Swimming Biblically

August 1, 2011

Here's one of my advanced swimming techniques. Maybe I'm missing something.

I love being in water. At the gym, in the ocean, even the shower. Water is great. And I really enjoy swimming, but I have a confession. I’m terrible at swimming. Sure, I can move through the water at a good pace, but I’m horribly inefficient and my arms end up doing all the work. I hear that swimming is a whole body exercise, but I’m okay with my purely functional windmill stroke. After all, I’m in the water, I enjoy it immensely, and I’m content.

But what if, in my Bible reading, I discovered passages that described particular techniques for to enhance my swimming. I wouldn’t have to do them all, especially not all at once, but shouldn’t I want to look into these strokes and see if it helped my swimming? That’s one way of looking at the biblical examples of outward expression in worship. What does the Bible say about how God’s people express themselves in worship?

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A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a worship service at Precept Ministries’ Boot Camp. It was a great opportunity to hear the word in an unfamiliar setting, and a treat to simply be in a service instead of leading it.

By the time we got to the second song, I was feeling quite awkward. I didn’t know why. There was nothing about the service that was distracting, but I struggled to stay engaged. After spending a few moments in self examination, I settled on by problem. It was… my hands. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. I tried letting them hang, sticking them in my pockets, and crossing my arms, but I just felt awkward.

To put this in my unique context, I must explain a little more. For the last 11 years, I’ve been leading worship every week. Every week, I seek to sing to God and invite others to join me with a microphone in one hand and a collection of gestures and cues in the other. About twice a year, I get to worship in the congregation empty handed. It is always a treat. But as you can imagine, leading worship for over 1,200 services creates strong muscle memory.

Muscle memory is the term used to describe the culmination of doing something over and over until the body doesn’t have to consciously do the task. The muscle kind of remembers what to do, and how to react. Soldiers drill to gain muscle memory. Athletes practice serves or routes or swings until they become second nature. They hope to gain that clarity of mind, but for me, muscle memory became a source of distraction.

I was suddenly very aware of my posture as we sang. I didn’t know what to do with my hands. Because I couldn’t grab a mic and start signaling the pianist, my body was unsure of what to do while we sang. As soon as I recognized my problem, I knew what I needed. I smiled and thanked God for His nudge. I needed to remember and rehearse what God has told us about our posture in worship. God primarily wants our hearts engaged in worship, but He is far from silent regarding our outer posture when we gather for worship. I set my heart on God and adjusted my stance to reflect it. And suddenly, I was free. I fought for focus and self forgetfulness through the rest of the service, and I was rewarded my a beautiful time of worship. As we sat down and prepared to hear from the Word, another thought crossed my mind. We need to talk more about our posture in worship, both internal and external. I need to blog a bit.

Over the next two weeks, I’ll post some thoughts and reflections on how the Bible speaks of our posture in worship. I’ll look at several verses and encourage you to work through them with me. I hope you will find it surprising, helpful, and ultimately freeing as we meet to worship our triune God together.

P.S. What do you think I did with my hands? The answer probably isn’t what you’d expect. Maybe I’ll answer that in the next post.

One Pound of God, Please

March 19, 2011

Preparing for Worship – March 20, 2011

Note: I’ve been putting these notes on the website each Saturday, but I’m going to begin occasionally putting them on the blog. I hope a few more people find it helpful to be nudged in the right direction for Sunday morning.

Infinite worth. That’s a hard value to imagine, but that is the value of Christ to those who trust in him for their lives and hope. It was not hard to imagine for the men who found a treasure hidden in a field or a pearl of unmatched quality. (Mt 13:44-45). They reoriented their lives around the value of the treasure they had found. That’s harder for us when we consider the treasure of Jesus. We can sometimes respond like the poet, Wilbur Reese:

I would like to buy three dollars worth of God, please.
Not enough or explode my soul or disturb my sleep,
But just enough to equal a cup of warm milk, or a snooze in the sunshine.
I don’t want enough of Him to make me love a black man, or pick beets with a migrant worker.
I want ecstasy, not transformation.
I want the warmth of the womb, not a new birth.
I want a pound of the eternal in a paper sack.
I would like to buy three pounds of God, please.

None of us would claim to portion out God in such a prideful way. And yet, we can be quick to set our expectations of what we want from God and limits on how we will respond to Him. But God is not impressed by our directions. The reality is this: we desperately need all of God, and we need to revel in all His worthiness. Will you prepare yourself to marvel at the treasure of Jesus with us this Sunday morning? I look forward to worshiping with you.

Pastor Drew

WELCOME and PRAYER

CALL TO WORSHIP               Worthy of Worship #3

SINGING THE GOSPEL         He is Jesus
There’s a treasure great in beauty, far surpassing earth’s great wealth
He is Jesus, Prince of Glory, source of all grace, peace, and health
There’s a fountain ever flowing, satisfying all who drink
He is Jesus, spring of joy to all who hail Him as their King

There’s a power, holy power, breaking bonds of captive men
He is Jesus, mighty Jesus, holy warrior and sinner’s friend
There’s a Savior rich in mercy, quick to pardon all our sins
He is Jesus, great Redeemer, reconciling God and man

There’s a glorious Lord returning, and all will bow to Him alone
He is Jesus, King of nations, reigning from His gracious throne
There is one to whom our praises will through every age ascend
He is Jesus, King forever, whose wondrous rule will never end

Before the Throne of God Above
Before the throne of God above I have a strong and perfect plea
A great High Priest whose name is Love who ever lives and pleads for me
My name is graven on His hands, my name is written on His heart
I know that while in heaven He stands,
No tongue can bid me thence depart, no tongue can bid me thence depart

When Satan tempts me to despair and tells me of the guilt within
Upward I look and see Him there who made an end of all my sin
Because the sinless Savior died, my sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied to look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Behold Him there the risen Lamb, my perfect spotless Righteousness
The great unchangeable I Am, The King of glory and of grace
One with Himself I cannot die, my soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high with Christ my Savior and my God
With Christ my Savior and my God

WORSHIPING GOD WITH OUR OFFERINGS
Above All Else Sanctuary Choir

WORSHIPING GOD THROUGH HIS WORD
Out of Control and Loving It: Living Life Palms Up
Ecclesiastes 5:8-6:12                David King

RESPONDING TO GOD’S WORD AND SPIRIT        As Long as You Are Glorified
Shall I take from Your hand Your blessings yet not welcome any pain?
Shall I thank You for days of sunshine yet grumble in days of rain?
Shall I love You in times of plenty
Then leave You in days of drought?
Shall I trust when I reap a harvest
But when winter winds blow, then doubt?

Oh, let Your will be done in me – in Your love I will abide
Oh, I long for nothing else as long as You are glorified

Are You good only when I prosper and true only when I’m filled?
Are You King only when I’m carefree and God only when I’m well?
You are good when I’m poor and needy
You are true when I’m parched and dry
You still reign in the deepest valley
You’re still God in the darkest night

POSTLUDE

_________________________

He Is Jesus © 2003 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)
Before The Throne Of God Above © 1997 PDI Worship
As Long as You Are Glorified © 2008 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)
Songs used by permission. CCLI #79621

Greatest End

March 18, 2011

It usually takes a while for a song to work its way into our minds and hearts. The first time we listen, it may strike us as pretty or poignant. We’re just beginning to learn the song. On the second or third exposure, we are learning it, getting the words in our mouths and the rhythm in our minds. We are finally able to sing it. That’s when a carefully chosen song really begins to serve us. The melody keeps the words in our mind, and we are able to meditate on them, reflect on their meaning, and make the song our own expression. That happened for a lot of folks this past Sunday.

I’ve had several family members ask about the song we sang after the sermon. The song, Greatest End, was written by a member of the music ministry at Grace Community Church in Nashville, TN. The only recording I know of is available at Amazon.com as an mp3 download. The whole recording is good, but Greatest End has been the high point of the CD since I first heard it. Maybe its because I fear man more easily than I fear God at times, and maybe it’s because I desire Christ to be my great treasure and greatest end. If the song is helpful to you, I encourage you to purchase it yourself and reflect on the lyrics.

Greatest End
May I fear You greater than I fear man; I fear man.
May my love for You be measured by obedience, by repentance.
And in that moment humbly bow; teach my heart, show me how
To fear You more my Lord, my God! Faithful Friend, greatest End.

May I want You greater than earthly things, worldly things.
May I find my greatest treasure hid in You, bound in You.
And in that moment sell my all, gladly trade all I own
All to gain the priceless pearl! Truest Friend, greatest End.

May I love You greater than my own will, my own will.
May I seek my greatest pleasure from Your hand, from Your hand.
And that moment lift my eyes to the cross, up to Christ
Die to self and gain Your life, Savior Friend, greatest End
Greatest End.

©2005 Leeandred Music and Manicotti Music (ASCAP)

By the way, we’re going to begin learning another song this Sunday night at our Members Meeting. Come listen and begin learning this week so we can be ready to sing it together with all our hearts and minds on Easter morning.

Celebrating “Amateurity”

September 20, 2010

My wife loves Little House on the Prairie. Not the books, mind you, but the late 70’s TV show. The one that played every day in our hometown at 10am and 3 pm.  We own every episode on DVD, and yet she will watch it whenever it comes on the Hallmark channel. Needless to say, I have absorbed a lot of Little House through marriage.

One of the most interesting things to me about Little House on the Prairie is Charles Ingall’s forgotten talent. Every now and then, Pa picks up the fiddle and thrills the family with a jig, a hymn, or a mournful tune. It’s truly delightful to imagine this sod busting, mule driving farmer coming in at the end of the day, hands sore from gripping the plow, and reaching for a delicate violin to draw out some melodies at the end of the day. I’m pretty sure Pa didn’t go to the conservatory. He just picked it up and played. It seems very unusual in our day, but I wish it didn’t.

The arts are just part of the fabric of living. We have always made art, whether in drawing, creating, design, or music.  But there has been a shift since the Ingalls family built their little house. Families rarely make their own art anymore. We encourage children to draw, to write, and to sing, but we put down our creative tools as we grow up. It is as if we equate our amateur attempts at art and creativity, a God-given trait of mankind, with immaturity or childish things. Following in the wake of our consumer culture, we have outsourced the creative process to professionals and accepted the role of observers and critics. We look at paintings and photography, we watch our plays on TVs or at the movies, we listen to our music, and we read our books. I have realized that I am so busy consuming “art” that I am robbing myself from the opportunity of making art. Read the rest of this entry »