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If We are the Body by Casting Crowns

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body

I have a friend who plays the guitar and leads worship in his local church. He would claim to be an agnostic and I would say he is on a journey to becoming a believer. He leads because he was asked and he thinks Jesus was a ‘good guy’ who had some great teachings. I’ve known my friend for years prior to this latest step in his faith journey and I find it a bit odd and wonderful at the same time when he asks about new worship songs.

He called a few months ago looking for songs that tell us how to live in the world. My friend expressed frustration that there were tons of songs on what we believe, who God is and yet so few on our actions in the world. As I thought through the songs in our playbook, I too became a bit sad. And then I remembered If We are the Body – a solid theological song with an emphasis on our actions to bring about the Kingdom of God here and now.

This song is perfect for Communion Sundays, reminding us of the meaning of the sacrament and its role in our lives beyond the table. “Jesus payed much too high a price … and we are the body of Christ.”

In so many of our churches we have created an image of what a Christian should look like. Evangelicals and mainline protestants succumb to the notion that to follow Jesus means to look like a middle class American family with a picket fence who ‘does the right thing.’ And yet this song challenges those notions and reminds us that Christ died for all and our role as believers is to welcome everyone. The verse alludes to how easy it is for each of us to judge the other. And when we sing collectively, “For us to pick and choose who should come,” hopefully will be a very real reminder that our job is to invite and welcome and God’s role is to judge.

Video:

Lyrics:

It’s crowded in worship today
As she slips in trying to fade into the faces
The girl’s teasing laughter is carrying farther than they know
Farther than they know

But if we are the body
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?
And if we are the body
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing them there is a way?
There is a way

A traveler is far away from home
He sheds his coat and quietly sinks into the back row
The weight of their judgmental glances
Tells him that his chances are better out on the road

Jesus payed much too high a price
For us to pick and choose who should come
And we are the body of Christ

Jesus is the way

 

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Holy Spirit by Bryan and Katie Torwalt

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holy-spirit-filled

In 2001, Come Now is the Time to Worship, hit the Christian worship scene to be used as part of the gathering time and for bringing people into worship. It is an old and oft used entrance song. (I am hesitant to call it “classic” because it lacks theological depth and only time will determine if it be a classic.)

In 2014, Francis Batistelli introduced the modern worship scene with a way to lead people into worship and invoke the presence of the third person of the Trinity.

Mainline Protestant denominations have often overlooked the Holy Spirit. Even the Apostles’ Creed dedicates only one line to this aspect of God. Sadly it feels like in the 20th and early 21st centuries that we leave the amazing power of the Holy Spirit to the Pentecostals or extreme Evangelicals.

Into this gap comes Holy Spirit. This song is an excellent way to begin worship or make an early transition in our worship services. One of the main critiques of modern worship is that songs are “me focused”, rather than on God. Holy Spirit stands up to this critique quite well. This song spends a great deal of time on God revealed through the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit’s ability to lead the congregation into worship. While it succumbs to some repetition, the song wants to bring the worshiper before the presence of God. And the final stage of the song focuses upon our need to be in God’s presence to live out our faith.

I have experienced this song in worship under the leadership of a young female vocalist with a voice similar to Battistelli and also with a thirty-something year-old young man singing the lead. Both were unique in their musical presentation and still very effective in their ability to use the song to connect with the congregation in a spirit of worship. Overall, this song is wonderful at bringing the congregation into God’s presence and teaching us about why we worship in the first place.

Video:

Lyrics:

There’s nothing worth more
that will ever come close
No thing can compare
You’re our living hope
Your Presence

 I’ve tasted and seen
of the sweetest of love
where my heart becomes free
and my shame is undone
Your Presence, Lord

 Holy Spirit you are welcome here
come flood this place and fill the atmosphere
Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for
To be overcome by your Presence, Lord.

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Our #1 Priority …

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delmarva

I thought I was heading to General Conference. I was very reticent about the trip and had even tried to get out of it but after a few conversations I decided to keep my commitment. My bag was packed, I said good-bye to my crying 5 year-old and prepared to board a plane to Portland, Oregon. And then … God had very different plans.

For I Know the Plans I Have for You …

I was getting excited and had even planned to spend one day and reconnect with a very dear old friend. I had even saved up all my airline miles for four years so I could fly first class all the way to Portland. Suddenly my plane had technical difficulties and the airline couldn’t get me to Portland until late in the evening on the following day. They couldn’t even get me out of my city until late afternoon. The customer service representative even informed me that I could get back all of my airline miles without a penalty!

Was this a sign? I’m not one to easily assume God is speaking directly to me or giving me a sign. I’m cynical by nature and an extrovert – making me very obtuse at times. I quickly called my mother the pastor, my first and foremost mentor in life. She suggested I call my Spiritual Director; again an excellent suggestion you would think a pastor would naturally come up with herself. After a discerning and wonderful conversation with my Spiritual Director, we determined together that God was indeed speaking and I needed to listen.

From Portland to the Delmarva Peninsula

After cancelling my flight, hotel and car rental I spent a wonderful and relaxing evening at home with my family. My husband and daughter were taking a morning train to visit his family in North Carolina and I had a week before their return. I decided that if God didn’t want me to go to General Conference than I needed to spend time with God. I borrowed a friend’s beach house and repacked for a three-day retreat and a two-day beach vacation. I still struggled with my decision; I tend to second guess myself and all sorts of thoughts run through my head. “Did I make the right decision? I let my boss at General Conference down. I was just selfish instead of faithful.” And the thoughts went on …

And then on the morning of the second day I saw a coffee table book hidden under a stack of other books with the title, Day Trips in Delmarva. Wow, I hadn’t realized that my friend’s beach house was in the Delmarva Peninsula. Now this sounds like nothing to most everyone, but to me a true United Methodist Geek, the Delmarva Peninsula is awesome.  Delmarva is the beginning and heart of early Methodism in America. Francis Asbury hid out in Delmarva when all the other priests returned to England at the outbreak of the war. The small groups and classes formed in this region stoked the fire of Methodism that spread across our country. And there were even deep and meaningful theological debates about the Eucharist in this area with Robert Strawbridge. (Thanks Dr. Richey for instilling this rich piece of history into my brain!) God told me not to go to General Conference and instead brought me home – to the heart of my church back when it was focused on spreading scriptural holiness and renewing the hearts of believers!

That small travel book was another gift from God and a sign that I was where I needed to be. It reminded me again that my relationship with God NEEDS and MUST be number one in my life. We church leaders can get so easily caught up in the doing of ministry or the politics of ministry that we can forget the WHY and building our relationship with the One who called us into ministry.

Seeing the sign of God and following God’s path reminded me again of how important it is for church leaders to safe guard our spiritual life. We cannot serve God without this solid foundation.

Questions for life change:

  • Where and with whom am I spending my time in ministry?
  • How do I guard my time with God? (How is it with my soul?)
  • What will I do this week to grow my love for Jesus?

 

 

 

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Why the UMC STILL Breaks My Heart

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breaks my heart, UMC, General Conference 2016

As General Conference approaches, I considered re-publishing my blog, The United Methodist Church Breaks My Heart. And then I realized that there was still more to be added to the conversation. A few things have changed in my life since my first foray into the blogosphere. I have changed my position within my local church and found a renewed passion and love for my calling as pastor of a local church. And with the healing of God and much hard work I have dug myself out of a serious depression. Yet with less than a week until I board a plane for General Conference 2016, I find myself overcome with similar feelings of a year ago. Again I find that the UMC still breaks my heart.

Continue reading…

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Soul on Fire

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m so blessed to serve with a rocking band every Sunday morning. Today between services our very talented worship leader and keyboardist started to jam to Purple Rain. (Sadly I realized I was old when the young adult drummer and teenage bass player didn’t recognize the song.) Our team can really rock and worship on a Sunday morning. And so when this team of people who gig on Friday and Saturday nights plays Soul On Fire, it really adds a new dimension to worship. This number one song of 2015 by Third Day has a bit of a twang. When we use the song in worship, our drummer steps out from the kit and uses the Cajon plus a really good shaker. While we wouldn’t want this sound on a weekly basis, the change in sound, style and pace shakes up the congregation and brings us into a spirit of worship in a much different way.

The lyrics may lack spiritual depth, yet I believe they speak to a real need in the mainline congregations of the early part of the 21st-century. As attendance and membership numbers dwindle in our congregations, we need to re-light the fire in our souls. Christ lit a fire in those early disciples and their ‘numbers grew day by day’ and the fire could not and would not be extinguished. Maybe if we repetitively sing “let me burn for you” and “till I am a soul on fire” we will pray and worship our way into an authentic and burning love for our Savior Jesus.

As we approach Pentecost, the song could be an excellent way to remind ourselves of the true miracle of Pentecost. The gift of the Holy Spirit led those 12 on fire disciples to talk about Jesus and 3000 came to believe in one day. What could we look like if we lived in the same way?

Video:

Lyrics:

God, I’m running for Your heart
I’m running for Your heart
Till I am a soul on fire
Lord, I’m longing for Your ways
I’m waiting for the day
When I am a soul on fire
Till I am a soul on fire
[x2]

Lord, restore the joy I had
I have wandered, bring me back
In this darkness, lead me through
Until all I see is You

God, I’m running for Your heart
I’m running for Your heart
Till I am a soul on fire
Lord, I’m longing for Your ways
I’m waiting for the day
When I am a soul on fire
Till I am a soul on fire

Lord, let me burn for You again
Let me return to You again
And Lord, let me burn for You again
And let me return to You again

God, I’m running for Your heart
I’m running for Your heart
Till I am a soul on fire
Lord, I’m longing for Your ways
I’m waiting for the day
When I am a soul on fire

God, I’m running for Your heart
I’m running for Your heart
Till I am a soul on fire
I wanna be
Till I am a soul on fire
Till I am a soul on fire

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