Category: worship


This feels like a psalm for old people [like me]. So if you’re not even partly old, maybe bookmark this and come back and read it in ten years or so…

And seriously go and read the whole psalm – i am not going to go through all of it here, but it really is a good one to read all the way through:

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
    turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge,
    to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
    for you are my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
    from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth.

i may just be putting my own oldness and tiredness on to this, but it feels like that is where the author is coming from. Looking back over a lot of years , which have not all been easy [see vs.20] it is the faith of his youth that he is raising up.

You have been my hope, Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth.

That line also speaks very much of a faith that has endured. I continue to believe. It may not always have been easy and clearly hasn’t been at times, but i am still holding on, i am still running this race. You continue to sustain me and keep me going and be enough for me God.

This is encouraging in a world where so many people seem to have given up on their relationship with God. Life and having a family and needing to be responsible and the pressures of conformity and the enticement of comfortability have all proved too strong and so a passionate run with God has either declined into a once-a-week religious meeting and an attempt to ‘be kinda good’ or at least as good as the next guy, or a snuffing out of the flame completely, and in some cases turning strongly against it [and how evil it always was]

But this psalmist knows. He knows God as the rock of refuge to whom he can always turn. He knows God is his deliverer and hope. And so continues to believe and hope and live for Him.

Clearly the temptation to walk away is here for him as well:

Do not cast me away when I am old;
    do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
10 For my enemies speak against me;
    those who wait to kill me conspire together.
11 They say, “God has forsaken him;
    pursue him and seize him,
    for no one will rescue him.”
12 Do not be far from me, my God;
    come quickly, God, to help me.
13 May my accusers perish in shame;
    may those who want to harm me
    be covered with scorn and disgrace.

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
    I will praise you more and more.

But although he has no doubt witnessed it in others, he finishes this section with the powerful words, ‘as for me’ – others may arrive at a different place, but this is how it is going to be for me.

Very reminiscent of Joshua standing before the people in Joshua 24:

14 “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord.15 But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

You can do what you want. But AS FOR ME and my family, we will serve the Lord. 

And there is a whole lot more, but let’s just finish off with the opening lines of these last three paragraphs:

22 I will praise you with the harp
    for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
    Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
    when I sing praise to you—
    I whom you have delivered.
24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
    all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
    have been put to shame and confusion.

I will praise you.

My lips will shout for joy.

My tongue will tell of your righteous acts.

Is this you?

[To take a look at any of the other Psalms i have walked through so far, click here]

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So i think i have a different understanding and idea of church than a number of people i know.

And my picture of what church is feels a lot bigger, rather than smaller, than some other peoples. i am not saying that the Sunday church local congregation vibe is not church, but i am suggesting that maybe it is more than that.

One example for me has always been so-called ‘para-church’ organisations like Scripture Union and Youth With a Mission. Kingdom-focused people doing kingdom-focused things. How is that not the church? It fits in with both the ‘bride of Christ’ and the ‘body of Christ’ metaphors that Jesus used to describe His church.

Yet, for a whole lot of people, if you are not attending a meeting at that particular place on that particular day [which must be a Sunday, by the way] then you are on some kind of a slippery slope and should be very careful.

church1

Something like that. And while people we know would probably not quite put it in those words, there is a strong sense of ‘Not Alrightness’ when people hear you are not attending a local church.

“We must pray for the Andersons.”

The beautiful Val [tbV] and myself went to visit a church yesterday morning. And on the way home we were chatting and really interested in the idea that ‘This’ [our morning experience] ‘is the thing people are very concerned we become a part of.’

i wrote a piece recently on how we [as christians] have far too often gotten caught up in majoring on the minors, while neglecting or sometimes skipping completely the things God seems to think are majors.

WHAT CONCERNS YOU, CONCERNS ME

For example, there are literally thousands of verses in the Bible that talk about the poor and our attitude and action towards them, the fact that to Jesus, having some kind of outreach or relationship or investment with the poor seemed to be a big deal.

There are not thousands of verses talking about being part of a local congregation and giving them ten percent of your money.

Yet, which of those two get church-going-people freaked out when they are not happening?

That’s right. We are more than okay with attending a meeting once a week with a majority of people who have absolutely no engagement with the poor at all [beyond the ten percent we throw in the bag, box, tin as it goes past because then job done, conscience cleansed, someone will now be looking after the poor with that money, slash paying the church electricity bill] but panic stations when someone we know who professes to love Jesus, are not in regular attendance.

So first of all, i think it is imperative to figure out what are the things God is wanting us to major on, to prioritise, to make essential in our lives and to make sure we are doing those, and then to fill in whatever gaps may appear around those with everything else.

And secondly, before you get too concerned that tbV and i have ‘not found a church yet’, look at yourself in the mirror and then at those who sit next to you at church and through the lens of giving-to-the-poor see if you should be more concerned about that. Then continue to pray for us.

WHAT IS THIS CHURCH YOU WANT ME TO BE A PART OF?

A lot of this is stuff i have covered in my book which i am furiously working towards self-publishing. So watch this space or something.

The service we visited yesterday was not particularly our style. One of the things we spoke about as we drove home was, ‘Is THAT the thing people are so concerned we are a part of?’

And so this is my genuine question [and i’d love it if you would take a few minutes and leave an answer in the comments section cos i really am interested in how you would answer this question], what exactly is this church you want me to be a part of?

When tbV and i were part of the Simple Way community in Philly, we had morning prayer times [with a group of gathered people]five times a week where each time we read a passage from the Old Testament, one from the New Testament, a Psalm, sang a song together, read some liturgy together and had an open time of praying for whatever was on our heart. Our weekly ‘work’ was largely serving those in the community around us [so trying to love our neighbours well].

In fact, when i talk about it to other people, i usually conclude by saying, ‘the only thing we missed in terms of regular congregational church services was corporate worship’ – singing together in a group. Which i am not now even convinced is the way tbV or i would particularly primarily choose to worship God. [There is not a lot of space or patience or understanding in the church for those who don’t particularly like to sing – typically it is met with a suck-it-up-this-is-the-only-way-to-really-worship-God attitude].

So please tell me, before you let me know my views on church are wrong or how important it is that we are part of a local church, what does that mean? What exactly is the thing you are wanting me to be a part of?

DESPERATELY SEEKING CHURCHING 

church2

tbV and i have visited a few church services since being back [as people have invited us] and i definitely have Common Ground Wynberg on my list for the next free Sunday we have cos that sounds like a great mix of people. But we haven’t been panic’d about it. We are in a period of transition where we don’t even know where we are going to be living yet and so committing to a group of people in an area far off from where we land doesn’t seem like the most sensible of things.

So on the one hand, not desperate in terms of ‘Must. Find. A. Church.’

But on the other had, we chatted about it during the same conversation and both agreed that we are not happy with our current state of non-regular-community as an ongoing thing. We both realise and acknowlege that gathering is good. That breaking bread together feels essential. That journeying with a specific group of people can be really helpful.

i do imagine however, that neither of us would be too concerned if that did not happen on a Sunday. Regular gathering with a group of Jesus-following people on a different day of the week feels like it might be okay to us. [Runs to check bible]

i also imagine that not meeting in a church building would be okay with us. And probably more than okay. I imagine if we were given the choice of church building or home or pub on the corner or coffee shop that church building would probably come in 4th. Jesus spent time in the Temple. Absolutely. But He also spent probably a lot more of His time churching outside of the official building – in boats and on hillsides and at dinner tables and at wells.

i have a deep hunger for the Word of God [the bible] – understanding it better and knowing it more and so whether by myself or with other people, i imagine that will likely always be an important part of what we do. Wrestling with the words and actions of Jesus and the early church and how they often look so different from ours. Engaging with the Scripture as opposed to merely having it spoken at us. [This feels like a definite area the local church would do well to have transformation in, although it would require a LOT of work and would more than likely be EXTREMELY messy, which is perhaps why we stick to man at the front giving the message and no or little space for questions or push-back or engagement].

i want to see people brought into relationship with God. i really don’t feel like i have a gift of evangelism and think actually that i am particularly bad at it [although every now and then God manages to use me anyways] but i believe that it is important and want to see it happen and am not convinced that a Sunday meeting in a church building is the best place for those outside of the church to be brought near [because the stuff we do when we get together is PRETTY WEIRD to those not used to it – think singing and arm-raising and dipping tiny pieces of cracker into pretend wine which we refer to as blood and so on]. But around a dinner table might be, or in a lounge where an intentional conversation has been initiated and so on.

And so on.

Do i think Sunday church gathering in that particular building is church? Absolutely [as long as it is much bigger than just that hour and a half meeting – if that is all your churching is, then you need the prayer] – if the Sunday gathering does not inform or empower the rest of your week experience and your whole life, in fact, then i seriously think you need to rethink that area of your life.

But bigger than that, i see ‘the church’ as a singular entity made up of smaller and larger church congregations and what we call para-church organisations [a horrible name, cos they are not outside of/separate from the church] who are the gathering people of God working together for His kingdom things. Or more simply the people of God doing God stuff together.

i absolutely don’t think it is healthy or even biblical to be a  ‘christian-without-church’ because God definitely calls us to do His stuff together. But i also do understand why so many people have walked away from traditional sunday church services as the expression of the only way church can be.

We are the bride of Christ, not the harem.

We are the body of Christ, not the bodies of Christ.

There really only is one church, although many smaller expressions of how that plays out.

i think, when we truly understand what church is all about, then it will become the question of Monday to Saturday, rather than Sunday, ‘Are you going to church today?’ [where church is a verb, rather than a noun of place]. Are you going to be being the body of Jesus and the bride of Christ to all of those who you encounter this day?

i would absolutely LOVE to hear your thoughts and response on this one… [be gentle]

Wow. This is my favourite hymn ever and just heard this rendition that just gets drummier and drummier as it goes on [if that’s a thing] – i imagine that even if you don’t like christian music or hymns that you may still be able to appreciate the amazingness of this piece – Enjoy! The percussion group is called Stikyard. Boom, here it is:

Now sings my soul…

If that’s not your thing, or even if it is, this is the latest worship song that has captured my attention just in terms of the energy and vibe the band, Rend Collective, has in delivering it so if you have not seen ‘Build Your Kingdom Here’, give this a watch as well:

 [And if lyrics are more your thing, check out these powerful words by Tim Hughes, in a song that acknowledges life can be hard]

this is something that my friend Deborah Dowlath reminded me in her simple blog post, A Drop in the Ocean which included this line:

I wish that followers of Christ would be as vocal about the injustices that occur on a daily basis as they are about the progress of their favourite team.

and this passage:

Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

i think what strikes me the most is that i hadn’t thought of it this World Cup yet until i read her post.

it is something that has bothered me a lot.

and maybe, for a moment – which has passed, thankfully – i gave up on being bummed by it, because what is the point…

WHAT’S YOU DRUG OF CHOICE?

# when a new Star Wars movie comes out, people line the blocks for miles sleeping outside, sometimes for days, to get a ticket.

# when your favourite band is in town, you will pay an exhorbitant amount of money for a ticket to a live show.

# last night my mind wandered to the place of trying to imagine – i had no chance – just how much money was spent on fireworks in the Oakland area alone, let alone the United States of Americaland or the world… hm, let me see if Uncle Google has anything on that… [according to Eric Dye over here, it is over $600 million spent on one day’s entertainment although with the conscience-easing quote of ‘You wouldn’t ask Michelangelo how many buckets of paint he used to paint the Sistene Chapel, would you?’ but ending with the more provocative question:

With a nation in debt and a world full of needs, it makes you question the wisdom of burning-up $600 million in one day, doesn’t it?

# don’t get me started on how i get ‘attacked’ on social media [usually by christian friends] for daring to suggest how ridiculous it is to me that football/soccer players are paid millions of dollars in transfer fees [which you can translate to $20 million for an actor to star in a movie or whatever it is singers, politicians, business owners take home]

THE IMPORTANCE OF COUNTING BACKWARDS FROM TEN

i totally believe there is a moral question in here for everyone to be asking, and if we are looking at redressing the balance of the world where [small percentage] of the people own [ludicrous] percentage of the stuff, this would be a good place to start.

but specifically for people claiming to follow the ways of Jesus, this feels like an even deeper, more pertinent question not too many people seem to be asking, or answering.

i remember a few years ago when i helped organise a New Year’s Worship event at a megachurch building in Cape Town where we were hoping to have thousands of Christ followers from around the city coming together to worship God into the new year – and we did. i was purposeful about letting the countdown into the new year take back stage [or no stage at all if i’d had my way] so that we could focus on what really mattered. but somehow it still happened and i remember being broken by the fact that 2 to 3 thousand people seemed more excited about counting backwards from 10 than they were about worshiping the Creator of the Universe and Saviour of their lives.

one of the main reasons we were not allowed to use the same church the following year and the only complaint we received from the church leadership [most, if not all, who had not been at the event] was that we didn’t give the New Year’s countdown a big enough focus. It is clearly important that people are given the best opportunity available to count backwards from ten.

IF WE BELIEVED WHAT WE SAY WE BELIEVE…

then surely this picture would look different.

if we truly believed that there is a God, who created the Universe in a moment [or a million years of moments] who came down to earth and lived among us to save us from ourselves and that this God desired to have intimate and profound world-transoforming relationship with us and involve us in the redeeming of this planet and this people, then surely we would be inspired to do a little bit more than simply attend a meeting once a week and throw the excess money we have in our wallet into the bowl out of guilt as it passes us by.

if we love God more than the Football World Cup.

if we love God more than Star Wars.

if we love God more than U2 or Mumford or The Smashing Pumpkins or One Direction or Beyonce.

if we love God more than J.K.Rowling or Johnny Depp or Lionel Messi or Manchester United.

if we love God more than fireworks and Christmas presents and turkey and chocolate eggs and bunnies.

if we love God more than Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, You Tube or Pinterest.

then surely, surely, SURELY, things would look different. things would be different.

because clearly we are so much more excited about SO MUCH OTHER STUFF.

does that mean we don’t really believe?

or that we simply see the God part of our lives as significantly less of a priority and focus than a bunch of other things?

“let the person who has no sin cast the first stone.”

i definitely am not without sin here. i HAVE to start this question by asking it to myself. and it is one i wrestle with.

having just returned from a week of speaking to young people about Jesus on houseboats on Lake Shasta, i can definitely say with no doubt that speaking to people about Jesus and writing about Him is one of the things that gives me the greatest joy and feeling of life in life. so passion for God and the things of God is definitely up there.

but there are definitely many areas where my excitement and passion for other things is out of sync and definitely a lot of time spent on things that could be spent on better things. definitely a lot in my life needing to be wrestled with and some changes to be made.

one question i am hoping to better figure out after our next transition [coming August 6th] when we move back to South Africa is which of the ‘least of these’ i should be engaging more with. that feels like a call that has been placed on all of us and something most of us could be more intentional about.

what about you? i would LOVE to hear some feedback on this one based on what you see when you look into the mirror. are you doing well? is this an area that needs some more attention from you? what is your response to the idea that we tend to give so many other things so much more focus, attention and out-of-control passionate support and celebration?

and what does this verse mean to you?

Romans 12:2

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Fireworks

DAY 39ish

i saw this prayer/poem/reflection? on my friend Conso’s Facebook wall and thought it was too good not to share…

Task: Mediate and reflect on the following words as they have meaning for you:

 

Until i encountered the CROSS…


i knew confession but did not know repentance,


i knew ritual but did not know true worship,


i knew guilt and shame but did not know redemption,


i knew judgement and condemnation but did not know grace,


i knew loss and grief but did not know reconciliation and restoration.


Now i know…

 

[For the next Lent observance post, click here]

DAY 29

The Bible mentions seven things that Jesus says while hanging on the cross. I found this online site that looks at each statement [calling each one a ‘word’] and thought it would be a great resource for us as we head towards Easter.

Task: Meditate and reflect on ‘The third word of Jesus.’

The third word is based on Jesus’ words in John 19:25-27.

Spend some time of reflection on the elements of this 6 page powerpoint presentation as we reflect together on the second word Jesus spoke on the cross.

A reminder that His word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.

cross

[for the next post in the series, click here]

DAY 28

So great to see my good mate Bruce Collins blog-posting again [so great i couldn’t help but dive in and steal what he wrote] and so i hope you enjoy this prayer to meditate on from his Thanksgiving Series post 1 and i really hope you will head across to his page and subscribe so you can follow the rest of them.

Task: Read and reflect on this prayer which is definitely so relevant and resonative for me right now:

Jesus,

Thank you for being in control; for being God. I desire to desire you. I desire to be in a place of awe and renewed understanding of your greatness. I desire to live for you and not the affection of man. Your power and your glory overwhelm. And your love? What is that love? Where does it come from? I cannot fathom it or even understand why you would want to love me. But, thank you. Our world understands fickle, fleeting, changing affection but your love is called steadfast. What reassurance. What peace comes from that? I desire to love you as you love me. I desire to love you so much that my life doesn’t even matter. I fear I have prioritised so many things above you that I’ve lost my comprehension of how deep and sacrificial your love for me really is. WHAT you do for and in us flows out of WHO you are.

I am grateful that you are I AM; God.

I desire for my life to bless you; to bring glory to you.

Amen

Don’t rush it – the point is not ‘getting through another post’ – take time on it, read it again, go line by line, focus on individual words and phrases if necessary. If you don’t mean it right now, then let your prayer be one of asking God to make that prayer real for you right now. Enjoy.

[For the next Lent observance post in this series, click here]

 

 

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