Category: worship


ah man, this Lent schedule is a kicker… may have not gotten to make a post yesterday, but not going to beat up myself about it. let’s just make the most of the ones i do manage to post? good!

DAY 20ish

I was inspired for today’s post by a picture my friend Lilly Lewin [@lillylewin] shared on The Twitterer:

Lilli

Task: Write some words. Or maybe draw a picture. But just get something down.

Whether you give yourself five minutes for this or a whole hour, carve out a space in your busy day to reflect on some aspect of God and maybe more specifically Easter or resurrection, new beginnings, and whether you preferred choice is a poem or a song, whether you are someone who doodles, draws or paints or simply writes it in letter or story form, take some time to compose as an act of worship.

I have a long train ride happening later tonight as I return from a friend’s funeral that is two hours away and will look to use some of that time to do this [and will hopefully be able to post something tomorrow] and if you are up to sharing what you come up with, I would love to see it.

[For the next Lent Observance piece where you get to see what i created, click here]

DAY 19ish

As we start a new week, let us continue to really spend some time each day observing the Lent period leading up to Easter as we prepare for the reminder of what Jesus’ death and resurrection means to our day to day lives.

Task: Read through and meditate on the lyrics of this Tim Hughes worship song [featuring Brooke Fraser] and then give it a listen, remembering a time [it may be now] when you had to cling to the cross. 

Clinging to the Cross

My soul is weak
My heart is numb
I cannot see
But still my hope is found in You
I’ll hold on tightly
You will never let me go
For Jesus, You will never fail
Jesus, You will never fail

Simply to the cross i cling
Letting go of all earthly things
Clinging to the cross
Mercy’s found a way for me
Hope is here as i am free
Jesus, You are all i need
Clinging to the cross

Even darkness is as light to You, my Lord
So light the way and lead me home
To that place where every tear is wiped away
For Jesus, You will never fail
Jesus, You will never fail

Simply to the cross i cling
Letting go of all earthly things
Clinging to the cross
Mercy’s found a way for me
Hope is here as i am free
Jesus, You are all i need
Clinging to the cross

What a Saviour, what a story
You were crucified but now You are alive
So amazing, such a mystery
You were crucified but now You are alive

Simply to the cross i cling
Letting go of all earthly things
Clinging to the cross
Mercy’s found a way for me
Hope is here as i am free
Jesus, You are all i need
Clinging to the cross

[for the next day’s observance of Lent, click here]

Welcome to the Lent experience… it’s not too late to join in…

Each day for 40 days i will be posting a suggestion to give you an action or focus point or challenge for the day as we head towards Easter time and want to spend the time meaningfully by focusing more on who God is and what He did, learning to love people more deeply and slowing down from the busyness and caught-up-ness of our day to day.

If you are up for joining me in this, please simple leave your name and say some version of “I’m in!” on the Intro blog i posted, in the comments section.

DAY 2

Task: Create a 5 minute space of silence where you unplug, move somewhere less frenetic and just be.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

So really move away from phones and computer screens [if not now, then make a time during the day to do so] and get outside if you can and find a spot that is not necessarily quiet but is specifically removed from the busyness of life.

And for today i have a bit of a meditation planned, but i encourage you to insert this 5 minutes of stopping and just being for the whole rest of these 40 days – it will change your life! If you have a lunch break at school or work or even home then you might want to combine that with this.

If you can print this out or grab your Bible and read it rather, from Psalm 46, then do that and meditate on it.

1 God is our refuge and strength,

    an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
    and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
    and the mountains quake with their surging.

4 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
    the holy place where the Most High dwells.
5 God is within her, she will not fall;
    God will help her at break of day.
6 Nations are in uproar, kingdoms fall;
    He lifts his voice, the earth melts.

7 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

8 Come and see what the Lord has done,
    the desolations He has brought on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease
    to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
    He burns the shields with fire.
10 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

11 The Lord Almighty is with us;
    the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Especially verse 10:

 He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
    I will be exalted among the nations,
    I will be exalted in the earth.”

Take time to know. To realise. To remember. To speak to. To think about. To listen to. To be awestruck by. To call on. To rage at. To praise. To invite.

Easter is approaching…

[For Day 3 of the Lent series, click here]

bestill

Welcome to the Lent experience…

Each day for 40 days i will be posting a suggestion to give you an action or focus point or challenge for the day as we head towards Easter time and want to spend the time meaningfully by focusing more on who God is and what He did, learning to love people more deeply and slowing down from the busyness and caught-up-ness of our day to day.

If you are up for joining me in this, please simple leave your name and say some version of “I’m in!” on the previous Intro blog i posted, in the comments section.

DAY 1

Task: Pray for your enemies.

The King James version of Matthew 5.44 puts it like this:

But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

in the letter to the Romans chapter 12, the writer puts it like this:

17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 On the contrary:

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

So make some time today to really lift up and pray God’s blessing on anyone who you currently can’t stand or who pisses you off or who has hurt you or betrayed you and also if anyone comes to mind who doesn’t particularly like you for any reason. Take some time to pray for them and expect and hope for good things to happen to them.

[To continue to Day 2 of this Lent observance, click here]

as i lie on my bed, i have an ash cross crudely drawn upon my forehead.

lentface

i have never celebrated Lent before.

and i don’t intend to start now.

at least i didn’t.

in fact last nite when our housemate Aaron announced that he was giving up coffee and liquor for Lent [just before having a tot of coffee liquer with us to see in his time of fasting] it was yet again for me a moment of, ‘Oh, it’s that time again.’

i have wanted to try it before but it always comes upon me too quickly and then suddenly with a flourish it’s there and i’m left saying things like, ‘Well, maybe next year.’

THE SERVICE

tonite Aaron invited me to a service and altho i don’t think i would have been typically amped, something inside of me knew that this was something i really wanted to do

i’ve been feeling disconnected from God lately and really wanting to get more disciplined in my prayer and reading and so spending some time in a service focusing on the time leading up to Easter sounded like just the right thing

it ended up not really even being a service, but more a gathering,

ten of us sitting in a circle, mostly older people,

talking about what people were thinking about giving up for lent, reading some liturgy and then,

turning off all the lights and sitting in the glow of some candles as we went around the room,

each person dipping their finger in to a mix of the remains of the palm branches from palm sunday which had been burned down,

and some olive oil to make a paste,

and then making a cross on the person’s forehead next to you, while speaking these words:

“Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

THE CHALLENGE OR INVITATION

actually i will have to go with ‘Invitation’ cos one of my friends already told me he was giving up being challenged by my blog for Lent

Matt, whose church we were at for this meeting handed around a piece of paper with 40 suggestions on it:

at the top of the sheet it reads ‘House for All Sinners and Saints’ which i’m fairly sure is Nadia Bolz-Weber’s church

followed by 40 days and 40 suggestions of things to do to observe Lent

things such as:

‘No complaints day’ 

Don’t turn on the car radio

Educate yourself about human trafficking http://www.praxus.org

Look out of the window until you find something of beauty you had not noticed before

and so i have decided that i am going to observe Lent by compiling a list of similiar things

using some of them and coming up with some of my own [and open to suggestions]

and i would like to invite you to join me in this 

if you are going to give it a try, simply leave your name as a comment below and say i am in

40 days – 40 postings of simple challenges

to connect with God and to love people and to view the world differently

and just a heads up that day 1 is pray for your enemies

day 40 is pray for your enemies [you probably have new ones by now] and then decide which of these exercises you will keep for good

ARE YOU IN?

maybe invite a friend to join you or your home group and do this together

maybe even come up with your own list

We finished off the evening with these prayers:

Gracious God,

our sins are too heavy to carry,

too real to hide,

and too deep to undo.

Forgive what our lips tremble to name,

what our hearts can no longer bear,

and what has become for us a consuming fire of judgement.

Set us free from a past we cannot change;

open us to a future in which we can be changed;

and grant us grace to grow in Your likeness and image;

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

followed by the Assurance of Forgiveness Prayer:

May Almighty God

who of great mercy has promised to forgive all who truly repent and in true faith turn unto the Lord,

strengthen you in all goodness and bring you at last into the fullness of everlasting life,

through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We departed into the season of Lent with these final words:

Go forth on your journey of following Jesus,

strong in the face of afflictions,

speaking truth,

and knowing that you are loved well by God.

Go in peace. Amen.

May this time be more than simply a thing you are giving up… may that all mean something far deeper…
Enjoy. We celebrate together.

[To begin the 40 days of Lent observance with us, click here]

Lenttwitter

Eugene Cho writes [and speaks] a great piece on the Lent season over here.

so there has been a lot of discussion since Don Miller posted his two blogs suggesting that the traditional sunday church vibe is not for him and i responded with my piece titled ‘Why you should stop going to church’ which was not actually at all about encouraging people to stop going to church, but more trying to enlarge our definition of what church is about… you are the church so you don’t go to church – you go to a meeting at a place at a specific time, but church is something you should be every day and everywhere.

and then my buddy Rob Lloyd shared the best and kindest response to Don Miller in this blog post by a guy called Carey Nieuwhof titled ’10 thoughts on exiting the local church – a response to Donald Miller’ and i agreed with a lot of what he said and his spirit and tone was just incredible [why do christians generally seem to struggle to respond well to people who think differently to them?]

but i still do have some thoughts on this topic of my own…

WOULD YOU RATHER…

on sunday morning at the church i work part-time at [yes, that’s right, i am someone who is part of a local congregation and so maybe my thoughts on that not necessarily being the be all and end all carry the tiniest little bit of weight? i’m not someone who has left who is saying everyone should leave!] i played a game with my youth where i gave them two options and made them choose a favouite between the two.

started with easy ones like Dogs vs Cats, Coffee vs Tea, Television vs Music and then progressed to some slightly tricker ones like ‘Justin Bieber vs Miley Cyrus’ [Bieber won hands down!], ‘Death by Unicorn vs Death by T-Rex’ [guys chose T-Rex cos of logic – quick, painless death – girls all chose unicorn cos “ooh magical!”] and then finished off with some real stinkers like ‘Growing an extra finger out of your forehead vs Growing an extra ear on your elbow’ [ear, cos easier to hide!] and ‘You kiss a skunk but nobody knows vs You don’t kiss a skunk but everybody in the world thinks you did’ and ‘You get $1 000 000 but you lose both your thumbs vs You work ten hours a day every day for the rest of your life and only ever make enough money to just get by’ [amazingly everyone except me chose to say goodbye to their thumbs!]

so really became a kind of ‘Would you rather…’ game and while i was thinking about that and the pillow fight lesson that i had planned for them about whether you are in the middle of the action or on the side watching or recording it.

and it made me think of church and this whole discussion slash rant that has come up based on whether or not everyone needs to ‘go to church.’

LOOK LIKE OR BE?

it feels to me like some people [yes, not all of you], in fact many of the people in this conversation would choose [if they had to] people looking like church rather than being church [and yes, the clever ones among you are saying, ‘But Brett, surely it can be both?’]

so people have been loudly saying that people need to go to church on a Sunday. some of those people might concede that the Sunday part is actually not all that important and so allow you to do church on another day. others might concede that it doesn’t need to be in a church building but just needs to be the same group of people meeting together regularly. i imagine we might even be able to get as far as some people conceding that singing isn’t absolutely necessary [although this would be a tougher one because we all know singing = worship] and so might allow us to use bible reading, liturgy, silence, lyric reading and other forms of worship.

my good friend and tag team buddy Sean brought it down to these four things: worship, fellowship, edification, and encounter

none of which have to happen on a Sunday to take place.

none of which have to happen in a specific building to take place.

all of which could happen in a lounge or coffee shop or besides a park bench.

which is always the point i was trying to make [and to some extent Don Miller i think, although he might take it even further than me]

THE POINT

i know of a bunch of churches that meet on a sunday in a specific building at a specific time where a huge percentage of the people there can get caught up so much more in the way things look and happen from a religious or traditional point of view [you can’t worship with that kind of music, you can’t do communion this way, you have to dress like this to go to church etc] than on whether anyone is actually following Jesus or not [so people holding on to unforgiveness, people gossiping profusely, people judging those outside the church etc]

i also know of some people who don’t meet in traditional sunday church who still create space for worship, fellowship, edification, and encounter in their lives although not necessarily in ways that other people would be happy with… and who are living out the kingdom of God so brilliantly and obviously without question.

and i imagine – quite strongly – that if we played the pillow game and put one of those things on either side, that a lot of church leaders and those commenting would actually honestly choose people who pitch up on a Sunday over people living out the kingdom who are not part of a Sunday gathering.

Looking like church vs Being Church.

and that for me seems rather sad.

because if i take a moment to try and imagine which of the two scenarios Jesus would be more happy with, i don’t feel like there is a question at all. 

i also am reminded of His response to the Pharisees and Sadducees who were the ones who looked like church [but hardly acted like it] of His day [He had some really harsh words for some of them!]

SUMMING IT UP

# i am saying that for a lot of people regular Sunday church works and that is great and they should continue and always be examining their hearts and the way the church does things to make sure that they are aligned with Jesus way.

# i am saying that i think there is a bigger definition of what church is which comes out of the idea and understanding and description of church as either the bride or the body of Christ, both of which are more unified sounding than most of what we see today – that the people of God collectively are ‘The Church’ and that we must always seek for ways to bring us closer together rather than trying to find things that bring us apart.

# i am saying that i think Sean’s four pillars of church are very helpful to keep in mind and pursue – worship, fellowship, edification, and encounter – but that they will not always look exactly the same depending on who is involved and the context of the meeting.

# i am saying that any decision made about how effective church is or isn’t based on how it feels like it is being effective or working FOR ME is unhelpful and unhealthy and likely to be fraught with danger and brokenness – there always needs to be a measure of serving others, or connecting with people that don’t only look like, sound like or think like you so that your faith can be grown and challenged. 

# i am suggesting that for many people the idea of a certain place on a certain day at a certain time short-circuits their brains and has them thinking that church doesn’t need to be happening any other time, place or day when we have been called to be salt and light and the fragrance of Christ among those who are perishing, all of which require us to be a little bit closer to darkness and stench and badness of taste.

# i am suggesting that being church far outweighs looking like church and if i ever had to choose between the two [and maybe i don’t] then i will choose being church every day of the week. 

[For another post on church and the ridiculous notion of ‘Going to church’, click here]

music played such a huge role in my visit back to South Africa that we have just returned from.

the first was a gift within a gift. we were given the use of a car by two people [only one of whom i actually knew before the trip and hadn’t been in contact with for about 15 years til a week before i posted a ‘looking for a car’ ad on Facebook] who decided that for a month they could work with one car and so gifted us their other one.

as much as that was the hugest gift ever [thank you Kerstin and Carl Fourie – Kerstin used to be one of the youth girls at the church i worked at about 15 years ago] they left a worship cd [a mixed cd they had made out of other worship cds they own] in the car and until we realised there were other cds in the cubbyhole which took a few days, i listened to that one again and again and really loved the opportunity to be immersed in worship, especially when it was just me driving alone.

two songs in particular stuck out and i kept on meaning to Uncle Google the lyrics and kept forgetting and the one time i remembered the only thing that came up was Belinda Carisle’s ‘Heaven is a place on earth’ which it very definitely wasn’t.

finally i remember to write the lyric on my arm and discovered pretty quickly that it was a song called ‘I will be blessed’ [anyone that knows my feelings to the word ‘blessed’ will appreciate the irony] off the extended version of his album ‘Every Kingdom’.

i’m not sure if there is an official video to the track because this is all i found, but i find it completely haunting and mesmerising and it just really stuck in my head and heart:

 

the second song, i still don’t know what it was and will have to bug Carl and Kerstin someday to list every song on that album so i can track it down…

the second occasion was when i was invited to a Christian Arts presentation by my friend Nurden Cross who used to be from Sarepta during my Newsong Festival days…

i got the chance to watch clips from a number of upcoming christian songs and movies and there is definitely some good stuff to be getting excited for. the band and song that particularly moved me was by a band called The Rend Collective Experiment and this song and video called ‘Build Your Kingdom Here’ off their album, ‘Homemade Worship by Handmade People’ which i just LOVE LOVE LOVE for the energy and enjoyment that these people exude as they worship God:

 

so yeah, two great experiences with two great songs [well, three if i could remember the other one] and actually on the last day i was driving back from tbV’s folks having dropped something off and trying to find these songs and came upon ‘You are holy’ [You are Holy] which i think is by Michael W. Smith of all people and it just completely reduced me to tears – i find that song so powerful, but just the happening of ongoing worship music happening around me was such a strong and precious memory of my time in South Africa. Was given an iTunes voucher for my birthday and am definitely going to hunt down both those albums when i have a moment.

thank you South Africa, and South Africans for those gifts…

 

 

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