Today was an oasis in a very packed week. The day was specifically designed as a “light” day in terms of sessions so that we were done a little before 3:00. The rest of the day and evening was left open for us to use for personal reflection, solitude, hanging out with others, or whatever we wanted to do with it. Let me start at the beginning of the day and go from there.
As with the past two days, a major highlight of the day was the AM worship service. Dick and Mel Tunney were the worship leaders, and for the second day in a row I found myself in tears during the worship. They introduced a great new song they had written entitled Life and Breath, which I will be purchasing as soon as it’s available to share with my congregation. Some of the musical sets they selected were very powerful, so I am going to steal them for my planning purposes 🙂
Mike Harland continued his teaching on 1 Peter, and today he focused on interpreting life through the lens of scripture and having an eternal perspective. Using 1 Peter 1:22 he shared three truths for us to remember: obedience to the word (which requires we know it), pure motives that cause us to focus everything we do on Jesus, and loving others – especially those who are difficult to love. We then ended the service with a time of response – one that was truly unique and yet very moving. He reviewed each of the three truths he had taught on. As he mentioned each one he would stop and ask people to stand if they felt God had spoken to them in regards to that particular truth, and at the end he prayed for everyone that was standing. It was a very touching and moving experience.
I attended three other sessions today, one in the morning entitled “Ultimate Ideas for Worship & Music Ministry”, which gave some very practical ideas for growing the music ministry (several of which I am going to be able to implement), and then two in the afternoon. One of the afternoon sessions was a reading session, but the other was entitled “Leading a Worship Culture Change.” The presenter, a gentleman named Michael Adler from Alabama, talked about not getting caught up in the latest “fad” but focusing repeatedly and consistently on Jesus. It was a wonderful reminder that I need to understand my own church’s culture as I plan worship and work to fit into that culture. It was a great piggy-back to my session yesterday afternoon where we discussed Vital Contexualized Worship.
Then once my sessions were over I went for my hike – something I have honestly been looking forward to since I arrived. I ended up doing about five miles this afternoon before dinner – I would have gone further, but I needed to be back in time to eat dinner before 6:30 when the cafeteria closed!
It’s amazing to see the majesty of God through the beauty of creation. I actually took a couple of pictures with my cell phone and am including these in my blog below, but they don’t do the scenery any justice (as anyone who’s ever tried to photograph a mountain knows…) Even in the midst of the “wilderness” atop the mountain, though, I was struck by the gift of technology I had with me. See, I’ve been taking notes for the conference on my new iPad. Every day they sync up with my laptop and my iPod touch. For my hike I took my iPod with me because it tracks my mileage via a chip in my hiking boot called Nike+, but in addition to that while I was up on the mountain I was able to pull out my iPod and not only read back on my notes and reflect on what I was learning, but I also was able to read my Bible because I have it loaded on my iPad. And not only was I able to read my notes and my Bible, but I was also able to do a little journaling and then have it sync back to my iPad and laptop!!! Okay, very cool (I know, I sound like a technology geek). Anyway, here is an excerpt of what I wrote on the mountain:
I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.Gal 2:20, 6:14, 16Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.
All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.2 Cor 5:17-19
I’m sitting on top the mountain and was reflecting on the past two days, as well as reading through the book of Galatians. I am thinking about the cross and the work Christ accomplished through it. I’ve been challenged this week to constantly keep the message of the cross central to worship planning. Jesus said that when he is lifted up he will draw all men to himself. It’s not my job to draw people to him but to lift him up and he will take care of the rest. This week in worship I’ve been in awe at how the worship leaders are able to usher us in to his presence by simply focusing us on Jesus and the cross and then letting him take it from there – which he has!
Which is why the verses listed above are so meaningful – because of Jesus and his work on the cross I am now clean and pure and can live forever with a holy God. More than that, though, is that my interactions with him don’t have to wait until I die. He is here with me now, today, and everyday.