from my notebook

My head is full of thoughts, and I have to write them down.

Archive for the category “worship”

The Cycle of LIFE

A study of history reveals a definite cycle of human spiritual behavior. From the ups and downs of God’s chosen people in the Bible to American history even prior to the Revolution, we have experienced times of closeness to God and times of rebellion.

I have a personal dream to be part of a revival in our country. I read about previous great awakenings and wonder what it must have been like and then visualize one happening today – what effect it would have on our government and daily lives. It’s exciting but also disheartening when I realize how short-lived all the previous ones were. Some even debate if what took place in the 1960s and 70s actually qualifies as a great awakening.

The occurrence of these ups and downs throughout history, I believe, have been significant in delaying God’s decision to rapture the Church. And I have to admit, there are times when I’m not so sure I want to delay him. Regardless of eschatological views on whether we’re in the millennial or the tribulation, or neither, it’s doubtful that Christ will return in the midst of a revival. Prophecy seems to point to things not being so good when that happens.

This leaves us with a conundrum of experiencing a national (or better still, international) revival and theoretically delaying “the rapture,” or continuing in our societal downfall ushering in the end. What do you think?


Weekly Link-Ups


Recent discoveries around the web.

Thinking About Being on the Praise Team?

5 Secret Tech-Savvy Tips For Traveling Abroad

Bluetooth Bulb lets you switch on, time, dim and color your lighting from your phone

10 Most Interesting Lawsuits Against Apple

Ten hidden controls of the iPhone headphones

How To Design A Home Workspace For Two


Worship Team Technology

The Worship Ministry is possibly one of the most technical ministries in the church. We are currently using four computers and the occasional iPad/iPhone during our services, not to mention the planning process itself.

Smart phones are becoming more and more useful. It isn’t a requirement to have one in order to serve on the Tech Team, band, or choir, but it sure helps.

We’ve been using Planning Center Online since almost its inception, and it has become more and more vital with each passing year. Not only are the two or three of us involved in the planning process better connected, but everyone involved in the service is able to see details of what is expected of them.

PCO has great mobile apps for the teams to listen to MP3s of the songs for the week. Our Worship Pastor also builds separate MP3s for the singers’ parts and creates his own song charts for the musicians. All of this allows the teams to prepare before rehearsal and be ready to bring it all together with the group.

PCO also integrates with your online calendar, text messaging carrier, and Facebook to keep your schedule at your finger tips.

We are blessed with great musicians, but there isn’t much depth, so when one or more is out, we used to be forced to go with a stripped down sound that week. Now we have a choice. We can run loops from a laptop on stage. Stripped down is fine, but it’s nice to have a choice, especially if those absences are last-minute after the set has been prepared.

Most people live busy schedules. The more technology can be used for communication and planning, the better. It may require an upfront effort to learn something new, but it will be time well spent.

Focus Your Singing on the Words

John Wesley (1703-1791), founder of Methodism

I ran across this article, In 4 Sentences, John Wesley Teaches You How To Sing In Church, recently with an awesome quote from John Wesley.

“Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he comes in the clouds of heaven.”

Since worship, music, and singing in church have pretty much always been an issue, I’m convinced they always will be. For those who truly care about getting it right, Wesley has great, timeless advice.

I’ve been going through Robert Morgan’s Near to the Heart of God devotional this year. Many of the hymns I’m not familiar with even though I grew up in a small, traditional church. (Our pianist only knew a few songs, so…)

Not knowing the melodies of these old songs makes it easier to focus on the words. For the hymns I am familiar with, I find myself trying to read and not sing the songs, to just put the melody aside. All that is fine for a quiet time with God, but how do we do that when the songs are actually being sung?

It will take much effort. The sound Wesley refers to could be music style or quality, both of which can be a distraction. We really do have to be committed to making our worship about God and not ourselves.

If your worship leader is selecting theologically sound songs, make a practice of focusing your heart on those words. “Attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually.”

Remember, the words are what matter, not the melody, music, or performance.

Are You in Prison?

English: Jail Bars icon Русский: Иконка тюремн...

Psalm 142:7says “Free me from prison so that I can praise Your name.” David wasn’t actually in prison when he prayed that. It just felt like it because he was hiding in fear for his life.

The worries and cares of our world can put us in a prison of sorts, making it difficult to praise God. Freedom from that prison doesn’t necessarily mean those worries and troubles go away. Most often it simply means we’ve pushed past them enough to “praise his name.”

It’s a mental (or spiritual) prison we put ourselves in when we lose sight of, as verse 5 states, “You [God] are my shelter, my portion in the land of the living.” That is your Get Out of Jail Free card. Are you in prison?

Authenticity and Planning

Carlos Whittaker has a great article in this month’s Sunday Magazine on how technology has affected our need to plan ahead for services and other programs. There was a time when only less than a handful of people were involved in carrying out a regular church service. That meant much could be done at the last minute because no one else needed to know or prepare anything. That’s not the case in more in technology driven churches.

Carlos makes some very good points. I believe technology forces us to dig deeper, spend more time with God, and be more disciplined in hearing from him. God certainly knows what we need to do well ahead of time. We just need to start listening a little more and a little sooner.

Excellent Heart, then Excellent Music

Singer, songwriter Shaun Groves posted a great article about pursuing excellence in our church’s music. The same can be said for the technical aspect of worship as well.

It is always what’s in our heart that comes first, and when our hearts are in love with and devoted to God, we will perform our service to the best of our ability. In the church, it just doesn’t work the other way around.

Heretical Hymns

I am often amused by repeated historical complaints in the church, especially those pertaining to music. People will use all kinds of reasoning to support getting what they like.

English: A picture of Fanny Crosby. Rationale:...

English: A picture of Fanny Crosby. Rationale: The subject died in 1915, prior to 1923, making this image public domain in the USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Robert Morgan tells about one such complaint in his book Near to the Heart of God.

When Ira Sankey and Fanny Crosby came along, they introduced a new kind of church music by relaxing the melodies, adding choruses, lightening the messages, and calling them gospel songs. This didn’t go over well with everyone. Robert Anderson, for example, thought Crosby’s song “Safe in the Arms of Jesus” was ‘reeking with mere sentiment.’

How familiar that all sounds. I’ve heard some of these same complaints about the contemporary music being sung in church today. Most people don’t like change, but outside the church it is a mere nuisance. Inside the church, change is heresy.

Fanny Crosby is one of America’s most beloved hymn writers penning songs like “Tell me the Story of Jesus,” “Blessed Assurance,” “Rescue the Perishing,” and “He Hideth my Soul.” Crosby wrote thousands of hymns many of which are the favorites of today’s traditional church.

It would be nice if one day we could learn from history and realize that just because something we love about church changes doesn’t make it heresy.

How’s Your Hunger?

I recently finished Margaret Feinberg‘s Hungry for God and wanted to share some of my favorite quotes from it.

I’ve learned that God’s voice is the only entree that can nourish our ethereal cravings. Hearing and experiencing, rather than eating, assuages spiritual hunger.

The image of a whisper speaks to the posture of our relationship with God…the stillness of the whisper grabs his [Elijah’s] heart and brings him to a place where is able to receive God’s answer.

God often takes years to position us in the place he has in mind, rarely revealing the entire plan at one time.

Some have said that prayer doesn’t change God, but only changes us. Yet on several occasions in the Bible, God makes a concession based on a mere human request.

If we will listen for God’s voice in our prayers and study, if we wait for God to show up in unexpected moments and search for him in vibrant acts of love, we’ll find that God will begin fulfilling our hunger as we draw closer to him.

Even Jesus asks his own Father a rather scandalous question: whether someone else could drink his cup of impending death. The answer is no, but Jesus was bold enough to ask.

If you could ask God anything, what would you ask?

When we learn to wait well – not grasping for what isn’t ours or clutching to the past – our faith grows, and our ability to hear from God becomes more fine-tuned.

When all we hear is silence, sometimes God is trumpeting a message to others.

Sometimes love asks us to limit our freedom on behalf of someone else.

God can teach us just as much through a closed door as an open one.

I’m convinced that people today know a lot more about how to become a Christian than about how to be one.

Where Personal Preferences in the Church Go Wrong

Anglican choir music - a guest choir practices...

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve written on several occasions about personal preferences in church and how they should not be completely set aside. They are what help shape a church’s personality. But they can definitely cause problems, and this article sent to me by a friend seems like a good example of personal preferences gone bad. The issue here is not that the author has preferences for his type of church, but that he implies all other types of churches are wrong or ineffective at best.

The author cites Willow Creek’s seek-sensitive movement as support for his preferences. I’ve written about seeker-sensitive programs as well, stating that true seekers will not be offended by symbols of Christianity. Removing organs, choirs, pulpits, etc. was not Willow’s problem. Their problem was shallow teaching for which they admitted.

What many fail to accept is times change, things change, methods change in the church just like everywhere else. Technology plays a big role in this, and there is no getting around it. Yes, the organ is the perfect instrument for choral singing, but choral singing is not the only way to sing praises. And the organ was certainly not welcomed by all when first introduced to the church. Classic hymns have also had their share of controversy. And the pulpit has its own story.

I really wish Christians would focus more on spreading the gospel than judging each others’ methods of spreading the gospel.

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