen Savior living in our hearts.

The Coolest Community . . . Forever!

What’s the coolest community you’ve ever been in . . . Your neighborhood . . . Your workplace . . . Your school . . . Your growth group?
For us as Christians, the greatest community possible is one that includes God. That’s right! Our almighty Father, the Creator of the entire universe, invites YOU and ME to be in community with HIM! How cool is that? In a world where increasingly many find community only on digital devices and gadgets, as believers we can skip right past the technology and go directly to the source of all that is or ever will be. God promises to be in community with each one of us.
For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.  Matthew 18:20 (NIV)
Did you ever notice that the word ‘unity’ is embedded in ‘community’? To be in unity we must have trust and love. That’s the endgame . . . creating unity with others and with God through following His invitation to spend time with Him. The challenging part as we commune with God is to de-clutter our minds, to be good listeners, intent on hearing that “still small voice”.
Here’s a Lenten challenge for you. Spend a minimum of four minutes a day in prayer with someone you love. Pray for each other. Pray for family members. Pray for friends, the church, the world, and then . . . listen. My wife and I have been doing this for some time. We believe this habit is deepening our relationships in the coolest community forever. (And yes, listening is the hardest part!)
Over the past 40 years I’ve been blessed to direct six church choirs. So many extraordinary moments made even more intense through God’s gift of music. Members of these choirs became close, like an extended family, oftentimes the ‘largest small group’ in the church. The root of the word “choir” in Hebrew comes from the ancient root that refers to community! It’s only natural for me to end this devotional with music. Please get together with one or more loved ones and listen to The Brilliance singing Breathe at the link below. Let their song be your prayer to conclude today’s devotional while you listen for what God is saying to you!

Friday, September 30, 2011

I Got Knocked Off My Bike By A Truck Today!

Out for a ride today . . . riding safe . . . riding smart . . . riding with Jesus as usual.  I've ridden over 30,000 miles on the roads over the past dozen years. Today was different.

Despite my brightly colored jersey, bright red bike, and bright flashing tail light, a driver in a large pick up truck apparently did not 'see' me or perhaps thought she could "beat me" and turned into a driveway in front of me, knocking me off my bike. Note in the photo below . . . I call it "The Scene Of The Crime" . . . that there is a solid white line indicating the bike lane that I was in at the time.

Cyclists:  It's just paint on pavement. It will not protect you in your bike shorts from 3000 pound vehicles. It is not a concrete barrier that will cause cars and trucks to be deflected away from your right of way. The law may be on your side, but a truck can be on your side even faster! Ride safe. Ride smart. Please share your thoughts and comments below.

Drivers: Please watch out for people riding bikes on the roads. Please share the road with courtesy and grace toward cyclists.  You are surrounded by tons of metal, plastic, rubber, seatbelts, airbags, glass, etc. Cyclists are wearing little more than their underwear.  Drive safe. Drive smart. Please share your thoughts and comments below.

P.S. I appear to be fine. My bike appears to be fine. Good thing I was riding with Jesus!

Friday, June 10, 2011

I Get More Green Lights When I Read The Bible!

Okay, maybe not really. But life does seem to flow much easier for me when I’m in the word. My road of life seems a bit smoother with a peace and prosperity in my soul that passes all my understanding.

One of the regular readers of this blog asked the question some time ago, are these literal or metaphorical experiences? The answer is both. My job is not to convert. Only God can do that. I am simply sharing my observations, my take, my spin, (see what I did there?), on life and what makes it meaningful. I simply share what's been pressed on my heart to write.

Speaking of some time ago, although I haven’t written on this blog for several months due to deadlines on a book my wife and I were writing as well as lots of consultant work, the number of hits on this blog has continued to rise. We’re up to 3,600 viewers from 45 countries around the world.

What if someone reads this blog who isn’t a follower of Christ? Hallelujah! I hope they do! Not being a follower of Christ doesn't mean that a person can't be a follower of this blog. Since we're all made differently with our own purpose and plan, each person will have their own 'take away' from these blog pieces. To be honest, I've wrestled with this a lot since starting this blog. Toeing the line between being too preachy, too teachy, or just plain banal. I have so much to learn about this craft and how to appeal with artistry and insight to the largest number of folks in the fewest, choicest words.

One of my frequent bike rides is to the beach. There’s a mural on the side of a building depicting the resurrection scene but with modern day people from all walks of life attending. There is a reflection on a scripture reference at the bottom of the mural “For those who have not read the word this is foolishness. For those who have read the word they know it is the power of God.” . . . 1 Cor 3:18-23

That would be my challenge to anyone reading this blog. STOP READING THIS BLOG AND READ THE BIBLE EACH DAY INSTEAD! Come on . . . is there really a choice between reading my word and God's word? Seriously, read the whole Bible cover to cover. As the history and mystery of several thousand years written by 40 authors unfolds you’ll be amazed at how it all applies to your life. Issues that the children of God were dealing with 5000 years ago are still being dealt with in our world today. We don’t want to offend anyone by saying the G word, or the J word, or the C word. Think that’s new? Read about when the exiles were returning to Jerusalem.

My experience of reading the Bible cover to cover was that my life was forever changed. The timeless truth of the WORD shared directly from the Creator of the Universe. Absolutely mindblowing, heartblowing, soulblowing stuff. Make a bold commitment. Take the challenge and read it for yourself and see what your experience is. Find a Bible-based church family to join. Ask questions. Get into a small group or Bible study. You may find there are more green lights in your life!

As always I invite your comments below.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Choose And Move!

Sometimes I think I wait too long.
The paralysis of analysis.
Or just plain procrastination.
Or too many things on my plate.  (And no, getting a bigger plate hasn't helped!)

I recently got a new pair of pedals for my bike. I've ridden with clip-in pedals for the past 7 years. I can't seem to get a straight answer on how long these pedals are supposed to last, but I'm thinking 17,000 miles was stretching it a bit. The deal with clip-in pedals is that the rider is directly connected to the bike. A little daunting at first when you realize that you are "As One" with the bike. It is truly a marriage of muscle and machine.The power transfer increases dramatically because you are not simply pushing down on the pedals (like when you were a kid), but you are also pulling back through part of the pedal stroke so you ride further, faster, stronger, etc. Ah, engineering. Gotta love it!

Trouble is, my pedals were really old and I had worn them down to a point where my knees were being affected because they were slightly out of proper alignment. My tibia was actually rotating out of place and causing tarsals in my foot to get out of whack. (Yeah, "whack" is the medical term!)

 You see the pedal is connected to the foot bone and . . .

The foot bone connected to the (pause) leg-bone,
The leg bone connected to the (pause) knee bone,
The knee bone connected to the (pause) thigh bone,
The thigh bone connected to the (pause) back bone,
The back bone connected to the (pause) neck bone,
The neck bone connected to the (pause) head bone,
Oh hear the word of the Lord!


Dem bones, dem bones gonna RIDE a-roun'
Dem bones, dem bones gonna RIDE a-roun'
Dem bones, dem bones gonna RIDE a-roun'
Oh hear the word of the Lord

But I digress . . .

The point of all this is that as soon as I went for a ride on my little red bike with the newly replaced pedals, I felt like I was on a brand new bike. The power transfer from me to the bike was much improved and gone was the looseness in the old pedals that had probably caused my knee problems. (Let's sing the song again!)

So it's my head bone I'm really talking about here. How often in life do I not choose AND move? For whatever reason, rationale, or excuse, I sometimes fail to act. You see, choosing a path is one thing. Going down that path is another thing. In cycling vernacular it's where "The rubber meets the road." In church they might say, "Putting feet on your prayers." In writing they might say, "Putting wings on your words". (I made that last one up!)

You see, it's developing that culture of "AND" in yourself AND in others. Empowering yourself to move forward (like on a bike), AND empowering others to move forward with you. Could be your spouse. Could be your children. Could be your students. Could be your neighbors. Could be your colleagues. Could be your friends. Could be your small group. Could be your accountability partner. Could be countless unseen, unknown people on down the road of your eternal life.

All those 'coulds' and 'ands' in life add up, don't they?  The powerful, imaginative, loving people God created us to be can only be unleashed to roll down the road of life if we are truly connected (like a cyclist to his bike), to who God designed us to be, AND to the Creator himself.

"For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, 
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."
 Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Did you pick up on the 'ands' in that verse? 

I choose to move AND be connected 'as one' to God.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pictures Of My Hero

Yesterday I rode my bike out to our church to ask a question about the Children's Ministry. When I pulled open the main door our Worship Pastor, Steve, put a video camera in my face and asked me who my hero was. Standing there with my helmet on and my bike in hand, I answered without any hesitation. (I think if there's any hesitation involved it may be later on when the pastors are contemplating which 'video interviews' to cut from the upcoming message series on Heroes. The thought of putting me up on two 10' by 10' screens wearing that much spandex is downright scary. Probably just as well that I end up on the 'cutting room floor'.)

Back to the story. So I'm asked who is your hero and I quickly skip through all the athletes, astronauts, action figures, military leaders, world leaders and spiritual leaders, and went straight to somebody I knew really well . . . my mom.

My dad skedaddled, (funny how "dad" is in the middle of that word!), when he decided marriage wasn't a good fit for him. My mom packed up the car with her mother, me, and whatever else she could fit into a navy blue 1949 Ford and drove from El Paso to San Diego at the ripe old age of twenty-two. Just to make sure we're clear here, Mom was twenty-two. I wasn't even two. She had no friends, no relatives, no job in San Diego. She had visited once with my Dad and thought it looked like a nice place to live. There was a great zoo you could take a kid to. 1950 was a different time. She was a courageous young lady. Mom had dropped out of college to get married and bounced around the country with my Dad as he worked his way through a series of jobs as an engineer.

She quickly found work in San Diego, soon bought a home and showered a whole lot of love on our tiny little family of three generations. Yes, I was raised by two women. Men, if you ever get into a game of "Battle Of The Sexes" you definitely want me on your team. I know way too many answers on those female cards!

Carving out a living in the 1950's wasn't easy for a single mom. This was way before the "Women's Lib" movement of the late 1960's. She complained about doing the same work as a man and getting paid less for it. But being the head of the family she had to be first and foremost a problem solver. So she took on a second job, running her own business teaching piano in the evenings. Soon she had a full 'studio' of kids and was putting on annual recitals.

There was always a shortage of money. Mom spent hours budgeting to make the ends meet, but through it all there never was a lack of love. Not only did she shower love on me, but she also shared with me the great loves of her life: God, family and music. Those loves and values became so central to my being that to this day, sixty years later, I look back and see how those things are the solid foundation upon which my life has been built. Dragging up a kid with a passion for God, family and music . . . not a bad way to go! You did good, mom. Real good.

Oh, she also instilled in me her love of riding. When she was a kid growing up in southeastern Colorado it was riding horses. As a teenager, she became a state champion trick rider. That was just before the high school Principal came to call her out of class and tell her that her dad had been killed in a plane crash. He was an avid pilot and apparently some kid working at the airport had filled the gas tank with water instead of gas. Hard to believe, huh? Small town. Small airport. 1943. I guess it could happen.

So for me, growing up in the city, she instilled the love of riding a bike. We lived a pretty hardscrabble life, but somehow she found the money to help put me through college and then ten years later she put herself through college, meanwhile adopting a baby out of an orphanage in Tijuana. Single women in the 1960's had a hard time adopting a child on this side of the border.

But the first big expense I remember was my shiny red Schwinn bike. With that bike, mom taught me that persistence and hard work always paid off. There wasn't money to buy training wheels for that bike. I'd like to say I had to learn the hard way, riding it by myself, but the black and white picture at the top of this blog of me riding that bike doesn't show the back end of the bike. The truth is my mom was there, running down the street right behind me, keeping me upright, steering me in the right direction, giving me the support I needed to move forward. Yeah, she kept on doing that as I was growing up.

Okay, I'm getting a little misty here as I write this. I guess I've needed to write this down for some time. Time to lighten up a little bit. Mom also had a great sense of humor. That lives on in her son, too. In case you missed last month's blog piece, When Bears Talk, it's still posted here. It's a four minute animation script I wrote to promote our annual Christmas concert at our church. Check it out, the early reviews are already in. Mark said it was "Comedy Genius".  Max said it was "Golden Globe" material. Heather said it was "Riveting". Cathy and Gina both agreed it was "Hilarious". Dave said it had "Oscar Potential" (Animated Short). Andria said it was "Awesome, Too Funny". John said it was "Not Boring". (You'll have to watch it to understand that last review!)

Mom passed away after her second bout with cancer in 1990 at the way too young age of 62. I'm 62 now. Below are a few pictures of my hero. You can see her halo in one of them.

Mom and I in 1948 in El Paso, Texas. That love you see in her face . . . 
it was was always there throughout my life. 
(I'm thinkin' those are my diapers on the clothesline!)

 Our tiny family, Thanksgiving, 1952

 Mom and me by a camel at the San Diego Zoo on my birthday, 1954

 Mom at work at San Diego State University, 1975

The women in my life on my grandmother's 75th birthday in 1979
L-R:  My Mom, My Nana, My new bride Reina, 
My adopted sister, Jodee (being tickled by Reina)

 Mom and her first grandchild, Gina, 1982