Friday, June 29, 2007

The Power of Silence...

"Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, 'Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.' " (Mark 6:31).

Here in the United States, where money is king, hard work expected, and anything less looked as "laziness," it is all to easy to forget the importance of solitude. I confess, I struggle daily to find the silence and solitude that my soul so desperately needs. During the weeks I fail to find this time, it shows in my shortness with others (especially my wife). On the flip side, when I manage to find this time, I can feel it breathe life into my soul and this, too, shows.

It is no coincidence that in 1 Kings 19, when God speaks to Elijah, it is in a "gentle whisper" and not in the fire, the wind or the earthquake.

I have found it to be true that "God is a gentleman" in how he relates to me. What I mean is that God rarely, if ever forces His will on me. Instead, He shows me and waits for me to make the move. He speaks and waits for me to listen. He promises and allows me to find Him. This is the walk of faith and trust.

So what's the point of all this? Simply put; if God speaks in whispers, and further He relates to us as a gentleman, then it follows that we must create time and space in our lives to hear His whispers and follow His "gentlemanly" nudgings. QUESTION: do you have space in your life to hear the "whispers" of the Holy One?

Challenge: The challenge for each of us is to find the time and space in our lives to hear God. It is imperative for our soul's survival. What if you went to a doctor and he told you that unless you stop drinking coffee, you will die within the year. What would you do? In the same way, crowding out solitude and silence from our lives will significantly shorten our soul's survival. I can think of no darker place to be then to be "physically alive" but "dead in the soul."

Feed your soul - follow Jesus' command and "get away" to rest and commune with the God who loves you so much.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Good to Remember

When it comes to "worship wars," I have tons of patience and grace when the conversation is held in terms of preference and personal likes/dislikes. When I tend to lose my patience is when the conversation is couched in terms of "right and wrong." It's important to remember that our relationships with God are deeply personal, our worship of Him does not look the same for all of us and as a result, music too will reflect a variety of styles...it must reflect a variety of styles. When it comes to "new worship music" and its place in our worship services, it is crucial to remember that even our sacred hymns were not always accepted in the church. Consider the following list of complaints about church music;

1) It's too new; like an unknown language
2) It's not as melodious as the more established style.
3) There are so many songs that it is impossible to learn them all.
4) This new music creates disturbances and causes people to act in an indecent and disorderly manner.
5) It places too much emphasis on instrumental music rather than on godly lyrics.
6) The lyrics are often worldly, even blasphemous.
7) It is not needed, since preceding generations have gone to heaven without it.
8) It is a contrivance to get money.
9) It monopolizes the Christian's time and encourages them to stay out late.
10) These new musicians are young upstarts, and some of them are lewd and loose persons.

So what's the point? These complaints are adapted from a document written in 1723 directed against the use of hymns.

My point is not to speak against hymns, but merely to make sure we keep the conversation pointed in the right direction. It's ok to talk about our likes and dislikes when it comes to music; it's ok to talk about our preferences and desires. However, it's mostly a discussion about just that, preferences. God can be honored with chant and electric guitars, with pipe organ and drums.

"...you will find Him when you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul" - Deut 4:29

Friday, June 15, 2007

A Great Reminder

I was recently meeting with a member of our church, discussing various things regarding worship, music and the church. In the course of our conversation, we came across a great reminder for all of us. I quote:

"One man sent me a note saying he loves the old hymns but can't stand modern praise and worship music. I wrote back reminding him that if we ever raise a generation of believers which doesn't write its own music, Christianity is dead. Every era needs to compose its own songs to God, and the music of the younger generation will seldom sound like that of the older one. Just ask Isaac Watts, the father of English hymnody, whose elders railed against his new-fangled hymns."

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Worship as an 'end' or a 'beginning?'

The biggest danger in worship? That "it" becomes the "end" instead of the "means." Let me try and explain...the biggest danger I see in worship is that the "worship experience" and all that it entails; the emotions, the lyrics, the music, the band, the lights, the sounds, the noise - all of it - become the goal and the end point, instead of worship simply being a way to connect with God. Sally Morgenthaler, a longtime proponent of worship evangelism has had a shift in her own thinking on this. Church must go beyond the 4 walls for it to be effective. Her article explaining her journey is a must read (click here).

Here at Northlake, we are turning the ship and realizing that "good works" must accompany "good news" in order for us to make an impact in the kingdom of God. How do I know this? Quite simply, we are just following the example of Jesus. There's nothing wrong with doing events to try and "get people to come to church" but I am convinced that a far greater impact can/will/is being made when churches seek to "go to the people."

So what part does worship play in this? To be sure, worship, or the "corporate singing" part of worship that we do on Sunday mornings will continue to be an important way for us to "connect to God." And to be sure, I believe that people, to a certain extent can be led to Jesus through the worship of others. However, I believe more strongly that what the un-reached world in the U.S. is looking for is a church that takes seriously its place in the community by reaching out to meet their needs. We believe at Northlake that "Good Works" lead to "Good Will" which gives us the platform to share the "Good News."

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