A Thought about Congregational Singing

Like everyone else, I have my own preferences for congregational singing.

But the people of God are to come from all
nations,
peoples,
ages,
classes, and
cultures.
If the Church is what Christ died to make her,
she will be beautifully, amazingly diverse.

Congregational singing is communal.
It is inclusive.
It is uniting.
Its goal, its dream, its aspiration is to connect
all that we are as God’s people to
all that He is.

The Church is bigger than me.
It is wonderfully vast and varied.
Father, don’t shrink her congregational song to my size.
Expand my mind and heart to
embrace everyone You embrace.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: The Reason We Sing
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Our Daily Bread

“Give us today our daily bread.”
(Matthew 6:11, NIV)

When the people of Israel were traveling through a vast desert and were hungry, God gave them “daily bread” (Exodus 16:11-31). It was a flake-like substance called manna. Each morning they had to gather a supply for that one day. If they tried to keep enough for the next day, it rotted. But on the day before the Sabbath, they were to gather enough for two days. God didn’t want them to have to work on the Sabbath.

Manna was a daily provision, sufficient for any need but impossible to hoard. God could have provided for their hunger any way He chose. Why would He choose this way? He was teaching them to depend on Him every day, one day at a time (see Deuteronomy 8:3).

Give us today our daily bread. Out of the entire Lord’s Prayer, only this one petition covers the wants that normally fill our prayers. Doesn’t this “one wish” seem small and unsatisfying? After all, most of us aren’t worried about starving, at least not today.

We want more. We want enough to feel secure. We want enough to relax a little in what we have. God wants the opposite. He wants to keep us resting in Him alone. He will not grant His children any security outside of Himself.

Why? He knows that a constant, close relationship with Him is the key to our happiness and well-being. Daily dependence teaches and forms that relationship. None of us ever graduate from His school of dependence. He will not let you hoard everything you need, and you cannot see the future. Any security you think you’ve grasped is only an illusion. He will always and forever be your only security and your only supply. Even in the wealth and abundance of heaven, He Himself will be the only source of every blessing.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Our Daily Bread
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Your Chosen People

All-wise Father, You have chosen to reveal Yourself to me through
other people,
other believers,
deeply flawed as they are.

Through them, You teach me and
give me the privilege of teaching.

You encourage me and
give me the chance to encourage others.

You love me with
a human touch and
a human word
and give me the opportunity to love others the same way.

You enable me to
be who You want me to be and
enjoy all You want me to enjoy
through these
precious,
imperfect,
colorful,
wildly unpredictable, and
thoroughly human people all around me.

Father, help me to
always listen and
always speak to them with
gentleness,
love,
humility, and
gratitude. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Philippians 2:1-8
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Rejoicing in the Darkness

When our children were small, a severe ice storm struck Kansas City. Ice-laden branches fell across electric lines, killing power in much of the city. For three days we were without all electricity. Then it came on for a few hours, only to go out again for four more days. That was one full week in the dead of winter with no light, no heating, no cooking, no appliances – no anything.

Preparing meals was tricky. Keeping warm and entertained was difficult. But without question, darkness was the toughest part. I can’t adequately describe how oppressive were those long winter nights. They dragged on like months, and our whole frame of mind was affected. Even though we knew we’d eventually have power again, it didn’t feel that way.

Then, without warning, the lights came on. I’ll never forget our daughter, Kindra’s, reaction. Like someone had set her on fire, she spontaneously dashed through the house, waving her arms, laughing and yelling with hysterical joy. The rest of us felt the same but weren’t so uninhibited.

Darkness is the toughest part of many of our difficulties. We find a way to deal with the specific hardships and keep going, but the cloud of depression is the hardest to take. We go through long periods when all seems dead or dying, when we sense no encouragement and no hope of any kind. God seems the most distant in the areas that matter most.

Caught in such darkness, faced with an unknown future, our fears create their own version of reality. They imagine a world without God’s power and love. There we are forced to fend for ourselves against overwhelming troubles attacking us from every side. As we succumb to our fears, we live in that false reality, reacting to its imaginary circumstances.

During such times, I’ve discovered why the New Testament so strenuously and repeatedly urges us to rejoice in the Lord.

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!…The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything. (Philippians 4:4-6, NIV)

When pressures knock us out of focus and threaten our peace of mind, nothing helps like stopping to remember God. Look away from the imaginary world of your fears and from the grip of the temporary present. Look to Him. Recall out loud the unchanging truth about Him. Use your mind and your voice to rejoice in who He is and all He has done down through the ages. Recite in detail His many acts of love and faithfulness to you. Start, “Lord, I remember when . . .”

Say again, “Lord, I know You are with me. I know You are with me right now and always. And I will trust You.”

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases power to the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31, NIV)

Listen and sing:
Hymn: A Life of Thanksgiving
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The Ultimate Treasure

Jesus said:

 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field. 

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls. When he found one of great value, he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.” (Matthew 13:44-46, NIV)

Father, You are life’s ultimate treasure.
You are that one pearl of surpassing value.

Every other good,
every other goal
is a mirage and a passing distraction.
You are life that never ends.
You are love that satisfies deeply and completely.
You are security that can never be threatened.

You are making me more than I ever dreamed I could be.

My Lord, I gladly release everything else and
embrace You!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Pearl of Great Price
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

Together

Father, when I come to Your house to worship,
I never come alone.
I come as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ, all of us
redeemed by His blood and
united by His Spirit.
I come as part of the universal People of God
spanning all ages and nations.

Together, we come as Your temple,
Your holy dwelling place.
You are building us as a living, breathing, eternal home for Yourself,
reflecting,
exuding, and
incarnating Your magnificence.

Together, we are the Body of Christ.
He is our Head.
We are His hands and feet,
privileged and empowered to act out
His boundless love here on earth.

Together, we are the Bride of Christ,
devoted to Him alone
body, mind, and spirit.
He has set us apart for Himself, and
our destiny is an eternity of joyful oneness with Him.

Father, when I come to You in worship,
I come together with all Your people,
in Your Spirit,
through Your Holy Son. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: We Have Come, God’s Living Temple
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Truth

from the book, ONE WITH OUR FATHER
John 8:31-32

“If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:31-32, NIV)

The Truth—
deep, unchanging, absolute reality.
We long to know it,
to see it,
to grasp and embrace it.
We long to live in this Truth,
to move and breathe in harmony with it,
to stand on it and rest in it
completely, constantly, forever.

As the Son of the Father,
as the Creator and Source of all, Jesus
speaks the Truth,
lives the Truth, and
is the Truth.
His Spirit within us is the Spirit of Truth.
As we live in Him and He in us,
we are wrapped forever in the full reality of all He is.
In Him life is right and good and complete, and
we are free! 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: I Have the Truth
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In the Silence

Psalm 62

Father, I live in the endless, all-enveloping noise of
my plans and my desires,
my success and my failures,
my health and my comfort,
my time and my obligations,
my money and my possessions,
my ambitions and my problems,
my job,
my relationships, and
my satisfaction.
All these desperately, perpetually cry for attention,
shouting their
empty threats and
empty promises.
All are too small and too shallow to
harm or
fulfill
my life in You.

Father, I turn from them and
turn to You,
the All-encompassing One,
the All-sufficient,
the All-in-all.
In the quietness, I find You to be
all joy,
all hope,
all truth,
all goodness, and
all peace –
all I could ever want or need.
So in this endless, all-enveloping silence
I wait and hope,
I move and rest
in You. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Psalm 62
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from Prepare Yourself for Worship

As You Lead

Father, as we prepare to gather for worship,
prepare each of us to act as You lead.

We want to glorify You.
We want to bless
Your people in
Your name.
Speak, Lord.
Prod us.
Use us as pleases you.

Help us to listen for Your still small voice in
the big things and
the small things.
Fill our routines with new meaning
as we pay new attention to
Your Word and
Your Spirit.

When You prompt us in unexpected ways, Father,
may we obey.
By our obedience, we know You will make today’s gathering of Your people
all You want it to be.

That is what we want too, Lord.
Use us today. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Speak Your Word, My Father
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Slaves to a Lie

Jesus promised His followers:

“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32, NASB)

What did He mean?
From what does God’s truth set us free?

He sets us free from the lies of sin and Satan.
Realize that the truth is never on Satan’s side.
He is a defeated foe with
limited powers.
Therefore lies are always his main weapon.
Jesus said of him:

“He…does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44, NASB)

Sin and Satan continually make promises they can’t keep.
When he tempts you,
he is promising a happiness, a satisfaction,
that neither he nor his sin can possibly deliver.

What’s more, the Bible says that when we give in to such deceiving sin,
we make ourselves its slave.
We give the lie power over us.
Jesus said,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.” (John 8:34)

The Apostle Paul wrote:

Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? (Romans 6:16, NASB)

As slaves of sin,
slaves of a lie,
we are compelled to sin,
chasing it for satisfactions it can never bring.

When we turn to Jesus and walk in His truth,
we are set free from that slavery to a lie.
The truth that is in Jesus sets us free.

Now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:22-23, NASB)

This truth that is in Jesus,
this glorious reality,
is more than just facts to be believed.
Jesus not only speaks the truth.
He also thinks the truth and
lives the truth.
Jesus is the truth.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6, NASB)

Jesus is the glorious reality of
God’s love and life
filling our world.
And in Him,
in the Spirit of Truth,
we become part of that reality.
In Him we
think the truth,
speak the truth, and
live the truth.
As we follow Jesus,
as we continue in His word,
His truth sets us free from slavery to a lie.
We can now
think and breathe,
speak and live
the beautiful, loving truth that
is in Him alone.

“If the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.” (John 8:36, NASB)

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Think, Speak, and Live the Truth
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