Tag Archives: Worship

Let’s Go Retro and have a Flashback

Today I go back 3 years. Covid was just a dream in a lab somewhere. Masks were for winter cold or robbing a bank. I had no grandson nor a daughter in law. This is as funny then as now. So enjoy the blog from exactly 3 years ago today.

What if Worship was an Escape Room

Escape Rooms They’re hip, chic, hot, groovy, lit, phat, a phenom, fly, fresh … basically popular. (Choose whatever word fits your generation). You and a few friends get locked in a room that is themed to a particular time or place. You have a limited amount of time to search for clues that will enable you to ‘escape’ and thus giving you bragging rights that you beat the game.

Calvin looks to be in great pain … as he gathers with his wedding party guys. Calvin is in the middle and just weeks from his wedding day – an entrance into a lifelong escape room.

You’ve seen them pop up all over the place. They’ve been written into TV shows. And you’ve seen pics on social media of groups enthralled over their ‘escape’. But, I must be honest, I’ve never gone to one. Maybe I don’t have enough friends that want to be locked in a room with me. Maybe I have too much of an ADHD type of personality. Or maybe I just don’t want to. Who knows? But I know the concept, talked to escapees, and have watched the TV shows that write whole episodes around the concept. But … What if we did church worship like an escape room. We bring the people in. During the welcome time, we lock the doors. (As I write this, I wring my hands like a villain from a Dudley Do-Right cartoon. Did I just date myself?) So … we lock the doors and then the fun begins. They will only get out of church and beat the Methodist to the local eateries if they accomplish a few tasks, decode the clues, and discover something about themselves and their team. What would leadership demand? What tasks? What clues? Here are some of my thoughts …

  • Do Some Tasks – Everybody gets involved. Everybody sings and opens their Bible (or turns on their Bible Ap). Everybody reads during responsive readings. Nobody sits back and plays Candy Crush on their phone. Not everybody will take notes, jot down Tweetable quotes, or underline verses – but everybody will be mentally engaged in their own ways. You might even throw in that everybody has to give during the offering. Imagine being locked in the worship center until everybody opens up their wallets.
  • Decode Some Clues – There are a lot of clues and wisdom in our worships. Praise songs that lift exaltation to a great God. Hymns that describe great stories, doctrines, and theology. Scripture that instructs, reproves, corrects, etc. Sermons that unfold the clues, apply the truths, and prompt response. Personal stories that connect to real life. And so much more. As each one examines these clues and these elements of worship, they also examine their own lives. They will connect the truths discovered to their own lives.
  • Discover Some Things – after connecting the truths from the clues, they will see where their lives, their relationships, their desires, and their decisions on everything all need to align with the will and wisdom of God’s revelation. They will see how they can encourage each other and lift each other up. They will discover their great brokenness, their great need, and the great healing and wholeness found only the Gospel. And they will discover God’s love is not only for them, but for each person in that locked room.
  • Direct Their Lives – Worship is only finished when lives are transformed. The worshipers will direct their lives in the way of our Lord.

Only then will the doors be unlocked and worshippers released into the world … not to brag about how and what they escaped, but to share the joy that God has for the rest of the world that are trapped in their lives, share the discovered truths of God’s great deliverance, and share the hope that they too can ‘escape’ their bondage.

Okay, maybe I took the concept too far. But maybe, just maybe, I might try this one day. If it happened at your worship this weekend, would you get out?

But if you needs something current …. My grandson is feeling poorly, here is a rare not happy pic …

New Toys – Geek Heaven – or Nerd Sheol?

I’m not the biggest Geek. Oh, I can get myself around for most simple stuff. More Apple than PC but I have to play with both. So, when our church is finally updating the AV hardware – how fun! and how frightening.

We are getting a Roland switcher, three PTZ cameras, a new Allen & Heath console, and misc. paraphernalia that goes with it. Now this brings new opportunities, and new headaches.

Will it work with the coax we have run to the older building? Will it need a new computer to run something like OBS? And if we use OBS, what computer set up will we need? OBS has a learning curve – ouch. I just now got familiar with the iOs Studio Switcher – I will have to not only learn OBS but train others. And when it comes to the audio console – analog to digital, new formats, and more.

This doesn’t even include upgrading EasyWorship – which that I can already see new computer, new switcher/scaler, new tricks.

Have I lost most of y’all? I’ve lost myself.

But we do this. We go through all of this to enhance worship. To make online and in-house worship better for all participating. To provide the best available worship experience. With videos, streaming, mixed audios, online teaching, teleconferences, video communication with missionaries in the field, streaming conference and even watching conventions. This is where we are today.

In life, we continue to adapt, continue to learn, continue to grow. To stop means stagnation, becoming out of date, and eventually death.

Yesterday when caught in a snow storm, I used 4wd skills and tried to share with my wife so she might learn. If Covid did nothing, it showed us alternatives.

Let’s use the best choices and continue to learn to be better, smarter, more effective, and all we can be – especially for our Lord. I want our worships to be the best for everyone.

POST SCRIPT – taking suggestions for computer set up for OBS. DM if you have input.

The Picture Says So Much

Mountain tops. Waterfalls. Icy Trails. Colorful trees in the fall. Arches. Cliffs. Canyons. Crevices. Geysers. They all say adventure. They all speak volumes and tug at our outdoor heart. I have mine, and I am sure you have yours.

But each weekend – millions gather around the world to partake of one of the greatest adventures of eternity – spending time with our church family and our Heavenly Father. We sing songs of praise. We list corporate prayer needs. We listen to the pesky announcements (I call ministry opportunities). And of course – God’s Word is shared, expounded, and challenges us.

There are hundreds of types of places to worship. Gothic cathedrals, Hotel ball rooms. old Kroger’s spots, classic wood frame churches, and small brick and steeples to name a few.

But this week – one picture stood out above them all. One picture that said – This is why we are here …

It says to me

  • Parents, bringing your kids to worship is important
  • Don’t just bring them, involve them
  • There is power in prayer – you are talking to the almighty Creator of the Universe
  • Songs and praise are important – but this is too
  • I wish this was what all our worships were about
  • This was taken when we were praying for Ukraine and Russia – WOW!
  • This was taken last Sunday at my church in little ole central VA!

If you had to picture your worship, what would it be?

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 19:14 esv

PastorDude Podcast #9 – Worship in the Darkness

When life is easy, worship seems to just come natural. But what happens when life is hard, when times are difficult, and everything seems dark? Worship in the dark changes things.

Click here to listen to this week’s podcast – just under 6min.

Or just click the graphic to open the media player to listen.

The Little Walnut

I was at the top of the world. I was hanging big in my domain, at the top of the highest tree. I wasn’t worried about pesky squirrels or other furry creatures getting to me. I was snuggled comfortably in my outer shell, a blanket of warmth and protection.

But my blanket began to crack. It was coming apart as if it was peeling away little by little. And then the unthinkable. I was released to fall, and fall, and fall. I bounced of limbs and finally hit a layer of soft leaves.

The shock wore off and I was okay. These leaves weren’t so bad. I would miss my sunshine, but I could get used to the comfort of a bed of leaves.

No. Stay away. Don’t come near me you beady eyes, bushy tail monster. The squirrel picked me up and ran away. Far from my tree, far from my home. Was this it? Would I end up as a winter meal?

But Lady Luck had another plan … the squirrel got rattled by a noise and dropped me. I fell into a small hole. Maybe nobody would find me and I could just enjoy this place. I felt the sun. The ground was so soft. I think I’ll just take a long nap.

But when I woke up, something had changed. I wasn’t in my shell, I wasn’t a small nut anymore. I was a small tree. I reached for the sun, took in the rain, lost my leaves in the winter, and came back in glory in the spring. I grew big and strong.

I saw other trees come and go. But I remained. Houses were built. I shaded little kids playing. Had a swing from my strong arms. Provided walnuts for pies and sweets. Kids and animals climbed me. Birds played and sang in my upper leaves.

Life was good.

But then I felt the axe. The brutality. Piercing sharp blows bringing me closer and closer to falling over. Life seemed worthless. All I had done, all I had experienced was coming to ruthless and violent end.

I cried out, ‘Why?” I wanted to have meaning, purpose, a legacy. Had I survived the fall, the snatching by the squirrel, the long seasons, the storms, the years … for this?

I was cut, sawed, smoothed, and stacked in the corner of a shed. A man came by and took me home. When he handled me, it was gently, tender … as if he saw something in me. But I was near the end, I no longer had my glory of a strong, large walnut tree.

His hands shaped me. They smoothed my rough edges. They seemed to work with a passion, a vision of something I couldn’t see. Then he put a liquid … warm and calming on me. I had a luster, a warmth of color that brought out the grains, the knots, the flow of my texture. What was he making out me?

He loaded me in his truck and took me to a large building. It was not what I expected. A large meeting place. Holes and hangers were added. And then I was placed vertical again. But not outside. I was on a wall. Hanging there.

Was this it? What was going on? And then a voice talked to me. A firm and confident voice, but a comforting voice.

“Dear piece of wood, you will be a reminder of something great. For you will point people to our Creator, our Savior, our God. For you, you who started as a walnut, high in the tree … you who grew into a large, mighty tree … that isn’t your legacy. You are now a cross, the image of where everything changed, where Hope is realized, where sin was defeated, where death lost its sting. There is no greater legacy than to point people to Jesus.”

And then I heard him whisper, “And I pray my legacy will be like yours … pointing people to Jesus.”

Yesterday, in our worship, we had a new piece added to our worship center … a cross made of black walnut. We worshiped with the cross lifted high. May we forever live in the shadow of the cross, and may our legacy be pointing people to the cross, today and always.

Who is this all about?

Warning. This is a political topic. Take heart. This is not a political rant. Stay with me.

Tuesday, Attorney General Barr went before a House committee for a hearing. Both red and blue congressmen and congresswomen got their say in, and they all said a lot. Prewritten speeches, twisted questions, political slams, and direct innuendoes. (Yeah, that last one doesn’t make much sense, but neither does calling what happened today a hearing.)

Here is my humorous insight. One of the coolest moments was when, after numerous questions were asked of Barr and much talking over any attempts which Barr was making in answering or responding to said questions, Barr made an insightful statement …

This is a hearing. I thought I was the one who was supposed to be heard.

William Barr

Don’t get mad at me, but I think Barr was genius. And for me, the lesson was not really about Washington politics but about worship.

Think about it. We call it worship and that’s what it should be about … worship. We are to be worshipping God. Praising Him, learning from Him, talking and singing about Him, praying together to Him. Do you get it? … it’s about Him. And by Him, I mean Jesus.

But we get more concerned about music style, or our comfort, or if people are wearing/not-wearing masks, or the noise level, or kids being restless, or the pastor preaches-looks-talks-breaths funny. We want our comfort, our preferences, our music, and our ways … not to say our seat. Don’t even think about letting someone else sit in our seat.

Let’s reword the earlier quote …

This is worship. I thought I was the one who was supposed to be worshipped.


Worship is our praise and service to Him … but also our time to hear from Him.

So this coming Sunday, go to worship somewhere (if you can) and make it all about Him. He is the only one worthy of our worship, wouldn’t you agree? Give Him the hour.

It’s all about You Jesus.

The Variety of Worship Expressions — All To Bless The Lord

The final psalm in this journey of songs. And it is a super powerful ending. Not just powerful, but super powerful. This psalmist has hit an emotional high that each of us should connect with.

The journey has been long. You’ve passed through treacherous places – dangerous by the surroundings as well as the sinister plots of people out to get you. Time, effort and much planning has been spent. You remember seeing the city from afar and reaching her gates that welcomed you in to worship. The splendor of the city and the Temple leaves one in awe. There are people all around, busyness, sounds of excitement, music lifted high. And now you’ve reached the destination – the Temple. The very dwelling place of a God.

Notice the steps. It was said the priests would sing the Ascent Psalms as they climbed the steps.

It’s all so … so … overwhelming. You want to really worship and praise.

But something happens. You look around and get distracted.

One person is on their knees sobbing. Another is dancing and singing with childish fervor. And there – that one is sitting like a statue with eyes locked upward. Over there, in the corner, is one totally prostrate with their face in the ground … mumbling. And those two up front, it’s like they’re swaying to the music together, hands high and wide. And can somebody control their kids, they’re annoying me.

It’s all so … so … distracting.

Here’s the lesson on worship. Stop looking around, just keep your eyes on the One whom you’re there to worship. And when you do look around, and most of us will, don’t see the various happenings as distractions. See them as individual displays of worship.

That’s right … not distractions, but displays of worship

The experience of worship may be humbling … taking you to your knees or even face down in brokenness over our sin and awareness of our need. Worship may cause us to raise our hands reaching for more, bestowing adoration. Or worship may be that quiet, still moment of peace that blocks out everything around us. And don’t forget the overwhelming joy when you think of His gifts of forgiveness, grace, and love … it makes you wanna, shout, kick my heels up and shout, raise my hands up and shout … you get the picture. These are all expressions of worship seen at various places in scripture.

Which one are you?

The posture and physical expressions of true worship do not distract from God’s glory, but display it.

Christopher Asmus

We are all in different places on our journey. We are all facing different circumstances and going through unique happenings. But what we do have in common is we’ve come to worship and we’re all in His presence. So rejoice in the variety of worship styles and expressions. Bless the Lord who is personal enough to be intimately involved with my life, yet big enough to be connected with every person globally at the exact same time.

Final word … if you get distracted in worship services by others expressing worship, you’ve got your eyes on the wrong thing.

Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
who stand by night in the house of the Lord!

Lift up your hands to the holy place
and bless the Lord!

May the Lord bless you from Zion,
he who made heaven and earth!

Promises We Hold On To

Prelude: a few weeks back we started to look at the Ascent Psalms. However, we stopped after 12 of the 15 Psalms. So today, we pick back up with the 13th, Psalm 132.

So we are headed to worship. And these 15 Psalms prepare our hearts and minds for worship. And this is the longest, and many feel one of the most important of the Psalms. This one deals with promises. But not just any promises. Promises made by David to God. Promises by God to David. And even God’s promises to us.

David promised a dwelling place for God. And as the worship centered on the Temple, David kept his promise.

God promised a messiah, an anointed one. And he promised one would sit on the throne forever. And I hope you know those promises were fulfilled in one person – Jesus the Messiah.

But it doesn’t stop there. It continues. And it continues with power … (vss 13-18)

God promises to dwell with his people. Wow! He will not only be here with us, but he will dwell, live amongst us. This goes beyond the earthly years of Jesus, it’s forever. Again, wow! And he promises to bring salvation. We are priests, clothed in salvation, sharing it with the world. And finally, the last two verses are the apex, the mountain top … and it points to Jesus. His promises will be fulfilled in heaven.

And that’s a reason to worship. He keeps his promises … all in Jesus.

  • Presence
  • Salvation
  • Heaven

So today, worship Him. The great promise keeper.

Remember, O Lord, in David’s favor,
all the hardships he endured,
how he swore to the Lord
and vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob,
“I will not enter my house
or get into my bed,
I will not give sleep to my eyes
or slumber to my eyelids,
until I find a place for the Lord,
a dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob.”

Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah;
we found it in the fields of Jaar.
“Let us go to his dwelling place;
let us worship at his footstool!”

Arise, O Lord, and go to your resting place,
you and the ark of your might.
Let your priests be clothed with righteousness,
and let your saints shout for joy.
For the sake of your servant David,
do not turn away the face of your anointed one.

The Lord swore to David a sure oath
from which he will not turn back:
“One of the sons of your body
I will set on your throne.
If your sons keep my covenant
and my testimonies that I shall teach them,
their sons also forever
shall sit on your throne.”

For the Lord has chosen Zion;
he has desired it for his dwelling place:
“This is my resting place forever;
here I will dwell, for I have desired it.
I will abundantly bless her provisions;
I will satisfy her poor with bread.
Her priests I will clothe with salvation,
and her saints will shout for joy.
There I will make a horn to sprout for David;
I have prepared a lamp for my anointed.
His enemies I will clothe with shame,
but on him his crown will shine.”

– Psalm 132

Enemies at the Gate

The neighborhood was rough and crime in the area was real. So the church took safety precautions. During services, the doors would be shut and locked preventing any kind of entry. An usher would remain on the outside to observe and stand watch. But what happened next was not what you expect.

Read the article about it here

They came in police cars. They came armed. Uniformed and plain clothes service men pulled up to the church during the service and demanded entry. They banged on the door with the intent to shut them down.

The service was ending anyway so the pastor said the benediction and the worshippers exited the building. A car with dark tinted windows has a strange man within that took photographs of every worshipper as they left.

This wasn’t the first time the local government had shown antagonism and used their power in an attempt to shut this church down.

The shocking reality though is where this took place. This didn’t take place in China where the communist party is taking great strides to stop the growth of the church from imprisonments of leaders to blowing up churches. Nor did it take place in a Muslim controlled nation.

See article about China here

This police action took place in the heart of Chicago, just a mile away from historic Jackson Park. The mayor decided to shut the church down in an overreach of power during this time of coronavirus containment. I could understand if there was rebellion, rioting, threats, malfeasance, or harmful intent from Cornerstone. But they just wanted to worship. They took safety precautions, practiced social distancing, took temperatures of worshippers to allow entry, and more.

This took place in America. And I will warn you, it will happens more and more as time goes on. This is not a political issue. This is not a constitutional issue. This is not a personal preference issue.

This is a spiritual warfare issue. And followers of Christ need to know we are in the middle of a battle that has gone on against God and his people since man has been around.

The Ascent Psalms are a worshippers guide to preparing hearts for worship. They are an insight to man’s conditions and God’s promises. The 129th Psalm Is the worshipper looking around and remembering this. People had come against Israel from the very beginning, yet she stood. Enemies, from the Hittites to Hitler have tried to eliminate them, yet she stood.

The church too has been the target of many, yet she stands. The gates of hell shall not prevail against her. And in the end, she will be standing.

So when I worship, even if I have to do it in secret, under threat of arrest, fearful for my life … I remember this … God wins. And that is a reason to celebrate.

So pray for the church, at home and abroad. Pray for leaders in America that will defends our right to worship (but don’t be shocked when that right might be taken away). Pray for courage of church leaders who have to plan and lead under persecution. And pray for safety of worshippers. May we never take worship for granted.

And remember this repeated statement about God’s people from Psalm 129 … Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,
yet they have not prevailed against me.

God wins the war … and for that, I praise Him through my worship.

“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth”—
let Israel now say—
“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,
yet they have not prevailed against me.
The plowers plowed upon my back;
they made long their furrows.”
The Lord is righteous;
he has cut the cords of the wicked.
May all who hate Zion
be put to shame and turned backward!
Let them be like the grass on the housetops,
which withers before it grows up,
with which the reaper does not fill his hand
nor the binder of sheaves his arms,
nor do those who pass by say,
“The blessing of the Lord be upon you!
We bless you in the name of the Lord!” (Psalm 129)

Worship … Taking In the Sights and Sounds

We are getting ready to open our doors for worship again. It’s been almost two months since we’ve been inside to worship together. Oh we’ve done the drive-ins, online, streaming …. but not together in the sanctuary.

The Ascent Psalms are part of the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The Torah gives several feasts, festivals, and fasts. Three of those festivals were the biggies … the Shalosh Regalim (שלוש רגלים) – Passover, Pentecost and Sukkot (booths).

The Israelites were to travel to Jerusalem for festivities and worship. The 8th of these Psalms give us an insight to the sights and sounds one might encounter inside the big city of Jerusalem. Now this may not be the intent of the Psalmist, but it sure made me think.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain
… can you imagine seeing the splendor of the Temple, the majesty and grandeur. Today we might look around at great sanctuaries and think the same.

The National Cathedral in Washington, stock photo

Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain
… and you look around and see the Temple guards. I envision military type security but with regalia. But at churches today, we have security, mostly hidden though. However, my mind thinks something different … like grandmas telling children not to run, nervous OCD people making sure flowers are perfect and the lobby is pristine, and nitpickers pointing out errors in the bulletin. They may think they are the new ‘guard’ but what we really need is to make sure God is there watching over us. These other things may be nice, but don’t really matter in the scope of eternity.

It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest
eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep
… it’s a festival, party city. The busy-ness, the food, the late nights, and the sounds keeping people awake. Maybe you stay up late wondering if your sacrifice is good enough, is you’re new outfit in style, what will people think. You’re so nervous, so distracted, so anxious that you lose sleep. That is vanity.

Today, we can get so anxious and distracted, we too miss your on what God has for us in worship. This is especially true for worship leaders and pastors. We’re so busy preparing and leading we don’t even do what we’re their for … worship.

Behold, children are … so many things. The last three verses talk about kids and how they are blessing. Can you imagine the kids overwhelmed at the events, the city, the splendor off all that is going on. You hear laughter, squeals, little feet hitting the road as they run around exploring. Like mayhem at recess … I love it.

I love kids in church. Active, noisy toddlers, crying babies, rustling of paper as they draw or pass notes (in modern day, this is more tapping on phone with games and texting to people across the aisles). It’s a spirit of aliveness and vitality. It shows we are a family church.

I mean I was that way … though I did get labeled as a rotten PK (preacher’s kid). I’d crawl under the pews, pass notes, write in the hymnals, look at pictures in the Bible … rather than watching the preacher (aka Dad). I even did an occasional paper airplane (but I kindof paid for those later – big time)

But I was at a place that had people who cared about me. And that is one of the reasons I still go to church. How are we treating our kids today? Are we drawing them in or driving them away?

Sights – sounds – kids – stuff happening … I love it when church is alive. Nothing worse than singing joyful joyful or about the goodness of God, but we’re looking like we barely have a pulse and need to be on life support. Where are the smiles, the praises, the happy expressions of people blessed by God?

May we always have looks of wonder and awe when we worship

So this week, when you look around … be grateful for the people. And cut that little imp of a kid some slack. He may grow up to be a preacher one day and pastor your grandchild.

Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.