forget yourself in worship

Last week, I smiled with eyes closed at the woman sing-shouting several rows behind me and across the aisle at church. Her honest, lung-filled offering grated on me at first – silently wishing she would find her place in the worship chord and slide in a little less loudly.

Then, I smiled. Her sharp, wide-mouthed notes didn’t irritate me less (growing up a musician’s daughter has its drawbacks), but with eyes closed I imagined a different worship setting.

I imagined a crowd of people of all shapes and sizes and colors and tongues flooding a throne with an uproarious and joyful noise. I imagined new chords and instruments and I imagined that no individual voice could be identified. Every noise jumping out to make the song got swallowed up in the glory of the sound and there was a distinct awareness on the faces of the worshippers that the sound wouldn’t be as beautiful if every single person was not singing.

I smiled because that prideful irritation got planted in me but Christ, in His grace, could uproot it and He did.

This morning as I was reading this reflection by Tony Reinke, my thoughts drifted back to that moment. Why do I guard the Sunday morning experience as if the music is for me? Not that the offering should not be excellent (like I said, I am a musician’s daughter and it is not intolerant to say good music sounds different than bad music), because we should strive to make the best, most beautiful and joyful noise unto the Lord. Our praise offerings should be excellent.

But the Sunday morning experience, the behind the steering wheel radio experience, the living room stage experience and the robed choir experience should all make bold proclamation that the music is for a King seated on a throne. It might, but it doesn’t have to please me.

I’ll admit there are times when I have no audience but the cold air in my Civic, but I’m secretly more interested in my rendition of the Gungor song than I am in its object.

After showing several places in Scripture where Jesus sings, Reinke writes,

God is worshipped around the globe as a result of the all-sufficient work of the resurrected Christ. In this way, Jesus is the Perfect Worshipper of his Father. And from heaven he fulfills the role of Chief Worship Leader of the global church.

We are led in worship in the auditoriums and living rooms and driver’s seats of cars by Christ who directed all praise to the Father.

What song is in your soul today?
How is Christ leading you to join with Him in song?
How can you forget yourself in worship?

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

threading the needle of His mending

I woke up feeling the ugliness. It slipped out my eyelids as I was doing laundry and felt like a freight train as I read my Advent devotional.

It was unnerving yesterday to see people jumping on platforms to make the tragedy in Sandy Hook political. This is a time for weeping and just that. Grief serves as a great reminder that the world is not broken because of systems or structures but because of people. The world is broken because people are not inherently good.

We are broken. We are wayward. We are disasters making disasters.

And so, this morning, when I read these words I remembered why it is important that we understand God’s law. When we look at His commands – at the weight and glory and perfection of them – we know what a mended world would look like.

Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant [this is the purchase of the new covenant], even Jesus our Lord, equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

The words “working in us that which is pleasing in his sight” describe what happens when God writes the law on our hearts in the new covenant. And the words “through Jesus Christ” describe Jesus as the Mediator of this glorious work of sovereign grace.

So the meaning of Christmas is not only that God replaces shadows with Reality, but also that he takes the reality and makes it real to his people. He writes it on our hearts. He does not lay his Christmas gift of salvation and transformation down for you to pick up in your own strength. He picks it up and puts in your heart and in your mind, and seals to you that you are a child of God. (Good News of Great Joy  Advent Devotional, day 15)

His law is true and pure and beautiful. He writes his ways on our hearts when we put down all our human efforts and pick up His finished work on the cross. Then we will obey His commands because we love Him more than what is broken.

In His power and strength, we will act the miracles He has written on our hearts – from one hard fought step to the next. We cannot legislate the mending of this world because the brokenness is deeper than our pens and papers.

The mending of this world must begin in our hearts – by believing that Christ was broken on our behalf, but that He did not stay broken.

When we believe there is only One with power enough to beat brokenness, He grants power that we might thread the needle of His mending.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

a delight that purifies, protects, and perseveres

After reading this post by Tony Reinke at Desiring God, this excerpt from Robert Murray McCheyne’s letter is rumbling around in my soul,

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jer. 17:9. Learn much of the Lord Jesus. For every look at yourself, take ten looks at Christ. He is altogether lovely. Such infinite majesty, and yet such meekness and grace, and all for sinners, even the chief! Live much in the smiles of God. Bask in his beams. Feel his all-seeing eye settled on you in love, and repose in his almighty arms . . . Let your soul be filled with a heart-ravishing sense of the sweetness and excellency of Christ and all that is in Him. Let the Holy Spirit fill every chamber of your heart; and so there will be no room for folly, or the world, or Satan, or the flesh.

He is altogether lovely.

Oh, and how grateful I am that we can know this love! How ready I am to “live much in the smiles of God” and “bask in his beams.” This kind of delight in the Lord not only purifies, but it also protects and perseveres.

When all our delight is found in the One whose love and joy can never be exhausted, we are always safe and always secure. We are swept up into celebration and nestled into the friendliest nook – in the cleft of the Rock. When all our delight is found in Christ, we dance as David – unashamed and giddy with praise in front of the Lord. When all our delight is in the Lord, all our despair and defeat are drowned out.

And, you’ve never seen such perseverance as Christ-drenched delight. Christ, the image of the invisible God who holds all things together and in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell (Colossians 1), has made a way for me through the blood of the cross. I can never run far enough to forget this delight – this deep gladness of rescue and this gift of new life. The delight chases me with thunderstorms and children’s smiles and the taste of a homemade, family dinner.

This delight pushes out from every corner of my soul and expands it, leaving no room for sin or folly or Satan. This delight perseveres to consume a life, even the life where wickedness once reigned.

This delight that purifies, protects, and perseveres is as steadfast as a one hundred-year-old oak tree. Today, I’m resting in its shade with thanks enough for one hundred years.

Even with all its mysterious jumble of branches, it still looks so inviting.

therapy, cohabitation, syndrome success, and momentary marriage

Several things made me emotional today – in mostly good ways. I’d like to share a few of them with you in the form of these links in hopes that you’ll be encouraged, challenged, and spurred on. These are all inroads for conversation. That’s how I see it. The more we take in of our culture, the more ready we are to “give a reason to anyone who asks about the hope that we have.” Hope is not something that shows up once or twice a week. Hope makes appearances in conversations over a coffee or a beer or on the sidelines at a little league game. And these can be inroads, so let’s not waste our opportunities to engage.

  • I appreciated this article from Qideas, “Overcoming the Merely Therapeutic.” In a 2005 study (according to researchers Christian Smith and Melinda Lundquist Denton), teenagers say that worship is, “something like a combination Divine Butler and Cosmic Therapist: he’s always on call, takes care of any problems that arise, professionally helps his people to feel better about themselves, and does not become too personally involved in the process.” Revered Gregory Jensen responds to these findings and also reviews a recent book, Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960–2010 (2012).
  • This article by Scotty Smith, “Pray the Scriptures” for how it seeks to battle the, essentially therapeutic idea, by knowing God through His Word and then forming a conversation from that knowledge.
  • If you’ve got high school graduation parties to attend, think about giving a gift off this book list. It will last longer than the food gift cards and picture frames, promise.
  • This is a brilliant article by writer George Will in the Washington Post on the life of Jon Will – 40 years and going with Down’s Syndrome. I felt like I just watched a beautiful, short film of a life lived well (and still living).
  • Switching gears a bit, this article from the New York Times is more than interesting. The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage is important on so many levels. Something about being published in the NYT gives a topic legitimacy and makes it a valid conversation over cards.
  • This article, “Who Wants to Buy Honduras,” hits pretty close to home for me. With a country whose past is layered with corruption and poverty, are charter cities really the way out?
  • In view of the recent Desiring God conference on men and ministry and masculinity, I appreciated this article from Michael Horton, “Muscular Christianity.” Do you have thoughts on how manly Christianity is or if it is even worth deciding?
  • Lastly, I want to encourage you to watch this film on Ian and Larissa. Their marriage story is absolutely broken and beautiful. May God receive the glory!

Okay, friends. That’s all for now. Click one or two if you have to choose, but just do something with the knowledge.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy