Posture in Worship (Issue 2.28)


It’s always hard to write the final devotional of the year – there is so much to reflect upon and also so much to look forward to after the summer.

But instead of a sappy reflection or a “Go Get ‘em” pump-you-up speech before our break, I’m going to ask for you to consider something over the summer.  The something is what our bodies say about worship when we sing.

Have you ever noticed on Sundays that there are actually people in the congregation that don’t look excited to be at church?  Have you ever noticed there are people in the choir that don’t look excited to be at church?  What is that all about?  I’ve actually seen people SITTING IN THEIR SEATS or standing WITH THEIR ARMS FOLDED when we sing “When Christ shall come, with shout of acclimation, and take me home, what joy shall fill my heart!”!

So over the next couple of months as you worship in the congregation (and not from on the platform), think about how your posture and body language either reinforce or contradict the words of the songs.  For example, if the words of a song say that you “bow”, why is it you are looking up?  Even if the words call us to “fall on my knees” or “bow down”, even doing something as bowing our heads toward the ground can communicate (to ourselves, to God, and to others) an attitude of submission, repentance, and/or respect.  Or if the song says, “We lift our voices, we lift our hands, we lift our lives up to you” why do our hands stay in our pockets (or crossed in front of us)?  And if you’re not into that whole “lifting the hands” thing, wouldn’t it be better to just not sing the words?

Here’s the point – if we are singing for an audience of One – God – then to say one thing with our lips and another with our bodies makes us to be hypocrites (at best) or liars (at worst).  If we can’t do something as simple as lift a hand (when our lips say we are going to do it) or bow a head (when our lips say we are going to do it), how can we expect God (or anyone for that matter) to believe us when our lips say we “surrender all to Jesus” or “lay it all down”?  It is in the little things that integrity and character are proven, and to him who is responsible with little much is given.  Sometimes people express that they don’t feel God is present when singing takes place.  Perhaps that’s because our lips and our actions don’t agree.  Perhaps it’s because what God sees is a bunch of hypocrites who don’t do what they say they will do.

And that just ain’t a good situation to be in.  Challenge and encourage each other to be making sure your verbal and non-verbal communication agree (what’s the statistic? 75% of all communication is non-verbal?  If that’s true, God gets quite a message from some people…)

The greatest joy I have on Sunday mornings when I lead worship is seeing people’s faces reflect the words they are singing as they communicate with God.  And I have to believe that God feels the same way.  And there are plenty here who do that – look for them next week, and see the difference in worship.

Practical Ways to Share Jesus (2.27)


Last weekend I ended our devotional with the following statement question: How does the saving work of Jesus spill over into “practical, real-world implications” in my life?  Today, hopefully, we’ll begin to look at some answers.

Let’s start by piggy-backing the verses Bill mentioned in the sermon this morning: Ephesians 5:1-2, 5:21-33, 6:1-4, and 1 Timothy 4:12.  Here’s a quick summary, based on the notes I took this morning:

  • Eph 5:1-2: Follow God, walk in love, and imitate Christ;
  • Eph 5:21-33: Husbands and wives should love and respect each other;
  • Eph 6:1-4: Children should respect their parents and parents (in particular fathers) should not provoke their children to anger;
  • 1 Tim 4:12: We need to be an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity.

That seems like a good place to start.  But these are still fairly general, so let’s give some specific examples from every-day life where these might be illustrated:

  1. Not speeding up when a weaving car approaches from behind on 264 and tries to pass me;
  2. Doing the dishes without my wife asking me to;
  3. Playing with the kids instead of trying to “get my stuff done” (that could easily be done at another time);
  4. Looking at people when they talk to us;
  5. Instead of saying, “I’ll keep you in my prayers” taking a few minutes right at that moment to say, “Can I pray for you right now about this?”
  6. Picking up trash on the floor at work (or any place, really) (instead of leaving it for the custodian because, “That’s their job”);
  7. Refraining from laughing at any joke that contains racial or ethnic degradation (more commonly called “stereotyping”) – and even telling people the joke isn’t funny because of the racial/ethnic contents;
  8. Making a habit of saying “Please” and “Thank You”
  9. Allow someone to step in front of you at the grocery store check-out or fast-food ordering line;
  10. Spend an evening playing games that opens up conversation and encourages your family members.

Now, these are some simple things that we can do every day to help show people we have Christ’s love in us.  They are simple things, yet hard to do.  They aren’t meant to be legalistic in any way, and doing or not doing them doesn’t make us more or less holy.  But they are some little ways in which we can encourage and lift up others around us and reach out to them.  Some may go un-noticed by everyone but God, and that’s okay.

Too often we get concerned with what we must do or not do as a Christian, and that list so often contains “big stuff”, yet that “big stuff” is hard to measure and so we get discouraged and feel we fall short.  But the “good works” that Jesus saved us to do should be going on every moment of every day.  While a “big” action like building a Habitat house is wonderful, the truly great things are the “little” actions we take day by day that form habits in us which continually paint the picture of Jesus to those around us.

Oh to Be Like Jesus! (2.26)


I recently finished reading the chapter in Dug Down Deep on sanctification – the journey we travel with God as we are made more into his image.  Joshua Harris, the author, asked the following question and also gave his answer: “Does God really change people?  He absolutely does.  God’s Word promises it.  And the life of every true believer proves it.”

And this caused me to think: how am I becoming more holy?  What is God changing in me?  When I was a child my mother hand a sign that hung on the refrigerator which read, “If you were accused of being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to prove it?”

I have to say that one of the things I enjoy most in life is watching people grow and change – perhaps it’s why I became a teacher.  To see a person learn to do something new is a wonderful thing.  But what is truly miraculous is watching someone change a bad behavior pattern and replace it with a healthy one.  And that’s kind of what sanctification is all about – leaving behind the “flesh” (as Paul calls it) and replacing it with Jesus.  Jesus didn’t just come to save me, but to transform me.

One of my favorite books is entitled The Life You’ve Always Wanted by John Ortberg.  Read what he has to say about spiritual growth:

“We are pregnant with possibilities of spiritual growth and moral beauty so great that they cannot be adequately described as anything less than the formation of Christ in our very lives…every moment of my life is an opportunity to learn from God how to live like Jesus…

“I suspect that if someone had asked the apostle Paul or the apostle John about his spiritual life, his first question would have been, ‘Am I growing in love for God and people?’  Practices such as the reading of Scripture and praying are important – not because they prove how spiritual we are – but because God can use them to lead us into life.  We are called to do nothing less than to experience day by day what Paul wrote to the church at Ephesus: ‘But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love which he loved us even when we were death through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ.’”

I absolutely love the image of being “pregnant” with the possibility of “spiritual growth and moral beauty,” don’t you?  Too often I see the sin in my life or the problems in my life that keep me from getting where I want to go, yet this phrase reminds me to always look towards the future.  What is the picture of “spiritual growth and moral beauty” that I am “pregnant” with?  It’s Jesus!

In a recent class I taught I told my students that my favorite phrase is, “The best is yet to come.”  And it’s true not only for eternity, but for this life as well.  Tomorrow I need to be more like Jesus than I am today, and the next day more than tomorrow, and so on… Too often we make the Christian life out to be a list of rules and regulations – a bunch of do’s and don’ts – but what’s really important is asking, “How can I be more like Jesus?”

Many times when I’m talking with someone and they struggle with discerning the will of God I ask them this question: Which of your choices, once chosen, will most make you like Jesus?  Once you know the answer to that question you’ll know what God’s will is.  God’s will is for us to be like his Son – to be transformed into the image of Jesus for others to see.  We are saved from Hell, but we are also saved for Heaven.  We are saved from sin, but we are also saved for good works.  All of this falls under sanctification and that whole “working out your salvation” thing that Paul writes about (see Phil 2).

I’m going to close with another quote from Joshua Harris.

“God’s saving work through Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection has practical, real-world implications for our lives.  It is truth that can’t be kept on a page or in a house of worship.  It follows us home.  To our school.  To our work.  To our bedrooms.  It grabs hold of every detail of our lives.  Our thoughts.  Our sexuality.  Our money.  Our leisure.  Our relationships.  Our desires.  Our dreams.”

This begs the question: How does the saving work of Jesus spill over into “practical, real-world implications” in my life?  Over the next couple of weeks I hope to explore this thought process with you and, hopefully, offer some suggestions not only for us individually but also collectively as a choir.

Yoda vs. Jesus Christ (2.25)


“Into exile I must go. Failed I have.”     – Yoda

That’s perhaps one of the most disappointing lines I’ve ever heard spoken in a movie.  It comes from Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.  If you watched the old Star Wars you know that Anakin Skywalker was the apprentice of the Jedi Knight Obi-wan Kenobi but then turned to the dark side of the force and became Darth Vader.  The final installment in this series is actually when we see how Darth Vader and Lord Sidious defeat Master Yoda and Obi-wan.  It was a fantastic movie – until the very end.

As the fight between good and evil reaches its climax, evil wins, but not because evil overpowers good.  No, evil wins because good fails to get up and fight, instead choosing to run.  That’s where Yoda’s statement comes in – he has been fighting Lord Sidious and falls down.  Quite honestly, instead of getting back up and fighting to the death he runs like a coward down a turbo-shaft and escapes.  Obi-wan does the same thing – once Darth Vader has been defeated in the fight, instead of delivering a death blow to his opponent to destroy this evil one, Obi-wan walks away to leave Vader to die; unfortunately for him (and everyone else in the universe), Vader is found in time to be saved.  It will be many more years until another Jedi Knight appears on the scene to right the wrongs committed by these two.

From a theatrical standpoint I found this terribly disappointing.  From a theological and philosophical one, though, I find it devastating.  I happened to turn on the TV tonight and I watched this scene from the movie (because it was on).  It saddens me – it really does.  The entire scene reminded me of the quote that reads, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

The philosophy found in the movie is absolutely anti-Christian (perhaps I should say Anti-Christ), yet I find that we often fall victim to it.  How many times do we neglect to stand up for those that need defense?  How often do we silently approve of conversations or jokes we hear (simply because we don’t verbally disapprove of them) at work?   How often do we fail to call ourselves Christians because of who may hear us and what they might think?

And this all goes back to original sin.  When we look at the Genesis narrative we all know that the first “sin” was when Eve took and ate of the fruit.  Yet if we read the text carefully we see that Adam was “with her” (see Gen 3:6).  I strongly believe that the great sin committed by Adam was his failure to stand up for what was right and protect Eve.  No, he wasn’t the one who “took the fruit and ate it” at first, but he also didn’t stop the woman from doing it.  And that is the sin he committed.  There were two sins – one of commission (what Eve did), but also one of omission (what Adam failed to do).  And, like Yoda, when Adam fell down he ran and hid.

But Christ calls us for so much more.  Jesus told Peter that the gates of Hell would not prevail against His church; by describing the gates of Hell in a defensive posture, Christ implies the church would be on the offense.  Yet too often we fail to fight for what is noble and true and right; often because it is “too hard.”

John Wesley said, “Do all the good you can. By all the means you can. In all the ways you can. In all the places you can. At all the times you can. To all the people you can. As long as ever you can.”  His advice challenges all of us to rise from our slumber and do good, not run because evil looks too big.

If you need a scriptural command to not stand still when evil is afoot, read Obadiah 1:11, where those who stood idly by were considered as bad as those who committed the acts of war (see also James 4:17 and Revelation 3:15-16, or even the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25 and Luke 19).

Let us never fall prey to the words of Yoda, for if we do we may never hear, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.” by  our Master Jesus.  Find someone this week for whom you can do good.

Focusing on Jesus (2.24)


“I think many Christians are more interested in chasing a feeling about Jesus that pursuing Jesus himself and reviewing and thinking about the truth of who he is…[in the Christian spiritual life] if you want to feel deeply, you have to think deeply.  Too often we separate the two.  We assume that if we want to feel deeply, then we need to sit around and, well, feel.

“But emotion built on emotion is empty.  True emotion – emotion that is reliable and doesn’t lead us astray – is always a response to reality, to truth.  It’s only as we study and consider truth about Jesus with our minds that our hearts will be moved by the depth of his greatness and love for us…Knowing Jesus and feeling right emotions about him start with thinking about the truth of who he is and what he’s done.  Jesus never asks us how we feel about him.  He calls us to believe in him, to trust him.” (Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep)

It’s strange for me to start a devotional with such an extensive quote from someone else, particularly in regards to such a weighty topic as the doctrine of the incarnation, but this statement sums up so much of what I strive for in planning and leading worship every week.

I view my job of worship leader as both leader and teacher.  In particular, it is my job to empower people to worship Christ (this goes back to the mission statement for the choir, too).  When it comes to empowering people to worship during the service this is as “simple” as leading the worship service (I put simple in quotation marks because it is far from an exact science and anything but simple!)  But it is empowering people to worship when they leave here that is much more difficult, and this is where the role of “Teacher” comes it to play.  I must equip people to lead a lifestyle of worship throughout the week when I am not even present, and that is quite different than leading worship when we are together.

So how do I do that?  In a very real sense by doing with this quote says – by focusing people on Jesus and who he is.  Remember that worship is our response to God and what he has done for us.  If worship is our response that means that God initiates.  How does God initiate?  Well, in a very practical sense (and for our purposes in this discussion), he initiated through sending Jesus to die for us.  Which is why it is so important for me to focus people on Jesus and his work on the cross.

Remember what Jesus said in John 12:32 – that when he is lifted up he will “draw all men unto myself.”  John goes on to elaborate that this is a direct foreshadowing of the cross.  So my job is to give people a constant view of Jesus and the work he completed on the cross.

This is why the words of the songs we sing are the primary criteria for inclusion in the service – more than musical style, melody, and even familiarity (for a further discussion of this you can read back over the devotional “Music Selection in Worship” on the website.)

Which brings us back around in this discussion to our quote at the beginning of the devotional.  Worship is often an emotional event – as it should be – but it is an emotional event that happens as a response to a God-initiated relationship. Every week I pray that God would overwhelm us with the truth of who He is – and as we are overwhelmed we will, naturally, begin to worship further.

Songs (both congregational and choral) are selected for very specific reasons, and those reasons fall under the broad categories of “Leader” and “Teacher” (and sometimes songs fall more into one than the other).  While I am the “Worship Leader” every week, the choir also serves the congregation by leading in worship.  Think about the words you sing every week, let the truths found within them sink deep within your heart and soul.  And then let that truth, and your response to it, be reflected in your attitudes, postures, and even facial expressions that the congregation sees.  As we lift Jesus up, he will draw them to himself.  And as people are drawn to Jesus they will respond to him one way or another (hopefully by moving closer to him and not running away).

Focusing on Jesus (Grace Notes Issue 2.24)


Cross Posted on Grace Notes

“I think many Christians are more interested in chasing a feeling about Jesus that pursuing Jesus himself and reviewing and thinking about the truth of who he is…[in the Christian spiritual life] if you want to feel deeply, you have to think deeply.  Too often we separate the two.  We assume that if we want to feel deeply, then we need to sit around and, well, feel.

“But emotion built on emotion is empty.  True emotion – emotion that is reliable and doesn’t lead us astray – is always a response to reality, to truth.  It’s only as we study and consider truth about Jesus with our minds that our hearts will be moved by the depth of his greatness and love for us…Knowing Jesus and feeling right emotions about him start with thinking about the truth of who he is and what he’s done.  Jesus never asks us how we feel about him.  He calls us to believe in him, to trust him.” (Joshua Harris, Dug Down Deep)

It’s strange for me to start a devotional with such an extensive quote from someone else, particularly in regards to such a weighty topic as the doctrine of the incarnation, but this statement sums up so much of what I strive for in planning and leading worship every week.

I view my job of worship leader as both leader and teacher.  In particular, it is my job to empower people to worship Christ (this goes back to the mission statement for the choir, too).  When it comes to empowering people to worship during the service this is as “simple” as leading the worship service (I put simple in quotation marks because it is far from an exact science and anything but simple!)  But it is empowering people to worship when they leave here that is much more difficult, and this is where the role of “Teacher” comes it to play.  I must equip people to lead a lifestyle of worship throughout the week when I am not even present, and that is quite different than leading worship when we are together.

So how do I do that?  In a very real sense by doing with this quote says – by focusing people on Jesus and who he is.  Remember that worship is our response to God and what he has done for us.  If worship is our response that means that God initiates.  How does God initiate?  Well, in a very practical sense (and for our purposes in this discussion), he initiated through sending Jesus to die for us.  Which is why it is so important for me to focus people on Jesus and his work on the cross.

Remember what Jesus said in John 12:32 – that when he is lifted up he will “draw all men unto myself.”  John goes on to elaborate that this is a direct foreshadowing of the cross.  So my job is to give people a constant view of Jesus and the work he completed on the cross.

This is why the words of the songs we sing are the primary criteria for inclusion in the service – more than musical style, melody, and even familiarity (for a further discussion of this you can read back over the devotional “Music Selection in Worship” on the website.)

Which brings us back around in this discussion to our quote at the beginning of the devotional.  Worship is often an emotional event – as it should be – but it is an emotional event that happens as a response to a God-initiated relationship. Every week I pray that God would overwhelm us with the truth of who He is – and as we are overwhelmed we will, naturally, begin to worship further.

Songs (both congregational and choral) are selected for very specific reasons, and those reasons fall under the broad categories of “Leader” and “Teacher” (and sometimes songs fall more into one than the other).  While I am the “Worship Leader” every week, the choir also serves the congregation by leading in worship.  Think about the words you sing every week, let the truths found within them sink deep within your heart and soul.  And then let that truth, and your response to it, be reflected in your attitudes, postures, and even facial expressions that the congregation sees.  As we lift Jesus up, he will draw them to himself.  And as people are drawn to Jesus they will respond to him one way or another (hopefully by moving closer to him and not running away).