May 13, 2009
The hymn “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty” has a wonderful phrase in the third verse that says, “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do.” I wonder how we who lead our congregation each week can better facilitate this type of “pondering the Almighty” worship. The first thing that comes to mind is that pondering the Almighty does not take place unless I deliberately go there. My first inclination is to ponder other things like:
1. What am I going to do next?
2. What problem is overwhelming me at the moment?
We who lead corporate worship need to help people shift their pondering from their problems and activities to what God can and wants to do with these things. Ultimately we need to know God’s presence and follow his leading within our daily activities and even our most difficult problems. The worship leader has the tools to facilitate this shift of focus. In one hand we lift up the Word of God and in the other hand, the works of God. Next time you raise your hands in worship, picture this as part of the offering you are lifting up to God. These two activities should be the primary focus of our corporate worship gathering. The good news is that we have the Word of God and a gifted pastor who teaches it to us each week. Pondering the Almighty will not happen in a “tickle your ears” preaching church. I praise God that our senior pastor, Gary Inrig, brings us God’s Word each week and it is powerful to not only inform us of how we ought to live, but more so to help us to come to know our God and bolster our faith in him. The end of last week’s sermon was a great example of Gary doing this when he came to God’s promise from Hebrews 13:5, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” You can check it out here, A Satisfied Heart. Keep bringing it, Gary!
In addition to the Word of God, we have a wealth of art, worship music, media and drama available to us that has been inspired by the Word of God. Christian artists who beautifully capture God’s Word and display his works in their art are a gift to the church. Finally, each one of us and each one of the people we lead who are truly God’s disciples bear testimonies of the works of the Lord. The demonstration that we are Christ’s disciples is that we bear fruit. Fruit is the visible, appealing, delicious and nurturing evidence of the work of God in our lives. Changed lives, changed hearts, increasing faith, and the miraculous works of the Lord must be proclaimed and celebrated within our worship services. We who are worship leaders must be artists ourselves who help our congregations rally around the Word and the works of God. The crafting of a worship service is our art; it is our offering of worship to God; it is our service to the church.
My seven-year-old son taught me a lesson on pondering a few weeks ago. I teach him on Monday mornings. We were reading through a word list. My goal was to quickly get through it so we could get to the next thing and then done with school that day. He had a different goal. He began reading each word and would pause to comment about it, put it in a sentence, and even get out of his chair and act it out. I found myself frustrated, wanting to rush him so we could be done with it. Then I realized how beautiful his approach was and how shallow mine was. He was pausing to ponder, caught up in the experience of the moment. I, on the other hand, wanted to get through the activity, and was missing the moment. I need to approach the worship service with Billy’s mindset. It is an opportunity to meet God in the moment. We who lead worship need to foster these moments. Worship is not just the proclamation of the Word and works of the Lord. It is ever so much our response as well. The worship service is not a program to get through, but instead an encounter with the Almighty God that wants to say something to each one of us. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to convict, comfort, and transform our thoughts and behaviors. This is perhaps the toughest thing to do within the confinement of the blasted clock. Therefore, we must be sensitive to the Spirit’s leading in our crafting of the service to leave space for God to speak and for us to listen and then respond.
The other pondering that often consumes my mind is on my problems. The good news is that God loves to meet us when we are most needy. Problems are an opportunity for God to do his works in our lives. More often than not his works do not include removing the problem, but refining our faith by sustaining us through the problem. Psalm 55 commands us to, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” (Psalms 55:22 NIV) The Psalmists give us a wonderful pattern of laying their problems out before the Lord and then choosing to shift their pondering from their problems to the character and works of the Almighty God. Here’s a quick example from Psalm 5 authored by King David.
“Give ear to my words, O LORD; consider my groaning. Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray. O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” (Psalms 5:1-3 ESVS)
I love how David ends this statement with the phrase, “and watch.” Pondering what the Almighty can do is the watching and waiting. Faith is practiced and strengthened in this practice of worship. We who lead must help our people bring their groaning to God, sacrificing these things, so to speak, and then watch for what God is going to do.
So what can the Almighty do? He can do far more abundantly than all we can ask or think!
“Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20-21 ESVS)
Let us be worshipers and worship leaders who delight in pondering what the Almighty can do and lead our congregations in the same.