Monthly Archives: July 2015

Interpersonal Relationships affect Worship

 “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.”  (Romans 12:10)

After the worship service one of the Praise Team members was discouraged.  “Those comments that the sound tech made before the service were very discouraging.  I had a really hard time worshiping this morning.”  I could tell she was disappointed and frustrated.

By her own admission, she took everything people said very personally – even if the comments were not directly to her.  The comments the sound tech made were meant to help, but inadvertently caused the opposite reaction.

It reminded me of the reality of interpersonal relationships and that our ministry together is full of potential.  A potential for great things, as well as a potential for problems.  We must navigate through the mist of relationships, often wondering why people do what they do, or say what they say.  In my case, I needed to help this team member work through what she was feeling and to think clearly about what happened.

My first thought was to help her to understand the context of the comments and acknowledge that they weren’t directed at her specifically.  The Sound Tech hears, out in the auditorium, what we cannot hear on stage.  He is doing his best to prepare for a positive experience for the whole congregation.  Muddy words, drums that are too loud, or instruments that are being lost in the mix are his concerns.  He is trying to listen holistically and get the best sound for the whole group.

In conjunction with that, we can consider the idea of our serving the congregation.  As a musician or leader, we have a role to play and are concerned at doing that to the best of our ability.  We want to serve well.  So do our Sound and Multimedia personnel.  They serve, often unnoticed and with little thanks, until something goes wrong.  By dealing with issues during rehearsal, these men and women are also “rehearsing” to serve with their best efforts.  Let’s believe the best about them and their desire to serve well.

Another thought I shared was that we must enter into the life of the Sound Tech to understand why his comments may have not been worded well, or were said harshly.  We both know this person and his own life struggles.  As we talked through the tensions in his life, the frustration from the morning began to soften.  When we considered the other person, compassion was built and God’s Spirit moved us toward a loving response.  We knew that there were greater pressures in his life than simply fixing something in the mix, and by recognizing that we were able to put his mood and his comments into context.

Finally, I pointed out that musicians and worship leaders often look for some elusive feeling of “worship” that will confirm that they have, indeed, worshiped.  However, when we rely on our feelings to validate our life and our experience, we will often be disappointed.  Worship is an obedient response to the work of God in our lives, and is manifested by serving others (see Romans 12:1-21).  We serve our faith community by playing instruments, singing, and planning worship.  If God has gifted us for those things, and we are obedient in doing them, sometimes the “feeling” we look for may come lagging along later – or not at all.  We must assess our loving response of obedience in serving others as that which God expects from His servants (see Colossians 3:23).

Next time you get a sense of frustration as the result of an interpersonal conflict, use one or all of these ideas to think more clearly about the situation.  “Be devoted to each other,” as our Scripture verse states, and think the best thoughts about your fellow-servants.

Father, thank You for Your love which can flow through us to others.  Thank You for each of my fellow-servants as we seek to lead Your people in worship.  Give us hearts of love for one another.  In Jesus name, Amen.

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Interruptions or Opportunities?

Jesus took the apostles “with him…so that they could be alone.  But the crowds found out about this and followed Him.  He welcomed them.”  (Luke 9:10b-11a [GW])

During these days of economic and social uncertainty, many folks carry heavy loads of concerns and worries.  Life seems to get busier with each passing day.  We have work to do, phone calls to make, children to shuttle from one thing to the next, and a myriad of other responsibilities that pull us in every direction.  It is often overwhelming as we seek to care for our own needs, but also desire to care for those around us.

No one can deny that Jesus had a busy schedule as well.  He devoted Himself to mentor twelve men in living as obedient believers and leaders.  He taught regularly in the synagogues, the temple, on the beach, on the mountains and in the streets.  His healing ministry caused crowds of people to gather around Him, if only to touch His robe and be healed of their infirmities.

In addition to that, Jesus walked from town to town to share the Good News of the kingdom.  His ministry spread over many miles and touched countless people.  He seemed to be constantly moving, and noted at one point that He had “no place to lay His head.”

The twelve Christ chose as apostles were in training.  As they began to be more involved in ministry, Jesus recognized their need for rest and time alone.  After an especially exciting time of preaching the kingdom and curing the sick, Jesus “took them with Him to a city called Bethsaida so that they could be alone” (Luke 9:10b).  Jesus knew that the excitement and demands of ministry were great and provided for their refreshment.

This was a great plan—until the crowds found out about it.  In the middle of this important retreat throngs of people starting showing up to hear from Jesus and be healed by Him.  They had many needs, and they knew that Jesus was the answer to their problems.  They could hear the Good News to nourish their souls, be cured of their diseases to fix their bodies, and if they were lucky they might have a picnic lunch provided by Christ and the apostles!

Each time I read this story I am surprised at the response Jesus has to these demanding, self-interested crowds that come at the most inconvenient of times:  He welcomes them!  He opens His heart and draws them into His love.  Unlike my automatic response of irritation at the inconvenience, His consistent response is to reach into their lives.  He talks to them about the kingdom of God, He cures their sickness, and in this instance in Luke—provides lunch!

Not only is this NOT inconvenient for Jesus, it’s as though this was His plan all along.  Although we know His plan really was for the apostles to be alone for a while to rest, His overarching desire to bring God’s love into the world causes Him to respond out of a gracious heart in every situation.

This brings me back to the busy lives that we lead today.  We all need a break from the grind of daily responsibilities, and often the rest that we plan for a weekend gets interrupted by someone.  We lie down for a short nap, and the phone rings.  We sit in our favorite chair to read a book or the newspaper, and our spouse wants to talk (or a friend, or son, or daughter).

Even in our ministry we might have a tight schedule for our rehearsal, or for a planning meeting.  Our agenda is full and we can’t afford any interruptions.  We must get on task, stay on task, and complete the task!  Then it’s on to the next thing.

Yet, in the midst of this busy-ness we find people with needs.  How might we respond in a more Christ-like way when inconvenienced by someone?  How much greater effect could our ministry have if we listened for a few extra minutes when someone was hurting?  What if we are the one that has a need, but everyone around us is so busy or having “alone time” that our need goes unmet?

Of course, we must rely on the Holy Spirit’s prompting to respond appropriately in each situation.  We know that our plans must move forward, and fulfilling our responsibilities is important.  Maybe part of our planning should be some extra time to respond and, like Jesus, be aware of the people around us.  We have something they need—Jesus!  Let us give freely of Him with an open and loving heart.

Father, I pray that Your Spirit would guide me as I become more aware of the needs of people around me.  Give me a heart of love like Jesus.  Give me wisdom to know how to balance my “to do list” with the people in my life.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Pray Even for the Small Things

Casting all your cares upon Him, because He cares for you.”  1 Peter 5:7

Our mini-van had been gradually losing its various functions over a couple of years.  It had over 240,000 miles on it, so it’s really no wonder!  The rear windshield wiper was the first to succumb to the strain.  Next was the electronic clock/thermometer that fritzed out due to water seeping in by the windshield.  After heavy rains water would flow from the ends of the dashboard when we turned corners, pouring onto our feet.  The automatic side door also stopped opening automatically.  And… the list could go on and on.

At one point my wife informed me that our daughter had rolled down the window on the passenger side—but it wouldn’t go back up!  In fact, none of the electric windows would go up or down using any of the switches.  Each time either of us drove the van we would try to roll the windows up or down to no avail.

It wasn’t an issue, really, until the weather turned cold.  One morning we awoke to frost on the ground and a nippy start in the low 30’s.  Both the second car and the van were needed that day, so I was planning on taking the van to my destination.  My 12-year old daughter was going to be with me, so I suggested that she dress warm and wear a hat.  There was going to be a nice cool breeze in the van at 70MPH on the highway!

As we prepared to go, I sarcastically remarked, “Well, if God can raise a man from the dead, He can certainly fix our window and let it go up so we don’t freeze this morning!”  In truth, I had prayed for God to fix the window ever since it had stopped working, but I confess the prayer was half-hearted at best.

I started the van a few minutes early, and I went out to load some items and figured I should try the window one more time.  And… I couldn’t believe it—the window closed!  I let out a yell and the kids ran to see what the noise was about.

Surely the Lord had been merciful on my daughter and me that morning.  Yet, I internally struggled with my reaction that it was “coincidence.”  I know better and am well aware that God has His hand in every part of my life.  I was also aware of the cultural conditioning that led me to even consider this was coincidence.

I spent time reflecting on the words, “Casting all your cares upon Him” from the verse listed above.  I realized that I too often miss the point of the word “all.”  God cares about it all.  Everything that concerns me from the most mundane parts of life to the most significant decisions that I make.  In the same way that I care for my children—every part of their lives—my Heavenly Father cares for me.

Maybe you find yourself, today, needing Someone to care for the nitty-gritty details of your life.  It may be a family need, a personal struggle, issues with personality differences amongst the members of the worship team, or even that irritating “buzz” in your guitar amp that just doesn’t seem to go away.

Pray, my friend, for His help.  He is ready, willing and wanting to help in all of your cares.  His ear is attentive to the needs of His children.  He will answer, and though it may not be what you expect, it will be what is necessary for your continued growth.

Father, meet my needs today.  Some are large, and small are small, but I know all good things come from Your hands.  Thank you for caring for me.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Variety is God’s Plan for Worship

“When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers…

What is man, that You take thought of Him?”  Psalm 8:3-4

Though the sun was out, it was a colder-than-normal day on the shore of Lake Michigan.  Cold and windy.  The waves coming into shore looked to be 4 or 5 feet high.  Some may have been cresting as high as 6 feet.

My wife and I were spending a few hours together, sitting on the beach, quietly watching the waves.  On and on they came.  Rolling over each other and onto the sand in a never-ending variety.  It was sort of mesmerizing, and my mind easily wandered, even while I tried to look for patterns in the crests and valleys.

At one point, I connected with the power of God behind these waves.  What incredible planning and structure that went into the earth.  What awesome wisdom to make it all work!  Everything must be just right—the water, the wind, the shoreline, the moon’s gravitational pull—and whatever other elements must come together to both empower such energy, as well as contain it.

These thoughts reminded me that God created the heavens and the earth to reveal His character (Romans 1).  And here, on the shore of Lake Michigan with my wife, I was “seeing” the mind of God toward His creation, as well as recognizing my own need to conform my thinking to His thinking.

I realized that those waves could represent people too.  You and me.  There were big ones and small ones.  Wide ones and skinny ones.  Some of the waves overtook others and they became one larger wave.  Others, in a hurry to do something, crested far out from shore, foamed a little bit, and died out.

The variety of the waves was captivating, and the variety of people in our families, churches and communities can be captivating or even overwhelming.  This is how God planned it!  Although we have much in common, every one of us is completely unique.  Placed here for the purpose of glorifying Him in all we do.

Sometimes the variety of people around us can be a challenge.  We have all been intimidated by the presence of a person who is better at something than we are.  A better musician, a better husband, a better mother, a better teacher.  We get intimidated because we fail to honor the uniqueness of that person as gifted by God.  We lose perspective on the reality that each of us is gifted in some way.

Look around today, tomorrow, during rehearsals and at church this Sunday.  What do you see?  Are you jealous of those God has gifted financially?  Are you irritated at the one that holds a place of leadership that you think you should be in?  Are you embarrassed by your own inability to play or sing the way “so-n-so” does?

If so, let me help refocus your thoughts and give some perspective.  Note that our Scripture verse recognizes that God Himself takes thought of each person.  God Himself has thought about you!  He has gifted you, just as He has gifted others.  He has placed you in your family, in your worship team, in your church because you are the only you that there is.  He wants you to serve Him, and serve those around you, in the freedom of being who you are.

Being jealous, irritated or feeling embarrassed (because you don’t measure up to some standard you have imagined) steals the joy of serving God in the fullness of who you are.  And—more importantly—who God is making you to be for His glory.  Like the waves, He has created each person to flow and crest in infinite variety and freedom.

So enjoy the variety around you.  Celebrate the gifts others bring for service to the Lord.  Celebrate your own uniqueness.  And serve Him in joy and peace.

Father, we ask that you give us Your vision to celebrate the variety of people and gifts around us.  Allow us to take our own place, and be confident in how You have created us as well.  May we, together, serve You for Your glory and honor.  Amen.

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