We went to a memorial service a couple of Saturdays ago for a 37 year old man. He had a heart attack. All you can do is shake your head. I suppose you could shake your fist at God, too, especially if you were his parents, burying their firstborn. Many people have done that.
But not this man's parents. They are sad. Very sad. They will miss him so much. They have stood with him as he has made difficult job choices, needed to move back home, struggled with life, as we all do. They have invested so much into their son. And in the last year, he was moving forward, largely because of their encouragement and help. And now he is gone. Vanished. He will not be coming back home to visit or to live. Just gone.
That's how death is. You love them and then they are gone. To our minds that seems so unfair. Like "what is God thinkin'?" But death is a part of living here on earth as human beings. Or even as animals, our pets. Death has, or will, touch each one of us.
And it is a truth, not trivial truth, but real truth, that we do not have to grieve as those who have not hope (I Thessalonians 4:13), if we choose not to. When someone dies, if we know they had their hope in Jesus Christ, we know they are with Him. Even if we aren't better off without them. And we know we will see them again, if we have our hope in Jesus, too.
Life is good. Life is sometimes hard. Loss of a loved one is one of the hardest things. It's strange. It's unbearable sometimes. But that's when a person just has to cling to Jesus and all that He said about trusting Him. Where else would ya go? Grief can be easier where there is hope in Jesus.
Our 37 year old friend probably wasn't expecting his pending death. But if he had been, I think he would have had a sense of fear of the unknown, but also excitement at being in the arms of Jesus.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Wednesday, June 4, 2014
I had a Face Book "conversation" yesterday with a few friends from high school. The conversation was centered around a couple of posted links of people who are very disillusioned with contemporary praise & worship styles in modern-day churches. They fear that it is all contrived and manipulative. I chimed in on the discussion because I have always greatly revered that time in our services.
I love the sermon section because it is a time of instruction, warning, or encouragement from the Bible and from the heart of a man that I greatly esteem. I love the greeting time, albeit very brief. I love it when we have communion - at least I love it on those occasions that I am really "doing it in remembrance of" Him and what His sacrifice provides for us. I even love the tithes and offerings time. I have always seen the money I give being used efficiently and with much care and prayer, even using it for outreach to millions across the globe. So I believe that I am giving to God when I give to my church. I love that.
But I have to say that I probably "get into" the praise & worship time the most. It seems like the most interactive. But with what or with whom am I interacting? Are any of us interacting? The right answer is "with God." You get an A if that is the answer you gave. But is it true? Is it true just some of the time?
I would have to say that there have been times that I have interacted with those around me during that time. That is probably especially true when I was an adult staff person with the youth group. I was intensely aware that I wanted to be a role model to them. That I wanted them to be "interacting with God." So that made me very self aware. So was I interacting with God? Probably not so much - not all the time.
I've interacted with those around me when I had been down to Brownsville A/G church in Pensacola, Florida to the famous revival going on down there in the 90's. I really did have an encounter with God and it was a good experience. And I experienced a new freedom in worship. When I returned home from there and returned to church, and really wanted to continue worshiping the Lord freely (in my case, with a simple dance), I was keenly aware of those around me. A few entered in. More criticized and likely watched with disdain. So you can bet that all affected my interaction with God.
And then there's the usual distractions - headache, children crying, someone poking you to tell you something, watching something cool a band member is doing with, oh, say, the Irish whistle. So, absolutely yes, I have sometimes, maybe more times than I want to believe, made worship more about me or other people than about the One for whom it's intended.
But I do love to sing praises to the Lord and really try to focus on Him while I'm singing. When I know the words and they are inspired words about how wonderful our God is, I sometimes can really close myself in with just Him. "Praise the Lord, for the Lord is good; sing praise to his name, for that is pleasant." Psalm 135:3 NIV I am not a musician and cannot sing very well. But I really take to heart, "Sing a joyful NOISE unto the Lord."
One of my friends in that Face Book discussion is heavily involved in the music of her church, which is one that does not use any instruments. Another 2 of the friends go to churches much like mine, with lots of instruments, including electric guitars and drums. But I think the heart of the whole thing is this: we can sing praises to the Lord with pipe organs, with grand pianos, with orchestras, with modern day cymbals and harps, with little tiny key-boards, OR with our only instrument being our voices. Worship is from the heart being directed to the heart of the Creator of the universe. Anything else is not worship. And only I can determine if what I say and do is from my heart directed toward my Lord. Only you can determine that about yourself.
We have made worship time at our churches many things. The leaders have made it certain things, the worship team makes it whatever they make it, the participants make it other things. But what is it meant to be but "PRAISING THE LORD FOR HE IS GOOD?" Anything else is not so good. Entertainment is fun for a time; rock concerts are, too. But those are not worship.
I love Matt Redman's song, Heart of Worship. Listen to it and follow the words on the video. Or just read the words here (pasted from http://www.metrolyrics.com/heart-of-worship-lyrics-hillsong-united.html:)