NEW Every Morning!

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 (ESV)

I’m an avid runner. I usually log between 35-40 miles a week. Running is a mentally and physically therapeutic way for me to think through issues I’m dealing with and commune with God. I need this time most days; I crave it.

One morning, a couple of weeks ago while stretching before a run, I was overwhelmed by the way the light was peering through the pine trees as the sun was rising and the dew was still heavy on the grass. I thought, “God, thank you for your mercy that is new every morning.” At that moment, I couldn’t get “The Steadfast Love” the Maranatha chorus by Edith McNeill from the mid-seventies, out of my head as I ran that morning. During every mile, the truth of this scripture song washed over me and renewed my mind and spirit.

You see, the preceding weeks have been quite challenging. I’ve been emotionally and physically worn out and pulled from many angles. Most of the things I was dealing with were ministry related and worthy of my attention, but I certainly lacked refreshment. I had been worrying how, in my own strength, I was going to accomplish all that God had called me to do. In the busy-ness of life, I was being disobedient by not trusting in God’s faithfulness to give me the peace I’ve needed. Oh, but the Holy Spirit knew I needed some encouragement that morning as He used the beauty of His creation to recall the scripture I needed to regain peace.

In the book of Lamentations, the prophet Jeremiah uses the Hebrew word, חסדים, translated as mercies. This term is used 250 times in the Old Testament and is an all-inclusive term for God’s love, goodness, forgiveness, compassion, and faithfulness. We all need to be reminded that there is hope when we are in despair; God is faithful and merciful to us when we lose perspective and need renewing.

I encourage you to take some time, maybe even tomorrow morning, to watch the sun rise and consider how great God’s faithfulness and mercies are toward us. When you go through trials, tough times, or just need some refreshment, be reminded that God is molding and shaping you into His image. No matter where you’ve fallen short, God’s mercy is new every morning.

Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided—
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Sky

There is no “Generation Gap” in God’s Kingdom

May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 15:5-6 (ESV)

Maybe you’ve noticed it as I have. Popular music really hasn’t changed much in the last forty to fifty years. Sure there are new fusions of multicultural influences, and techno influenced styles that have formed new sub-genres, but by in large, popular music is generally the same. Pop bands are often still dominated by a rhythm section with one or more singers. These male and female singers generally sing in about the same register (much too high for most males and often too low for females). We can expect simple harmonic structure and repetitive lyrics that provide a “hook” needed for mass audiences. Contemporary Christian music is no exception. Musically, there has been little change.

While many trained musicians often think this makes popular music (secular or otherwise) boring, I think it means that there is more common ground musically than there used to be among our living generations. For instance, when I was growing up, my Boomer parents loved music from the 50-60s-especially doo-wop. There were beginnings of rock in some of the music I heard, but there was a major shift during the formative years of the Boomer generation in popular music. As my parents aged, the popular music of their day shifted. Much of the music I (as a Buster/Generation Xer) listened to growing up is similar in many ways to what’s currently on the top 40 radio stations.

Why is this important? Well, I believe that the youngest living generations have more in common musically than our older generations. This realization can help bridge gaps in the church as well. This is good news as we move forward, especially since the quality of both text and music in contemporary worship music has risen exponentially in the last decade.

Even so, your church may be filled with people who do not listen to any form of popular music. In fact that are stuck musically in a decades-old musical style. They couldn’t care less that popular music hasn’t changed much. What they want from church is FAMILIARITY!

Familiarity is two fold:
First, familiarity means what you’d expect it to mean…it’s something you know. For instance, I had a long conversation with a gentlemen regarding this a few weeks ago. He wanted to know why we didn’t sing more old hymns. He’s argument was our people sing with more enthusiasm when we sing old gospel hymns. I simply said, “yes, that’s true, but that’s only because the songs are very familiar.” What I explained to him was while the energy is not AS high on newer tunes, I am careful to choose newer songs that I believe will LAST and will eventually become FAMILIAR parts of our hymnody.

Second, familiarity is a general feeling of “this sounds like something I’ve heard before.” This is what I’m referring to in regards to how music has stayed similar-ish over the last several decades in both popular secular and Contemporary Christian music. The mood, the affect, the instrumentation, the vocals all play into creating familiarity that are “familiar” to our youngest generations (remember this is now adults 50s and younger).

Capitalize on both types of familiarity to make inroads into closing that generation gap because all people are vital in the Kingdom of God. Living in harmony means being even more creative as a worship leader in how you create familiarity in a worship service with many varied backgrounds and experiences. A great way to bridge this gap (as an example) is to use a familiar song with instrumentation/popular musical “style”/ vocals that are more in line with what’s present in popular music. Updated “contemporary” hymns are often great ways to accomplish this, but there are others. What would you add?

Worship Without Response Isn’t Worship

Search me, O God and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalm 139: 23-24.

When I surrendered my life to Christ at age eleven, I had a deep desire to become more like Christ. As time went on, I faced challenges that would distract my focus from Christ, but I could always count on worship to realign my heart and mind. Very simply defined, worship is our response to who God has been and will continue to be. It’s in this response where we consider the attributes of God we realize how deeply unworthy we are to be children of God. We must submit ourselves to Christ, allowing the Holy Spirit to do a deep work in us—changing and transforming us into the image of God.

Does your church have a time of response in corporate worship? Believe it or not, some churches don’t have a time to respond at any point in their service. A lack of response is simply not worship. There is no worship without response. The prophet Isaiah deals with this clearly in Isaiah chapter 6 when he responds to the Lord saying, “Here Am I Lord, send me!” As we behold God’s glory, we are “being transformed into the same image.” (Colossians 3:10).

When I was thirteen, I was thankful for a time of response. During a youth week at my church, I was confronted with the realization that God was calling me to surrender my life to vocational ministry. It was there, after struggling with whether or not I was being called, that God revealed to the verse Jeremiah 1:7, “Do not say I am only a youth, for you will go to everyone I send you to and speak whatever I tell you.” In that moment I was confronted with the call—the call that asked me to be obedient and surrender my life to whatever (and wherever) the Lord had for me.

I cannot fathom not being confronted regularly with the realization that I need to constantly renew my mind (Romans 12:1-2) so I match up with our Creator. If your church does not have a time of reflection/response/invitation, it’s time to make that a priority. Yes, it means we must confront our sin but the cost of discipleship demands that we align ourselves with the truth and walk in it. We cannot worship without response, because unless we humble ourselves before a Holy God we will never be able to worship Him in SPIRIT and truth.