Tag Archives: worship

Keeping Your Eyes Fixed

This is the text of my Going Deeper Daily Devotions for today:

Todays reading is Hebrews 12:1-24, but I am only going to read the first few verses, I will leave you to read the rest yourself. 

 As for us, we have this large crowd of witnesses around us. So then, let us rid ourselves of everything that gets in the way, and of the sin which holds on to us so tightly, and let us run with determination the race that lies before us.  Let us keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, on whom our faith depends from beginning to end. He did not give up because of the cross! On the contrary, because of the joy that was waiting for him, he thought nothing of the disgrace of dying on the cross, and he is now seated at the right side of God’s throne.

When I was learning to drive, the one best pearls of wisdom that the wonderful Llewelyn imparted to me is “look at where you want to go”.  Keep your eyes focussed on the road ahead at where you are journeying to. 

Don’t look at the front of the bonnet, you are not prepared for what is ahead, and especially don’t start admiring the scenery to the left or right – or that is where you will end up heading.

It turns out, that is not only useful advice for driving, but also for faith.  I would dare to suggest it is also good advice for a pandemic.

We are running a race, Hebrews tells us.  I sincerely hope it is not a physical running race, or I don’t stand a chance!  If I can expand the metaphor further, it is not a sprint, but a marathon.  It is not about a short sharp burst of energy, but about the long game.  The race that lies before us is probably long and winding, with unexpected twists and turn – more like a steeplechase with various different obstacles! – but no so systematically placed.  We will all run it in our own way, with our own style.  But the writer of Hebrews tells us to run, always keeping our eyes on Jesus.  He is where we are going, he is the reason for the journey, it is on him we depend.  Take our eyes off him and we will become distracted, drop focus, lose momentum in our step, become confused about where we were going, what the goal actually was, or just head off in the wrong direction all together.

With our eyes fixed on Jesus, we will not be distracted by the things on the periphery – those things that scare us, confuse us, take out focus, our interest, or just take us from the road and land us in a ditch.

Jesus should be our focus, the way, the guide.  With our eyes on Jesus, we are not avoiding the here and now, not just looking to the future, but thinking like Jesus each step of the way.

It seems very trite to ask,

‘what would Jesus do?’

but actually it can be a great question.  We will only reach the end if each step works. As we plough on with our natural reactions, it can be a great question to pull us up in any situation – never mind what I feel, what my knee jerk reaction might be, what would Jesus be doing in this situation? How is my vision of him going to effect what I do here, now?

When I finish this race, will I be able to look Jesus in the eye?

The passage finishes with these words:

22 Instead, you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, with its thousands of angels. 23 You have come to the joyful gathering of God’s first-born, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, who is the judge of all people, and to the spirits of good people made perfect. 24 You have come to Jesus, who arranged the new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that promises much better things than does the blood of Abel.

That is race’s end – The city of the living God.  To the joyful gathering of God’s people.  To Jesus.

Each day, may that be our focus.

Lord
you call us to run this race of life.

We want to run it always with you,
always with our eyes fixed on you
and not distracted
by things that do not matter.

And so each day
may we look to you
and live
in the way that you would.

May God bless us this day in our journey
and every day.
May we know his presence.
Amen

Making a God of Our Own

You were delayed Moses,
you didn’t come back
when we wanted you to.

We didn’t know where you were
or what you were doing
and we,
so we thought,
couldn’t wait.

You didn’t act God,
when
and how,
we wanted ,
thought we needed
you to.

So,
we took matters into our own hands.
made ourselves a god,
a god that looked like we thought it should,
would do what we wanted it to.

And we worshipped it,
the god of our own making,
our design,
to meet our purposes.

Forgive me Lord,
when I have failed to wait for you,
your time,
your best ways.

When I have taken things into my own hands
tried to make you be like I want
you to be,
to look like the kind of God I think I need.

When I have made you
in my image
and offered my all,
my precious gifts
to that poor imitation.

May I learn to wait for you,
for your timing,
not try to force you hand,
but to live by your ways,
for you are God,
the only God I need,
the only one worthy of my praise
and worship.

The Golden Calf

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron and said to him, ‘Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ Aaron said to them, ‘Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.’ So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mould, and cast an image of a calf; and they said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’ When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said, ‘Tomorrow shall be a festival to the Lord.’ They rose early the next day, and offered burnt-offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshipped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” ’ The Lord said to Moses, ‘I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.’

But Moses implored the Lord his God, and said, ‘O Lord, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it for ever.” ’ And the Lord changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Exodus 32: 1-14

“It’s Not Church Without The Singing”

This is meant to be an encouraging post for all those who are worried about worship without no singing, or feel that it just is not church without some element of singing. After all, Methodists especially are known to be ‘Born in Song‘. As churches start to go back to the buildings, at least in part, but without being able to sing – how can that be worship?

Music, and particularly singing, have always been a big part of my life. Indeed my mum’s pearl of wisdom to my husband when we got married was, “If she’s not singing within a couple of seconds of putting her feet on the floor in a morning, you are in trouble! She’s either grumpy or ill”.

Music has always been a major element I used in leading worship. So often a song can say what you have been struggling to. Picking hymns/songs always took the longest part of preparing a service, to ensure that they carried and enhanced what was being said and offered to God.

So, I can understand the feeling of people who cannot comprehend worship without music, and cannot imagine what it will be like, and how it can be true worship at all. But, we are having to find new, meaningful ways of doing so many things – and different does not always mean worse, we can find a new worth and value.

When my illness first took hold fifteen years ago, and probably the thing that initially immediately stopped my ministry of preaching and leading worship, I lost all power to my voice. As anyone who has heard me speak will know, my voice goes hoarse very quickly when I start talking, especially at any volume, and my struggle with breathing makes it very difficult to regulate even talking. If I need to talk for any length of time, even in conversation, my throat aches so much for days afterwards. Pre-recording at my pace, with lots of gaps no one else sees has become an opportunity for me to do some small parts of worship again, but it is not something I could do live, or frequently. Singing therefore is impossible.

Hence why this is, I hope, encouragement to those who are struggling with worship with no singing. At first I hated not being able to sing. It wasn’t me. Singing was how I expressed everything in my life (if we could have Pamsperambulation – the Musical, we would!), including my worship of God, and I was bereft without it. But I am here to tell you that it is possible, you can get used to it, we can find other ways to share our worship with God. It may take time and effort, but the new ways that we discover may offer a different slant to our worship, a new facet to our relationship to God.

One of the things I have found is that the less noise I can make, the more I can listen and hear God. God get’s a chance to speak, because I am quiet!

I am certain there are other people for whom singing is difficult, or uncomfortable for varying reasons, or actually it is just not their thing.

So, please don’t despair, don’t think this is the end of worship – we may yet discover a richer seam and a new encounter with God – because after all, worship is about God and not the method.

Basically, what Matt Redman says: