Recently I got a call from a worship pastor friend who was befuddled and discouraged. He was deeply hurt.  He had received a hand-written anonymous note after worship one Sunday, attacking him and accusing him of being a “performer”.  That term – “performance” was consistently used, over and over to demean and compare his leadership with that of a polished actor, discharging his duties as a professional musician void of genuine heart and motives.  I felt sorry for the writer of the note.  They had become the handmaiden of evil.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard this before. Everyone has an opinion.  We enter worship every week with assumptions and preconceived notions.  We have preferences.  We know what we like and dislike.  When kept in their proper context, they can be beneficial.  Yet when they motivate us towards prejudice and judgement of someone else’s worship, we are in dangerous waters.  Profoundly dangerous with the risk of losing something precious!

King David was finally restoring the Ark of the covenant to it’s rightful place.  With great and profound worship, he moved the Ark to the City of David.  It was indeed the very presence of God.  The scriptures tells us that David “Danced with all his might before the Lord”.  He did so, in what was basically his undergarments or linen ephod typically worn by the levites or priests.  This picture in 2 Samuel 6: 14-23, tells us that in all this grand splendor, David’s wife, Michal, “looked down from the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart“.

         With great and profound worship, he moved the Ark to the City of David.

Later, when David comes home to “bless his household” he is met by Michal who satirically greets him: “How the King of Israel honored himself today!”  She said. “He exposed himself today in the sight of the slave girls of his subjects like a vulgar person would expose himself”.  Michal had looked down on David from her lofty perch and proclaimed his worship vulgar.  She had passed judgement.  In her view, he was offensively performing before the slave girls.  David’s response: “I was dancing before the Lord…I will celebrate before the Lord…I will humble myself even more and humiliate myself”.  His motivation was the joy of the Lord.  And…it was pleasing to God!

As David’s worship was pleasing to the Lord, so Michal’s words were repugnant and pronounced the chill of her heart.  Verse 23 simply says: “and Michal had no child to the day of her death”.  Most Biblical scholars believe this was because of God’s removal of His Spirit and blessings from her life.  Her name was removed from the list of wives and she is not mentioned again.  Ichabod – the glory has departed!

      As David’s worship was pleasing to the Lord, so Michal’s words pronounced the chill of her heart.

As my friend is reading this note to me, I feel the chill and venom of Michal’s prejudice and judgement: “you are a performer”.  Yet little does she know, he has prayed, sought after God, planned, rehearsed and laid his life before his King!  He has stood before the people to point them towards Jesus.  Yet from this modern-day Michal’s lofty perch, she sees a musician who is too polished, too rehearsed and too slick.  Maybe his hair is too trendy and his clothes too progressive.  Maybe his voice is too pure and his musicianship too finely tuned.  I wonder, should he sing pitchy or mess up some lyrics to show his humanity?  Is he too tightly wound?  Too happy?  Too exuberant to be believable?  Does he not pass the litmus test of your own superior worship?  I wonder what the view is from Michal’s elevated & spiritually enlightened perch?

I do know from God’s view, He loves the heartfelt worship of His children.  The Worship Pastor, team, band/orchestra, choir, leaders who spend hours and hours rehearsing their craft do it out of love and devotion.  They wrestle with the tension of good motives.  They come early and leave late.  They are artist, servants, passionate and devoted.  Just like all of us, they are broken people in need of grace.  They are a gift to the church!

     I do know from God’s view, He loves the heartfelt worship of His children.

Remember these 7 things – lest you find yourself like Michal – devoid of God’s presence:

  1. Never, ever, judge someone else’s worship!  God is the judge, not you!
  2. Never, ever again accuse your worship leaders of performing.  This arrogance says more about you, your motives and heart!
  3. Never demean your artist because they’re too good at what they do.  This should really go without saying…
  4. Never, ever assume your preferences, assumptions and preconceived notions are shared or even valid!  Leave them at the door.
  5. Love your worship leaders.  Pray for them.  Support them even when you don’t “get” them!
  6. Always remember: our worship is motivated by God, for God, to God!
  7. It’s not about you!  Never has been…never will be!

Michal called vulgar that which was beautiful to God!  In so doing she made a huge and serious misjudgement.  She became the thief to rob David’s joy.  In the end, God took it seriously enough to remove His presence, retrieve His blessing and leave her barren.  She became irrelevant.  Don’t make the same mistake.  Look into the mirror and allow God to prepare your heart to explode with the same joy, praise, worship and celebration as did David’s.

Recently I watched a video of a man held captive for years, set free and returned home.  When he got off the plane he fell to his knees, kissed the ground and raised his hands in worship…thanking God for his freedom, his family, his home.  No doubt, it was a perfect picture of a heart bursting with gratitude.  He knew he’d been given something he didn’t deserve and all the simple pleasures of life were now magnified.  What once was lost, was now found.

This got me thinking!  I wondered if I was as thankful for the simple things as this man.  I wondered if I had become entitled, spoiled & privileged.  Maybe grace had become expected, as if I were owed this life of mine.  Maybe I was charging into every day with the demand: “give me a straight and easy path”, “give me luxuries not known by most” and “give me what you owe me”.  Not that I would ever say that or outright embrace this notion, but instead maybe my heart had drifted?  Maybe…

As I watched this man again…it reminded me of my past.  It reminded me of times when I felt the same way.  It reminded me of my youth, when every day was an adventure.  It reminded me of laughter in rain, my gorgeous bride walking the isle towards her awaiting bridegroom.  It reminded me of my newborn sons’ cry and the fresh smile of a little girl always meant for me!  It stirred something in me.  It stirred that sense so vital to knowing the depth of His grace.  It brought an ember of thankfulness!

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.  For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”   2 Corinthians 9:11-12

The doorway to knowing God is absolute.  There is no substitute and no way around it.  Without a heart of gratitude, we can never know much less experience God.  A thankful heart is a heart full.  A person of gratitude is a person who has the very touch of God on them.

Here are the four marks or attributes of those who’ve discovered the journey of thanksgiving:

 

  • A grateful heart is a generous heart

When you understand the nature of grace given to you, you tend to measure out the same grace on others.  You tend to be generous with your money, your time, your praises, your prayers.  You desire to give and not always take!

  • A grateful heart is a forgiving heart

Wounds not cared for become bitterness which then breeds cynicism and sarcasm. Cynicism and sarcasm are markers of a heart grown cold or a grudge held far too long.  A heart thankful will be a heart that embraces it’s own failures and tends to forgive the same in others.  Thankfulness is the antidote to bitterness and fosters deep compassion and charity.

  • A grateful heart is a humble heart

It has been said: “in the south our greatest sense of pride is found in our deep humility”.  We often misread true humility.  We often misread true pride.  Gratitude will unmask our deepest intentions and help us see with clarity.  A heart that seeks God cannot entertain both pride and thanksgiving.

  • A grateful heart is a worshiping heart

A few years ago I was given a small new testament Bible by Lisa’s grandfather.  As a marine, he carried it in his pocket during the battle of Guadalcanal in the Pacific during World War 2.  I was overcome with emotion.  I knew the depths of this gift and the meaning behind it.  The scriptures abound with the pathway to entering God’s presence: through the gates of thanksgiving.  Gratitude reminds of what we’ve been given and the depth of meaning behind it.  Only then can we truly worship!

 

That video of a man set free is our story!  The kiss of sun on our face, the joy & laughter of a house full or the book of memories of days gone by are a sign of God’s incredible gifts.  When we really stop and think about it, ponder His hand in our lives; it doesn’t take long to see we are nothing but ragamuffins and orphans afforded something that was never ours.  How could we possibly complain about another thing…ever!

Be grateful!  Seize this day before it’s gone.  Make the call, hug the neck, forgive and release the hurt.  Choose to be like the man in the video; set free and overcome with thanksgiving.  Then head into Thanksgiving Day and beyond with a heart warmed by the very touch of God.

 

These past two weeks have been interesting at our house.  As I have shared with you, the sudden onslaught of a kidney stone during the middle of the night brought great wailing and gnashing of teeth.  For those who’ve never had one, there are only rumors of the divine sanction this offers to those who’ve been chosen.  Let me assure you, it is not a path for the faint of heart!

Not knowing what was wrong, I just prayed for 2 things: the Lord’s quick return or a powerful trance inducing potion to make it go away!  Seeing that Jesus chose to tarry (for the moment), the second option worked just fine.

Sitting later that day at the urologist, I discovered that this “stone” was an itsy-bitsy, scanty, minuscule, petite, puny stone halfway on it’s journey towards freedom.  How in all of God’s creation could this tiny thing cause me so much agony and torment?  Folks, I do not attempt to bamboozle you when I say – it completely ceased all my normal operations for the sole purpose of survival.  If you’ve had one – at this point your hands are lifted high as you shout “AMEN”!

“How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire”!  How can a puny small tiny spark cause a blaze that consumes an entire beautiful forest?  But it does!  That is exactly what James says.  But he’s not talking about a kidney stone.  Instead, something small which can also inflict great sickness:

How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness. The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.  For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind,  but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God.  From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so.  Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water?  Can a fig tree, my brothers, bear olives, or a grapevine produce figs? Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water. James 3:5-12

James is telling us the dangers of the tongue when used for evil.  But notice, the fire is set by hell and there is no human who can tame the tongue.  Just like a kidney stone – its’ on fire and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.  Instead, I must rely on my Doctor to break it up and remove.  So – only the Holy Spirit can tame our tongue and use it to bring glory to God and build up the body.

A couple of thoughts here:

  • Consider this Biblical truth through a spotlight that shines only on you!  God’s instruction is first and foremost for you.  Or me!  In other words, when I read this, I should NEVER see another person and think “I wish they would practice that” or “I wish someone would tell them that” or “I wish they’d practice what they preach”.  God’s instruction is meant to shine a light on me.  Not him, her or they!  Me Lord…show me!  David understood this as he penned Psalm 139:

                    Search me, O God, and know my heart!
                    Try me and know my thoughts!
                         And see if there be any grievous way in me,
                    and lead me in the way everlasting!

  •         Always use the wisdom and instruction of God’s Word as an invitation to the Holy Spirit to show you grievances.  As it applies to the tongue – you cannot control it, only He can.  That means you have already allowed it to defile your offerings and bring disunity to your family, your home, your church.  Trust me – just like a kidney stone, it has set a blaze to your world and only the Holy Spirit can show you this.
  • My kidney stone is not hurting you!  Aren’t you glad?  Some of you have winced, patted me on the back, offered your prayers.  Some of you have just chuckled and offered a “good luck” while wondering what kind of good stories are forthcoming.  But understand this – your tongue will set a blaze, but it’s first victim is YOU!  But unlike a kidney stone, it is a slow moving cancer that consumes you, changes you, rescinds the power of God in your life, and obliterates your testimony.  It will, with time, reduce you to a bitter, angry and caustic soul.  Now as a reminder – I hope you don’t see another face than your own.  That would be missing the whole point!
  • Own it!  My kidney stone is not yours to bear.  It is mine, all mine.  Every ounce of it was created by me.  Something I drank, ate and consumed over time has transformed into a painful and unwanted journey.  But I can not, in any way, blame my kidney stone on Lisa…or you! (while it might be fun trying – I must admit).  I made it, I must deal with it.  The same is true with our tongue and our actions.  Don’t blame that which is a creation of your own on others.  Although the blame game is rampant in our culture, God’s Word does not give you an option.  Don’t buy the deceit of my pain is your fault, his fault, their fault.  This blaze that has set afire to my world was started by him/them.  Nope!  It’s your fire – own up to it and allow the Holy Spirit to show you how to squelch the pain of it’s flames.

The realty is this – we all share the burden!  Built into everyone of us is this tool (the tongue) which affords great praise and adoration to the Father and our brothers/sisters.  But it’s also a time bomb, just ticking and waiting to inflict astonishing misery.  In reality – we all need Jesus!  My Doctor is the only one who can help me deal with this stone (my stone – whom I’ve fondly named “Rocky”)! So it is also true: only Jesus can bring healing to the freshly burned embers of our lives.  So – I offer this corporate prayer:

“Father – your grace is always sufficient for me.  You offer your mercy and kindness to me when I am so undeserving and wayward.  Search me Lord!  Show me Lord!  Forgive me Lord for any way that grieves you or impedes your power and plan for my life.  Fill me up with your Spirit and send me to live a life that shines brightly in a dark world.  Help me to walk in unity with my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Allow me to walk in peace and use my tongue for your glory alone!  In Jesus name – amen!”

So let it be!  I join you in this prayer and walk with you in asking God to do the uncomprehensible and miraculous for His glory!

Thou Oh Lord are a shield for me!  The GLORY and breaker of my stone!  Wait…it’s The GLORY and the tamer of my tongue.  NO – actually I believe it’s: The Glory and the Lifter of my head!

 

 

This year, Concord Worship is doing something we’ve never done before. We’re bringing back some old but familiar friends. Familiar to many who grew up with them and new to those who might not have grown up in the church. And of course brand new to this current generation.

In the race to be relevant and fresh in our worship, we sometimes overlook classics; if freshened and renewed, can once again bring impact to our worship and encouragement to our congregations.

And so it is with today’s sample – premiered on Easter Sunday at Concord and made available as a free download.

With a new arrangement by the Concord team, we revived an old acquaintance, dressed him up and brought him back to the table. We found it to be a powerful moment, almost like welcoming home a good friend you haven’t seen in a while.  Plus surprisingly, it had a multi-generational impact.

Here are 3 major ways we accomplished this:

  1. Add a new arrangement.  We gave it a fresh treatment that feels different.  A new melodic motive in the accompaniment adds more appeal.

  2. Don’t complicate the vocals.  We didn’t add layers of complicated parts.  We also didn’t mess with the original melody.

  3. Add a new chorus on the end.  This takes it to a whole other level and creates the final punch it needed.

Take a listen above and see what you think. Then go to this link and following the instructions for a free download: www.fbconcord.org/music

Recently, while trying to be a good husband, I’ve watched (endured) an HGTV show with Lisa called Fixer Upper.  Lisa loves the show and really wanted to share it with me.  Although I’m in amazement of how they do what they do, for the most part, I end up drooling through half the show and eventually falling unconscious until I get an elbow in the ribs.

The stars of the show take a run down dilapidated house and restore it.  They basically take a piece of junk and make it new.  It’s amazing.  The end result seems almost impossible.  How in the world could you begin with something in such bad condition and end up with a masterpiece.

When we, as a TV audience, are given a glimpse of the house in the “before” condition, there is no way most of us could visualize a pathway where this out of date, run down, aged, tired, used house becomes a work of art.

But it does!

And you know why?  Because someone with the power to transform sees potential.  When everyone else says “tear it down” these architects of renewal say “we’ll make it new”.

Have you ever looked in the mirror and gazed at a reflection that feels out of date, run down, aged and tired?  Or maybe you feel useless and valueless.  You just can’t see the potential anymore.  Regardless of your age you might just feel like the house that simply is what it is: worn, weary and spent.  Your soul is tired and your heart has lost it’s passion.

From Psalm 23:3 falls a small nugget of truth that cracks the foundation of lies with a bold and beautiful truth: “He RESTORES my soul.”

God is the architect of transformation.  He sees you as you are and offers you a full renovation.  A transformation.  A restoration!

It’s more than paint and spackling.  It’s not cosmetic but foundational.  He longs to rebuild your walls, shore up your foundation and add some new features.  He sees you as a masterpiece, even before the work has begun.  He sees the end result way before the job has broken ground.

If this is you, then you need a restoration.  It all begins with a view of what He sees.  The journey begins with a tiny glimpse of the plan from the Grand Architect.  See you as He sees you!

You are a pearl of great worth.  You are a masterpiece under construction.

Completion date sometime after your spirit escapes the bounds of this life!  Make sure you’re there for the unveiling!

It’ll be a moment you won’t want to miss!