Opening Prayer ~ Performing for God

A prayer in preparation for worship. The part in bold type are the words of Charles Spurgeon. May God be praised and glorified in your worship this morning.

The Pastor -|—

“Hallowed be Thy Name.”
Oh that all the earth would ever reverence it.
As for ourselves,
enable us by Thy grace to use it with awe and trembling;
and may a consideration of the glorious character
which is intended by Thy gracious name,
ever lay us in the very dust before Thee,
and yet
lift us up with holy joy and with an unwavering confidence.
We come before Thee this morning
through Christ Jesus our Lord
to express our entire confidence in You.
We come before you in humble submission
to express our obedience to You.
We come before you in joy to express our thanks to You
for the life we have in Jesus.
So receive our worship
as our holy performance for You;
may you be pleased
and may we be filled with Your Spirit.
In Jesus name I pray,
Amen.

The Heart of a Child

The heart of the child is something that should be nurtured, cared for and encouraged, because what is planted in the heart of a child, especially at a young age, is something that will pay dividends later in life; for the child and for the Church.

Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (Proverbs 22:6 ESV)

This past Sunday during worship, I was up front leading the offering prayer and then led the congregation in the Lord’s Prayer. As I was praying I started to hear the voice of a child also praying and I quickly recognized it.

It was my 2-year-old little girl.

My heart immediately melted as I stopped saying the words of the Lord’s Prayer so I could listen. Mayah didn’t say all the words of the prayer but she was definitely trying. I knew she had been doing this for a while but I just never heard her before Sunday.

I was one proud daddy 🙂

I have heard parents lament over whether their kids are getting anything out of worship. I tell them that they might not understand everything now but they are definitely getting something out of it so don’t give up. Children have amazing recording devices in their brains that are connected to their five senses. They take in information (good and bad) but they may not process it until later; when they are able to decode what their brains were too young to comprehend then. It may seem like you child is just goofing off or not paying attention or just plain bored;

but keep at it (with the good stuff, that is),

keep training them;
keep exposing them to the saints of the congregation;
keep bringing them to the assembly;
keep the rituals of the faith in front of them;
keep talking about Jesus with them;
keep planting seeds.

Granted, Mayah doesn’t understand what she is trying to say now but she is beginning to understand that when we gather in this room every week we say these familiar words. As she grows up she will hopefully begin to comprehend what she is praying. Seeds are being planted now. So all that is left for me to do is to continue to nurture those seeds and be patient; waiting to see what the Holy Spirit will bring forth from them.

So…

parents of young children,
people who worship with parents of young children,
pastors who lead worship for parents of young children;

never, ever resent the presence of noisy children in worship but rather do your part as a member of the Body of Christ to raise children up in the way they should go. Never dampen the spirit of a child as they are trying to make sense of the faith. Never discourage a parent who only wants their children to experience worship with the assembly. Never take for granted what children may be absorbing during worship. Never glare or stare or judge, but rather teach and encourage and nurture. You just never know what children are learning, as it just might be something they will hold on too even when everything else has seemingly left them.

Let’s not show children the proverbial door through our impatience or being annoyed that they are squawking during a “holy moment” in worship, but rather let’s be in the business of planting and nurturing seeds; remembering how Jesus received children…

And they were bringing children to him (Jesus) that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them. (Mark 10:13-16 ESV)

It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a Church to pass on the faith and it takes a child to teach us adults the humility required to receive the kingdom of God. The circle of faith.

Father God, grant me the faith of a little child; one that receives you as their father. May I be granted the wisdom to teach children and serve as a faithful example of Your love. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.

The Pastor -|—

God is Always There

When all else fails,
God is there.

When memories fade,
God is there.

When loved ones can’t remember,
God is there.

When you seem lost in your own mind,
God is there.

When you can’t remember,
God remembers.

When you can’t function like you used to,
God continues to function.

I recently brought communion to someone who used to know me, but now they don’t. It was sad that she couldn’t be part of the conversation. But what encouraged my heart was when I started praying the Lord’s Prayer, this person who once knew me started praying along. And then when I approached her to serve communion she asked, “What is this?” I responded by saying, “This is the body of Christ, given FOR YOU.” To which she responded with a smile, “Ohhh”. She received the body and blood of Jesus as she always had before. And then thanked me.

Praise be to God!

I hate Alzheimer’s and dementia and what it does to people, but I take great comfort in the fact that God is always there. And when people seem to forget everything else they seem to know, deep down inside, that truth as well.  And in that I also take great comfort.

Holy God, thank you for not deserting us in our time of need. Thank you for remembering Your promises when some people struggle with remembering. Thank you for Your holy presence. Thank you for the hope we have in Jesus. Amen.

The Pastor -|—

Lord’s Prayer — In today’s language

I am not sure where I got this but I have found it helpful in helping confirmation students understand what we are actually saying when we pray the Lord’s Prayer.  Too often when we pray this very well known prayer we just vocalize the words without much thought about what we are asking for in this great prayer.  I know this is not perfect and that we could probably fine tune this but I think you will get the point.  Let me know what you think.

LORD’S PRAYER – IN TODAY’S LANGUAGE.

Hey God…THE creator of everything,
You are awesome!
Help me to experience your presence everyday,
and help me to see what you want me to do in this world.
Please give me what I need to live each day
and forgive me when I mess up,
but I also ask that I have the strength to forgive those who hurt me as well.
Please don’t tempt me and please keep me safe from evil.
And…as I said before…you are awesome,
always and forever.
This one thing I know:
you have promised to hear me and will give me what I have asked  in this prayer.
THANK YOU GOD!
See you soon.

And…if you don’t like this version I challenge you to write your own.  Get out your Small Catechism and review this prayer.  Then…being writing.  This could serve as a great devotional exercise.

I just might have to do that.

-edh-

Periscope up

I know I said earlier that I would be keeping a low profile for a while…at least until after Easter, but I feel the need to raise the periscope a bit and see what is going on.

For a month or so I have been submerged in life as Lent hit me like a ton of bricks…but in a good way.  I know a lot of pastors sometimes lament how busy Lent is; saying it is their busiest time of the year, but I think most would say that Lent is a very energizing time of the year (in a weird sort of way).   Even though I have felt drained from time to time I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything.  I think part of that thinking is realizing that it is not my energy that sustains me but God’s.  As Luther says in his sacristy prayer, “…if this were left up to me I would certainly bring it all to ruin.”  And I have felt that way many times.  And…at times…I have even tried to do it myself almost bringing myself to ruin.  But fortunately I have faithful friends, family and parishioners that have reminded me of who is truly in charge.

Part of this “ton of bricks” has been leading a small group based on the Book of Faith book “40 Days with the Lord’s Prayer” (I say this simply because I have never lead a small group study during Lent before.  Sounds strange, I know, but we are in the process of revamping our education here at Salem).  Seventeen people signed up to take this journey together.  We work through the daily devotions each week, focusing on a petition of the Lord’s Prayer, then meet on Wednesday to review our week.  So far it has been an enjoyable experience to hear people share their faith.  Everyone has contributed to the discussion and we have learned a lot.  I look forward to leading more small group studies.

There have been other things that have been parts of this “ton of bricks” but I won’t go into all those details.  I think the main point for me is that these bricks haven’t crushed me because God is in control.  God has been faithful.  God has given me strength.  All of that is encouraging as I face a week of preparation before Holy Week hits.  Over all, Lent has been a blessed one for me…and I hope for others as well.  God has been faithful.

So with that I lower the blogging periscope and return to the busy world of Lent.  I thank those who have offered encouragement to me.  I thank those who have been understanding.  And I am grateful I have an outlet like this to share my thoughts and open my heart up to anyone who would want to take a peek.  God bless you this Lenten season and as you prepare to recognize and celebrated the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Praise be to God, always and forever!

-edh-

“And a child shall lead them”

Thank you for the prayers on Sunday.  I was concerned that I would be distracted with vacation coming up and leading two completely different worship services and preaching two completely different sermons on the same morning.  But no distractions and everything went great…Praise be to God.

But here is a highlight for me from worship at Salem on Sunday.  We were praying the Lord’s Prayer when above all the other voices in the sanctuary came a voice of one my kindergarten kids;  she was praying the Lord’s Prayer as well…and with gusto…from way in the back of the sanctuary.  It put a smile on my face hearing that little voice praying and leading us….I mean how can it not.

After worship I made a comment to Olivia on how great a job she did, but her mom seemed a little embarrassed that I could hear her.  I said by no means be embarrassed…I enjoyed it immensely.  Thank you!

“…and a child shall lead them”…it’s amazing how this piece of scripture from Isaiah 11 can be so true in so many ways and in so many places.  In this particular case, Olivia lead us in the Lord’s Prayer.

Praise be to God!

-edh-