Thursday, May 26, 2011

How We Will Worship in the Wake of Tragedy

Dear Church Family,

As we consider the tragic events that have taken place this last week with tornados eastern Kansas, recently in Sedalia and most noticeably of all in Joplin, Missouri, no doubt many of you are asking “Why?”. For that answer I would direct you to this link from our church’s website: Why?

The question I’d like to deal with isn’t asking “Why?” it is asking “How?” Specifically, how are we to respond in worship in light of calamity, tragedy, death and destruction? This Sunday as we gather together for worship what will our corporate response to God in light of these tragedies look like?

I want to share with you a portion of our service for this upcoming Sunday in hope that we might begin, even now, to prepare our hearts so that when we come together our understanding of what we are doing in worship will be better grasped, and through that understanding we might be even more united so that we might make the praises of God truly glorious! (Psalm 66:2)

After our time of Fellowship we will hear Job 1:13-22 read aloud:

Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and there came a messenger to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "The Chaldeans formed three groups and made a raid on the camels and took them and struck down the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was yet speaking, there came another and said, "Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother’s house, and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead, and I alone have escaped to tell you."
Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD." In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.
A horrible tragedy (tragedy upon tragedy!) befell Job. In an instant, all that he had was gone. His most prized possessions—his very children—were killed in a tornado. What was Job’s response? “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job didn’t sin in anger, nor did he charge God with wrong. He worshiped God. He recognized who God is and who Job is. God is sovereign, Job is not.

So we, like Job, will sing of God’s sovereignty and goodness in both good times and bad. We will do so together singing Matt and Beth Redman’s song “Blessed Be Your Name”. May our hearts burst with true humility as we cry out to God:

You give and take away
You give and take away
My heart will choose to say
Lord, blessed be Your name

The next song we will sing is “All Things New” by Horatius Bonar and Red Mountain Music. This song gives us hope that God will not linger forever, and not only that, He will one day renew all things. So while it is right that we exalt God by confessing “You give and take away” we must also look for the day when He will make all things new. One day there will be no more suffering, no more towns devastated by tornadoes. Through the words of this song we corporately confess our hope and trust in the promises of God.

We will then hear Luke 13:1-5 read aloud:

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
 (For a deeper look into this passage I highly recommend this sermon from John Piper)

May we be fully aware of the depth of our sin and the infinite shortness of our shortcomings. May we recognize that our crimes have been committed against an Infinite, Holy, and Righteous God. May we recognize the infinite punishment that ought to be justly applied to us. May we, even now, turn from our sins and look to the cross of Christ and cry “Be merciful to me!” And together we will turn to the cross and say those very words, praying as we sing Randall Goodgame's song “Be Merciful to Me”.

But we don’t cry out without hope. God truly is merciful and shows us Christ dying in our place, which causes us to rejoice even in the midst of our pain and suffering. And we will be reminded of this as we hear God’s Word in Philippians 4:4-7:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Only through Christ do we have this peace; a peace that allows us to rejoice in God even when our hearts are breaking, a peace that allows us to rejoice even in the midst of suffering. And so we will confess that no matter what comes—when God gives or when He takes away—through Christ we can and will sing “It is Well with My Soul”.

I pray that this foretaste of our gathered worship for this upcoming Sunday has whetted your appetite. I pray that you come expectantly, longing to hear from God, longing to rejoice alongside fellow believers, longing to magnify Christ in all things. I love you and I look forward to making much of God together with you this Sunday.

Your brother,
Rich Tuttle

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Twistgum Letters: A Steady Diet of Shadows and Puddles

The following is the third in a series of letters written by Arch-demon Twistgum to his nephew Baleswarm. How these letters were obtained is unknown, however it is obvious that they were not intended to be read by human eyes. From the letters we can deduce that Baleswarm has been assigned to tempt, hinder and ruin a Worship Leader, a subject matter in which his Uncle Twistgum has many years of demonic experience.

Dear Baleswarm,

Music. That wretched weapon. Were you dealing with any other human Subject I would be quick to advise you to avoid it altogether. It’s too slippery. Even when it is in the hands of those outside the Enemy’s camp it somehow (in some blasted confoundable way!) is able to point back to the Enemy. Some call it beauty. I call it putrid. Too many demons have sought to wield it, allured by its power, thinking they might harness it for our cause, thinking they’ve succeeded by their efforts only to be thwarted by our cunning Enemy. But you, my dear Baleswarm, because of the office of your Subject, cannot help to avoid it. But thankfully for you, Music (in and of itself) will not need to be fully dealt with, as your subject deals almost exclusively in Song. There are few things more to be feared than Song in the Enemy’s hands and used expressly for his purposes. Therefore there are few things more effective to deceive the Enemy’s people than our use of Song. I’ve explained to you before that the best way to achieve our cause is to allow the Enemy’s people to think they are doing their Master’s will. And to that end, Song is ripe for the picking. Heed my advice and worry not about melodies or harmonies or singing ‘in tune’. For now, focus all of your attention on the words that are sung.

It is to your advantage, Baleswarm, to seek to remove as much of the Enemy’s truth from the lyrics as possible. To achieve this you must play an old, reliable card: Give the people what they want. You know as well as I do that humans, by their very nature, abhor the Enemy’s ‘truth’ almost as much as we do. It frightens them. It makes them uncomfortable. It is strange and foreign to them. And most of all it changes them. So it is imperative that you see to it that your Subject gives them what they want—Safety, Comfort, Familiarity.

See to it that he tends to choose songs that give only a partial picture of who the Enemy truly is and what the Enemy has really done. Bathe them with platitudes and generalities. Give them nothing of depth. Let them think the puddle is the ocean. Let them think the shadow is the substance. And all the while see to it that your Subject sees the results of his ‘success’! This will give him a wholly firm, yet false, confidence and assurance that his Master is pleased. If you are able to bring this about it will likely result in one of the following ways:

In the first scenario, your Subject will continue the splendid cycle of giving the people what they want, resulting in more ‘success’, and like a pied piper he will ever lead them further from the Enemy’s truth. Their theological course has been set. And now if any of the Enemy’s servants try to ‘right the ship’ we will find that our job to devour and destroy will become a mere spectator sport.

The second result we may see is that in light of this great ‘success’ your Subject will begin to feel the ‘weight’ of responsibility to keep both his Master and his congregation pleased. If it comes to this and if you have indeed heeded my council thus far by pressing Guilt upon him and remain vigilant in disrupting communication then we will find a most glorious result from this new ‘weight’. Your Subject will soon begin to think, whether consciously or ignorantly, that he is now the Mediator who stands between his Master and his congregation and that worship is now dependent on him. But of this I have much more to say and must address it in another letter. For now I am eager to hear more about your devilry. So I end this letter that I may speed our correspondence.

I close by reinforcing my prescription for both your Subject and the congregation through your Subject—A steady diet of shadows and puddles.

Your Most Worthy and Esteemed Uncle,