Category: Worship (Page 1 of 26)

Worship Rules

Jason Robertson got the playoff hatty last night as the Dallas Stars came from behind to beat Edmonton 5-3 in Game Three of the Western Conference Final. It had been ten games since Robo tickled the twine, but he found the back of the net three times at Rogers Center to propel the Stars to a two-games-to-one series lead. Well, he found the back of the net twice; his third goal was pushed/crammed/willed through Skinner’s right pad and skate to complete the hat trick. The Stars fell behind 2-0 in the first period–we’ve seen this before–and then scored three goals in a 3:33 span in the second period to take the lead. Welcome back, Roope Hintz, who assisted on two of Robertson’s goals. Having Hintz back sure clears up a lot of room for Robertson to operate.

The brooms will be out at AAC tonight as the Mavericks are one win away from the NBA Finals for the first time since they won the whole thing in 2011. If Dallas can complete the sweep and knock out the T-Wolves this evening, it’ll be the first time in NBA history that both conference championship rounds were decided in four games. Boston eliminated the Pacers last night, winning the Eastern Conference four-games-to-none. No Dereck Lively tonight–he’s out with the sprained neck he suffered in Sunday’s game–so there’s a whole lot more riding on Gafford’s play in the paint. I don’t think Maxi Klieber returns from his injury tonight. I think the Mavs do the best they can with a combination of Gafford and Dwight Powell, put Minnesota out of its misery, and then take the full eight days between now and the start of the Finals to get both Maxi and Lively fully healthy for the Celtics. Dallas’ extraordinary depth is being tested now. The Timberwolves are going to take everything to the rim tonight and attempt to bully the Mavs. This is going to be an ugly low-scoring game tonight. And Dallas is going to win it.


I’ve said in this space and from the pulpit here at GCR several times lately that we need to be less concerned about how we do church and more concerned with how God does church. We should relax about our rules and stop worrying about our methods and submit to what God’s Spirit is doing. Instead of fretting about how we do church and debating whether we’re doing it right or wrong, we should just chill.

Well, hold on, preacher! The Bible seems to care about what we can and cannot do during church! The guy who wrote a third of the New Testament laid down a few rules about our Sunday assemblies!

Okay. If you insist. Let’s go there.

I’m assuming you’re thinking about that troubled church in Corinth and the letter Paul wrote to correct their mistakes.

The apostle Paul knows that what we do when we’re together shapes us. Our habits in our worship assemblies are forming us into a particular kind of people. So, Paul’s main concern is that our worship gatherings reflect the Gospel. Our Christian assemblies have to reflect the character of Christ. When he writes to other churches, he expresses his deep desire that Christ be formed in them, that they imitate Christ Jesus who said himself he came not to be served but to serve and to give his life for others. Paul says being united with Christ, having the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus, means considering others better than yourselves, looking to the needs of others.

So, yeah, he spills a lot of ink in his letter to the Corinthians to fix what they’re doing wrong.

In 1 Corinthians 11, Paul says your meetings are doing more harm than good. How harsh is that? It’s brutal. Your church is so bad, your people would be better off if they just slept in on Sundays. Paul says your church is divided. You’ve got cliques and little groups among you and I see it around the table. When you come together, he writes, it’s not the Lord’s Supper you eat; you are eating your own supper! You’re not waiting for others, you’re not sharing God with others; people are going hungry, people are being humiliated; the rich Christians are getting stuffed and drunk and the poor Christians are starving and being singled out as not really belonging. What am I supposed to say to you? Nothing good! So, then, my brothers and sisters, when you come together to eat, wait for each other. Consider the needs of each other. Treat one another as equals.

That’s Paul’s consistent instruction when it comes to what happens in church: consider the others, pay attention to the others, put yourself last.

These Corinthians Christians were showing off their spiritual gifts. They were clamoring for the spotlight in their assemblies and looking down on others based on their spiritual gifts. In chapter 12, Paul says the gifts of the Spirit are given for the common good, they’re supposed to benefit everybody, not just you. In fact, he writes in chapter 14, since you’re so eager to have spiritual gifts, try to excel in the gifts that build up the church.

What’s the problem with speaking in tongues? Well, sometimes there’s no interpreter and nobody knows what you’re saying and it’s not doing anybody any good but yourself. And sometimes y’all are talking over each other, trying to upstage each other, and it’s a mess. You’re not thinking about others. So, brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. Take turns. Speak one at a time. And if you don’t have an interpreter, don’t speak (sigao) until you get one.

Same thing with prophesy. Take turns. Speak one at a time. Why? What’s the point? So that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. And if you’re speaking and someone else has something to add, the one speaking should stop speaking (sigao) until it’s his or her turn again.

Same thing with women. They were evidently disrupting the gatherings; they, too, were speaking out of turn. Paul uses the same Greek word for stop speaking, sigao. Be quiet until it’s appropriate to speak. Put yourself last. Consider others more important than yourself.

Paul didn’t say stop eating, do away with all the meals. He said, when you come together to eat, be nice to others, treat everyone as equals.

He didn’t say stop speaking in tongues. He said, when you speak in tongues, be considerate of others.

He didn’t say stop prophesying. He said, when you prophesy, take turns. Be polite.

He didn’t tell women to stop praying and prophesying. He said, women, when you pray and prophesy, do it like this. Don’t offend people. Don’t elevate yourself.

So, yes, you’re right. The Bible does give us strict rules about our Sunday worship assemblies. And they’re all centered around treating people the way Jesus treats people. That’s it. Those are the worship rules in the Bible.

We worry about our Sunday mornings. We’re anxious to do everything right. Instead of worrying about whether a worship practice is prescribed or legal, we should be asking if what we do and the way we do it fosters community and equips us for mission. Applying the Gospel to our assemblies is much more important than trying to get it right. Do we value all people? Do we treat everybody the same? Are we striving to make everybody feel welcome and like they belong? Are all people loved in here?

None of the New Testament gives us a set of legally specified and timeless rules for conducting a worship assembly. The New Testament gives us Jesus and the Gospel, embodied by a community, and gathered by the Holy Spirit around word and table, where every person can experience and express the Good News freely and equally, in the name and manner of our Lord Jesus.



Blended Worship

Here’s my calendar for the next two weeks:

Wednesday May 22 – Dallas Mavericks Western Conference Finals Game 1
Thursday May 23 – Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Game 1
Friday May 24 – Dallas Mavericks Western Conference Finals Game 2
Saturday May 25 – Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Game 2
Sunday May 26 – Dallas Mavericks Western Conference Finals Game 3
Monday May 27 – Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Game 3
Tuesday May 28 – Dallas Mavericks Western Conference Finals Game 4
Wednesday May 29 – Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Game 4
Thursday May 30 – Dallas Mavericks Western Conference Finals Game 5
Friday May 31 – Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Game 5
Saturday June 1 – Dallas Mavericks Western Conference Finals Game 6
Sunday June 2 – Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Game 6
Monday June 3 – Dallas Mavericks Western Conference Finals Game 7 (if necessary)
Tuesday June 4 – Dallas Stars Western Conference Finals Game 7 (if necessary)

We’re a long way from this–we’re only halfway through both of these championship tournaments. But what if Dallas becomes “Title Town” and the Cowboys have nothing to do with it!


Here at GCR Church we practice what a lot of people call a blended style of worship. Blended worship. Some people call it mutually miserable. With blended worship, we are equal opportunity offenders. Everybody’s miserable part of the time. There’s some part of this worship service you’re going to hate–we guarantee it!

I make fun of it. But, most of the time, I’m pushing for it. Because, if nothing else, it’s a way of driving home the point that we are not a monolithic church of just one style or one generation or one approach. We’re a diverse family of Christian disciples. So, every Sunday, we sing a pretty good mix of newer contemporary worship songs and older classic hymns. We do it all.

It helps us, I think, to emphasize that our Christian faith and our community of faith at GCR is not a one-track deal. We’re trying our best to foster a culture where everybody connects with God. We’re not perfect at this. But we try to communicate with our blended styles and practices that everybody is invited, that everybody is welcome, that everybody can hear and be heard, and that everybody can sing their song.

And that God will transform us when we sing somebody else’s song.



The Triumph of Faith

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,

though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,

though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,

yet I will rejoice in the Lord,

I will be joyful in God my Savior!”

~ Habakkuk 3:17-18

Round Seven and Zach Williams

We bought the Zach Williams concert tickets before Carrie-Anne was diagnosed with cancer, before we knew that, when the date rolled around, we’d be in the middle of chemotherapy and cold cap treatments every Friday for twelve straight weeks. When I ran into a friend in the lobby of the Wagner-Noel last night he said, “Didn’t Carrie-Anne have her chemo today? She must be doing really well.” Truthfully, nothing was going to keep her from that show – Zach Williams is by far her favorite artist. And, by the way, she is doing really well.

Yesterday was Round Seven of the sixteen total infusions Carrie-Anne will receive as part of her treatment. And, so far, the side effects have been minimal, if at all. She is generally only having issues with the even-numbered infusions, and that is only some nausea and minor bone and muscle aches that usually begin overnight Friday and run through Sunday afternoon. We met with Dr. Manny on Thursday and all of C-A’s blood tests and lab numbers are perfect. As far as they can tell, everything is working exactly like it’s supposed to. In addition, the cold caps are doing their job, too – she hasn’t lost one strand of hair! The frozen gloves and slippers are also proving effective as her fingernails and toenails are not just holding their own, they’re growing! There is a cumulative effect on her energy we’re noticing. It is taking her a few hours more every week to feel back to normal. But Carrie-Anne is working four days a week and, overall, we both feel very confident and grateful for where we are and how things are going.

As for the concert, Zach Williams always puts on a good show. Four guitars, three horns, keys and drums, background singers, and steel guitar gives the whole thing a really full sound. It’s kind of a Southern Rock / Country sound like Lynyrd Skynyrd meets Dierks Bentley. I like the lyrics to most of his songs – fear really is a liar and we really could use a little more up there down here – and he seems to be a sincerely humble guy who wants to help people connect to our Lord through music. Carrie-Anne and Whitney both know every word to every song and I had a blast just enjoying my wife and my first-born daughter having so much fun.

Near the end of the show, Williams led his band and the whole crowd in a sharing of the communion meal. We were forced to use those terrible little rip ‘n’ sip communion kits, but it was okay. It was really good, in fact. Zach spoke about how the Church has distorted the communion meal, how we’ve conditioned ourselves to be silent and somber during the bread and cup when it was always intended by God to be a time of fellowship and sharing, a time of celebration and praise. At that point, Carrie-Anne leaned over and said, “He’s preaching your sermon.” I know. I was all in. So, Zach encouraged us to consider the Body, to remember the unity we share in Jesus, and to be alright with smiling and celebrating during the meal. And we did. The Body of Christ broken for you. The Blood of Christ given for you.

The only thing missing is for Zach to write a song based on Isaiah 25:6-9 or Exodus 24:8-11. I think I’ll send him a letter.




Our Faithful Lament

Our GCR Church family is grieving this week. Three funerals in one day will do that. Tomorrow we will give Ashleigh Reedy, James Kennedy, and Dane Higgins to our Lord at three services – two in Lubbock and one here in Midland. And we’re struggling with some of this. All three of these deaths are tragic and unforeseen, all surprising in varying degrees. And we’re having a hard time.

I believe that open and honest struggling and wrestling with God is a sign of faith. I believe that even questioning God and arguing with God reflects a strong inner conviction in his power and goodness.

Think about it. To demand that God ought to act justly is based solely on a firm belief that God is just. If we don’t believe God is just, we won’t go to him when we see injustice. We’ll go somewhere else. What we believe about God – if we really believe it – is what leads to this kind of honest wrestling.

We believe in God’s omnipotence. There is only one God. He does not share his power with any other god. He made the whole world and everything in it. He is the sovereign ruler over all creation. So, every single thing that happens, good and bad, fair and unfair, happens because God either causes it or allows it. And that leads directly to our really hard questions: Why? Why, God, do you allow these things to happen? Why, God, don’t you intervene?

We believe in God’s righteousness. God loves the world he created, he is concerned with what happens to his creatures, and he’s certainly not wicked in the ways he deals with the world. But we’re faced with the reality of terrible cruelty and awful suffering in our world. And if God is omnipotent and righteous, that leads directly to these agonizing prayers: How long is this going to last? God, where are you?

The prophet Habakkuk doesn’t like God’s answers. He can’t stand what he and his people are having to endure. None of it makes sense to him. So he keeps arguing with God. He keeps coming back to God. He struggles and accuses and complains.

“O Lord from everlasting. My God. My Holy One.” ~Habakkuk 1:12

When God’s people in Scripture complain about their troubles, when they lament the injustices of life, when they seek answer to their questions about the evil and the pain in the world, they don’t write letters to the editor, they don’t hold court in the coffee shop, they don’t call the talk shows, and they don’t join a campaign. God’s people bring their doubts and their fears, their uncertainties and questions, their complaints and arguments straight to God.

And in the case of the Psalms and Habakkuk, they do so as part of their worship, in the presence of God, in the middle of the congregation.

We’re struggling together here at GCR. We’re struggling with Mike and Amy and their family, with Lisa and John and their family, and with D’Nese and Dale and their family. This is hard. We’re struggling. Together. We’re questioning and complaining, trying to make sense of things that just don’t add up with what we know and believe about our merciful Father. But we’re struggling in faith.

God bless us. Lord, have mercy on these sweet families and on our church. God, please honor our faithful lament.



Resurrection Rejoicing

The great biblical scholar and writer N. T. Wright asks, “Is it any wonder people find it hard to believe in the resurrection of Jesus if we don’t throw our hats in the air? Is it any wonder we find it hard to live the resurrection if we don’t do it exuberantly in our liturgies? Is it any wonder the world doesn’t take much notice if Easter is celebrated as simply the one-day happy ending tacked on to forty days of fasting and gloom?”

Yes, the Resurrection of Christ is our greatest event. Yes, Easter is the Church’s greatest day.

And we had a good one today at the Golf Course Road Church. The energy and enthusiasm for worship and fellowship was electric as 664 of us came together to praise God and remember the life and power we share in the resurrection. The morning began with an Easter Brunch – breaking my Lenten fast with that spread of breakfast casseroles and pastries was almost overwhelming. We sang songs together with gusto. We ate and drank the Lord’s Meal together in celebration. Three of our young people were baptized into Christ and experienced their own resurrections as we witnessed and participated with them as a community of faith. I met lots of our members for the first time, folks who hadn’t been to church in months – in some cases, years – but had decided that Easter Sunday would be the day they came back. I met several guests, people who have just moved to Midland and are looking for a church home. As far as this preacher is concerned, praise be to God, it was an absolutely perfect Easter Sunday at GCR.

But it can’t just be Easter Sunday. It can’t be a once-a-year thing. Easter has to be an every day, every week, every Sunday thing.

Take Christmas away and, in biblical terms, you lose two chapters at the beginning of Matthew and Luke. That’s it. Take Easter away and you don’t have a New Testament. You don’t have Christianity. As Paul says, our preaching is worthless and so is your faith; we are still in our sins and are to be pitied among all people.

We should rejoice in our Lord’s resurrection today and every day. Every Sunday should be Easter Sunday – the same expectant crowds, the same exuberant worship, the same careful planning and rehearsing, the same enthusiastic participation, the same commitment to be in town so we can be in church.

Let’s rejoice in our Lord’s resurrection next Sunday, too. Let’s celebrate his current and eternal reign at the right hand of the Father every week. Let’s declare the gracious gift of everlasting life that comes to all those who share in Christ’s resurrection every Sunday. And let’s live – man, we should live! – into the resurrection, through the resurrection, because of the resurrection.



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