Category: Worship (page 1 of 24)

Connected at the Gardens

With the rising number of Covid-19 cases in Amarillo and within our church family, I was concerned that last night’s Central worship event at the city’s Botanical Gardens might be sparsely attended. “I Come to the Garden Alone” was not on the set list, but I was afraid it might be the reality.

Not even close.

 

 

 

 

Between 70-80 of us showed up last night to enjoy the beauty of the gardens and worship together in song, Scripture, and prayer. The weather was absolutely beautiful under that big shady oak tree, the butterflies were doing their thing, the fellowship was sweet even from behind our masks, and the fall decorations added a wonderful touch to the evening. A bird pooped on Hannah and a few of us got hit by falling acorns, but it was a really nice evening together as a church family.

 

 

 

 

 

The theme of the evening went along with our Missions Month theme: “Connected.” We are connected together in that we all need the same grace of God, we are all saved by the same blood of Jesus, we all share the same Holy Spirit, and we are all sent on the same mission. When our nation feels so fractured, when our families and neighbors seem so separated, when our church is more scattered than gathered, when the whole world is more focused on the distance and the differences between us, we need to intentionally remember all the things we have in common. Now is the time to consider the countless ways we are attached.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Worship does that. Singing the same songs together to the same Lord. Reading the same passages of Scripture together out loud as a community of faith. Praying together on behalf of those who are not with us, but to whom we are so connected. Being reminded of who we are and where we’re going and who’s getting us there.

 

 

 

 

 

All who attended, I think, really needed what happened last night. I know I did. I have to remind myself once or twice every day that so much of what’s happening around me is completely out of my control. Things with our church, things in our city, things in the world — I have no control over hardly any of it right now. So I shouldn’t worry about it. I shouldn’t let it stress me or get me down. The only One who is in total control is our Father and he wants nothing but good for me and for the people I love. I remembered that again as Whitney led us in prayer last night. What a blessing she was to everybody in the garden and what an immeasurable encouragement it was to her. I remembered it while watching Melissa struggle with her young son as she led us in worship. What a picture of perseverance and commitment to her kids and to her church family. I was reminded while we were singing “Amazing Grace” and “Days of Elijah” together last night with so many dear and faithful Christians. The days of great trial? The days of tribulation? Behold, he comes!

Worship connects us to each other and to our Lord and to his great promises. I’m grateful to God for meaningful times like last night.

Peace,

Allan

Songs in the Night

“Behold! Bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord
who minister by night in the house of the Lord.
Lift up your hands in the sanctuary
and bless the Lord.
May the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth,
bless you from Zion.”

~ Psalm 134

It is nighttime at the temple. This psalm describes nighttime worship in the presence of God. King David had set things up so that God was worshiped around the clock at the temple, during all hours of the day and night. If you look at Psalm 92 and a couple of places in 1 Chronicles, you see that the temple choirs and praise bands blessed the Lord all day long and through the night. I know when you’re in church on Sunday morning you’re constantly glancing at your watch, you’re leaning over to the person next to you: “When is this over?” If you were in the temple in Jerusalem and asked a priest, “When is this over?” he would say, “It’s not! It’s never over! From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised!”

This 24-hour worship in the temple, this around the clock praise in the presence of God, is symbolic. It’s supposed to communicate certain realities that we can’t always see.

One of those realities is that our God never sleeps. Our God is 24/7. The pagan temples of this time always closed down operations at night because the god(s) needed to sleep. Remember Elijah talking trash to the priests of Ba’al on Mount Carmel? “Why is your god not answering you? Maybe he’s taking a nap!”

Not our God.

Psalm 121 assures us that God is watching over us and will not slumber, he will not sleep. Psalm 127 tells us the Lord provides for us while we sleep. You and I can be sound asleep in the middle of the night, knowing our Lord is wide awake and watching over us and our loved ones, protecting us, doing what’s best for us.

It also reminds us that God gives us songs in the night. When it’s dark. When times are tough. When you can’t see your way. When you can’t do anything else. You can always praise God. In fact, that’s probably the best thing you can do: bless the Lord. Even in the night.

Psalm 42 says by day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me. Psalm 77 claims that we remember our songs in the night. Job’s friend mused, “Where is God my Maker, who gives songs in the night?” David sings in the darkness of the cave while his life is in danger. Paul and Silas sing while they’re suffering at night in the Philippian jail. Jesus and his disciples sang a hymn while they walked to Gethsemane on that terrible night.

When you are sound asleep, God is being praised. And in the depths of your darkest night, you can always praise God.

Go Stars.

Allan

Psalm 19

The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth, their works to the ends of the world.

Are You Singing Today?

“A Christian should be an Alleluia from head to foot.”   ~St. Augustine

If Augustine of Hippo had had a Twitter account 1,700 years ago, he would have blown it up with this quote.

Uniting as One

More than one-thousand followers of Jesus from at least sixty-three churches in Amarillo gathered on the downtown Potter County Courthouse lawn last night to praise God together and to pray to him for healing for our land and harmony for his people. “Uniting as One” was a city-wide, all-church, interracial, interdenominational event meant to express our unity as one Body of Christ.

 

 

 

 

It was not a protest, it was not a demonstration; it was a Christian worship service. Black and white and Hispanic churches, young and old, the overly-demonstrative and the too-laid-back, folks from both sides of I-40 — together in Spirit and in truth. We sang Gospel hymns and contemporary praise (for a brief moment when the power went out, we even sang acappella!), we read Scripture about unity and humility and obedience, we prayed for our city and our churches, and we met a lot of people. We prayed for God’s justice and peace for the state of Texas, for the United States, and for all of God’s creation. And we showed all of Amarillo and anybody else who’s paying attention that all Christians are united together in Jesus, that we are committed to living and serving and worshiping together in peace and love and unity, that we are resolved to tear down walls and build bridges. Together.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This was not a photo opp (although many pictures were taken and posted) and this was not a box to check for what a church is supposed to do when racial strife makes the news (Remember? We had that worship service!).  No, this was a stand. This was a Christian line in the sand that the followers of Jesus in Amarillo, Texas will not be divided over anything. Not race, not color or ethnicity, not zip codes or geography, not language or culture or national politics — nothing is going to divide God’s people in this city!

 

 

 

 

There was also a call to action last night, a serious challenge for all in attendance. Pastor Anthony Harris, from St. John Baptist Church, asked all of us to sit down to a meal with somebody of a different color sometime in the month of July. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, whatever. Go to their house, invite them to your house, meet at a restaurant, doesn’t matter. But everyone was challenged to commit to sharing a meal together with somebody whose skin is a different color sometime in the next five weeks.

Because if we all do that, things will change.

 

 

 

 

Our God chose a table, he chose a common meal as the way to show his oneness with his people. Around the table is where you experience unity and fellowship. Sharing a meal is how you strengthen family and develop friends. Being at the table together expresses acceptance and presence. To eat and drink a meal with someone is a show of solidarity: “We have things in common!” And if all the Christians in Amarillo do this, things will change.

 

 

 

 

I was honored to be asked to speak at last night’s historic event. I was humbled by the sheer enormity of what God seems to be doing in our city and grateful to be involved in some small way.  I was encouraged by the spirit of the gathering, the mutual love and acceptance, the combined eagerness to do something significant “that the world may believe.”  And I was reminded why it’s so great to live in Amarillo and so great to be at Central.

I praise God for the new friends I’ve made in the past six weeks and I thank him for whatever is coming next.

Peace,

Allan

From Scattered to Gathered: Part 3

 

If Sunday morning worship is a beach vacation — it’s real, it’s physical, sand in the toes, sun on the face — and online worship is not; but if coming together on Sundays under social distancing restrictions, mask guidelines, “Rip N Sip” communion kits, and a lot of our church family still quarantining at home is like sticking your finger in a four-year-old jar of sand — it’s just not the same, it’s diminished, not the way we remember, almost a let down — should we even do it?

Let me finally now make a case for it. I’m convinced we can practice the priority and the purpose of our gatherings, while not forgetting what we’ve learned and experienced while we’ve been scattered. And I believe a helpful text is Hebrews 10:19-25.

Since we have confidence, boldness, authorization to enter the very Holy of Holies; since we have the blood of Jesus and the body of Christ that opens up the door for us to come into the very presence of God himself; since we have been given access by our risen and reigning high priest to the very throne room of God — because of all those mind-blowing blessings we share together — let us.

Let us draw near to God in faith. Let us go in, right into his presence. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, that God has promised an eternal gathering someday, a forever community to which we will all ultimately belong together. Let us take care of each other. Let us love, encourage, and support one another. Let us not give up meeting together — for all these reasons. Let us not stop meeting together.

It’s a taste, right? It’s a foretaste of what’s coming. Our Sunday morning assemblies point to the day when all God’s people are gathered together — every tribe, language, people, and nation — in God’s presence with one another around his great banquet feast. Our church gatherings anticipate that, our worship services point to that. It’s a taste. It’s a glimpse. And when we’re all physically together in the presence of God, in the name of Jesus, and by the power of the Spirit, we actually are really participating in that ultimate promised gathering.

“You have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the judge of all men and women, to the spirits of righteous people made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant.” ~Hebrews 12:22-24

The assembly transcends time and space. We’re not meeting at 1401 South Madison in Amarillo, we’re gathering on Mount Zion! We’re in the heavenly Jerusalem! We’re not assembling with 600 people in a church building in Texas, we’re worshiping and eating and drinking with all of God’s saints for all time! That’s the invisible eternal reality!

When God’s people meet together, we meet the future. We get a taste of the future. We experience it. We join it. We get to see what our God is ultimately doing. It’s like receiving the down payment on God’s guarantee.

Church is a communal event. It’s spiritual communion with the Lord through which the divine community engages the redeemed community, where we delight in each other and we witness together to the not-always-seen realities of God’s Kingdom.

Sunday morning worship is Psalm 50 where God says, “Gather to me my consecrated ones.” It’s Leviticus 9 where the entire assembly comes near and stands before the Lord and his glory appears to them all. It’s Jesus saying, “How I long to gather you together.” It’s Ephesians 1 where the Bible says God’s ultimate will is to bring all things in heaven and earth together in Christ.

So what if May 31, or whenever your church gets back together, and the weeks after that are like just sticking your finger in a four-year-old jar of sand. It’s a taste. It’s a glimpse. It’s still a real, physical participation in a glorious, eternal reality with God and each other.

God has been obviously at work during the weirdness of doing church online. You think he might have something special planned for us in the weirdness of May 31?

Let us draw near to God and find out.

Peace,

Allan

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