Tag Archives: worship

Christmas Gifts

Wrapped present with bowMy family always went to church on Christmas Day. Like many families we would wake early, tumble down the stairs and tear open the gifts under our tree. My mother would slip in and out preparing a special Christmas breakfast for us to enjoy. But then we would rush to dress and dash to church every Christmas, even after staying up for midnight services the night before, even when Christmas day did not fall on a Sunday.

The Christmas morning service was different from any other worship service. Instead of a sermon families would tell about the gifts they had received. Children might bring a favorite toy. Parents of adult children would gush over a new son-in-law. Some would talk of healing from an injury or disease, or care they had received from members of the congregation.

One year, I wish I was old enough to remember it, I was the gift that my parents had talked about. They had given up expecting to have a child of their own when I was conceived. That year, a few weeks after I was born, I was baptized on Christmas morning.

For as many years as I have been a pastor, on the Sunday following Christmas Day, I have tried to capture the essence of Christmas morning worship services from my youth, except for the rush of trying to do everything on Christmas morning.

This year, at 10:00 on Christmas morning, I hope you will bring a remembrance of a gift you received this year. It might be a toy, a story how friends, family, or congregation members helped you, a new member of your family, or healing from disease or accident. I look forward to hearing our stories of how God has been with us this year, hinting of when we might sense God with us in the year ahead.

Yours in Christ,
Robert Shaw, Pastor

No Rehearsal Christmas Pageant

5:30 pm, Thursday, December 24th, Christmas Eve

Come and participate in our no-audition, no-rehearsal Christmas pageant. Arrive by 5 pm, if you want a particular part.

Manger Scene

This worship service provides parents with a low stress opportunity for their entire family to celebrate Christ coming into our lives this Christmas.

Committed to Worship – Saturday

Enter his gates with thanks;
enter his courtyards with praise!

Thank him! Bless his name!
(Psalm 100:4)

How thankful are you?

What do you have that you are thankful for? What possessions? What people? What experiences? What has brought joy to your life?

You may think of many things. List them on a piece of paper, or share them in the comments. If you can’t think of anything, take a moment to consider: Are you focused on the wrong things? Are you so overwhelmed by negative experiences that you cannot be thankful for what you do indeed have? Do you love coffee? Do you love ice cream? Be thankful for those things! Even the simplest experiences and most commonplace objects can be a perfect occasion for thanksgiving.

Next time you enter a place of worship, bring with you those things in your life that you are truly thankful for. Tell God what they are. Give thanks. This simple act will transform your experience in worship. Though it may be only a trickle at first, it will turn on the faucet of joyfulness in your life and may eventually grow into a flood.

God, help me to know you as you truly are,
and to experience you in fullness of joy. Amen.

From Committed to Christ: Tweets, Posts, and Prayers by Ben Simpson, Copyright © 2012 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.

Committed to Worship – Friday

So, brothers and sisters, because of God’s mercies,
I encourage you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice
that is holy and pleasing to God. This is your appropriate priestly service.

(Romans 12:1)

The word “worship” brings to the imagination an event, most notably a standard church service. But the biblical notion of worship moves us beyond an event and thrusts us forward to a constant way of life. The worship of God is not only marked by the words we say and hear, but is defined by action.

One of the sayings of the Desert Fathers, a group of fourth and fifth century Egyptian monks, reflects this sentiment well: “Abba James said: We do not want words alone, for there are too many words among people today. What we need is action, for that is what we are looking for, not words which do not bear fruit.”

Our worship of God should transcend what we do when we gather with other saints for the celebration of liturgy, the singing of hymns, the hearing of a sermon, and the praying of prayers. Worship of God should permeate every action undertaken in both our ordinary and extraordinary moments. Our bodies should be a “living sacrifice,” offered continually in service to God’s purposes for our world.

Lord, I want others to see you and come to know you.
Use my life to draw others to you. Amen.

From Committed to Christ: Tweets, Posts, and Prayers by Ben Simpson, Copyright © 2012 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.

Committed to Worship – Thursday

“But the time is coming—and is here!—
when true worshipers will worship in spirit and in truth.
God is spirit, and it is necessary to worship God in spirit and in truth.”

(John 4:23-24)

In John 4, Jesus encounters an astute theologian: a Samaritan woman, whom he meets at Jacob’s well. Their conversation touches on a wide range of topics, among them the difference between the worship of the Jews and the Samaritans. Jesus reveals himself to her as the Messiah of Israel and announces that through him, worship of God has undergone both a renewal and a transformation.

Jesus is not only concerned with the fervor and passion of our worship; he is also concerned with the subject of worship. Jesus instructs us that “it is necessary to worship God in spirit and in truth,” a puzzling phrase that grabs our attention. What does it mean? Jesus calls us to know God as God, thus worshiping truthfully. We are also to experience God as God truly is, resting our spirit upon our heart’s true home.

True worship engages the whole person, enabling us to increase in our knowledge of God and our love for God. We are then sent into the world to serve God with our hands, putting what we have received on display, pointing others back to Christ.

Holy Spirit, renew both my mind and my heart,
so that I might worship you in spirit and in truth. Amen.

From Committed to Christ: Tweets, Posts, and Prayers by Ben Simpson, Copyright © 2012 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.

Committed to Worship – Wednesday

“You will know them by their fruit.
Do people get bunches of grapes from thorny weeds,
or do they get figs from thistles?
In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit,
and every rotten tree produces bad fruit.
A good tree can’t produce bad fruit.
And a rotten tree can’t produce good fruit.
Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit
is chopped down and thrown into the fire.
Therefore, you will know them by their fruit.”

(Matthew 7:16-20)

Jesus makes an observation: Good trees produce good fruit, and bad trees produce bad fruit. By making this observation, he is posing a question: What kind of tree are you? Character, Jesus says, is determinative for how we speak and act. We produce fruit in accordance with our character.

The worshiping community, the church, is the space we enter to be trained as disciples of Jesus. Worship, rightly focused upon God, renders us new creatures. Our hearts are transformed. We are made holy. And our lives then begin to evidence this transformation before the world. Worship is not behavior modification but renovation, all to God’s glory.

Loving and Merciful God, help me to turn my entire life over to you,
so that my actions might bring you joy. Amen.

From Committed to Christ: Tweets, Posts, and Prayers by Ben Simpson, Copyright © 2012 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.

Committed to Worship – Tuesday

Let’s also think about how to motivate each other
to show love and to do good works.
Don’t stop meeting together with other believers,
which some people have gotten into the habit of doing.
Instead, encourage each other, especially as you see the day drawing near.

(Hebrews 10:24-25)

You may be tempted to live your life as a solitary Christian. You may believe church gatherings are empty forms of religion and are of little spiritual benefit. But that simply is not true.

Christians gather each week to do more than sing songs, offer prayers, and hear a sermon. They come together to become holy and to imagine new ways of evidencing for others God’s work of redemption, which has been accomplished in Jesus Christ. We are to “think about how to motivate each other to show love and to do good works.” We do not gather simply so that we, as individuals, obtain benefit. We gather so that we might bless one another and the city, township, or village within which God has placed us.

Community should serve the purpose cited by the writer of Hebrews, to “motivate each other to show love and to do good works.” When that purpose is being served, we exhibit health, and when the worshiping community engages Jesus in this way, doing what he commands, then holiness follows.

God, help me to live in community and worship you alongside others. Amen.

From Committed to Christ: Tweets, Posts, and Prayers by Ben Simpson, Copyright © 2012 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.

Committed to Worship – Monday

I will praise God’s name with song;
I will magnify him with thanks.
(Psalm 69:30)

In worship, we sing hymns and praise songs to express our faithfulness and devotion to God. The songs chosen for worship are as significant as the sermons preached and the prayers prayed. They capture important points of doctrine and teaching, but they also stir the soul and awaken the affections. They help the people gain a deeper love for God.

Through singing, proper doctrine is imparted to the hearers, and truth moves from the head to the heart. Christian truth should not only enable right thinking, but also right feeling. Combined, right thinking and right feeling yield right living, or a transformed life. For those committed to Christ, all dimensions of the human person are changed through discipleship, and one avenue for discipleship runs through the singing of songs.

Praise God’s name with song. Magnify your praise with thanks. And rejoice as God transforms your heart in accordance with Christ-likeness.

Jesus, let me look upon you and discover the motivation for worship.
Help me to sing to you in such a way that my love for you is deepened. Amen.

From Committed to Christ: Tweets, Posts, and Prayers by Ben Simpson, Copyright © 2012 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.

Committed to Worship – Sunday

Greatness and grandeur are in front of him;
strength and joy are in his place.
Give to the Lord, all families of the nations
—give to the Lord glory and power!
Give to the Lord the glory due his name! Bring gifts!
Enter his presence! Bow down to the Lord in holy splendor!

(1 Chronicles 16:27-29)

Worship is not so much a matter of willpower as it is the realization of wonder. If you struggle in your desire to worship, it may be because you have yet to grasp God’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ.

According to the passage of Scripture above, the glory we ascribe to God is not something that we conjure in our imaginations; it is something that is deserved. It is God’s “due.” What might this mean?

The church proclaims Christ through the gospel—the announcement of forgiveness through his death upon the cross. This forgiveness is available to anyone by faith, regardless of age, race, economic status, or any other classification that divides us. But this “due” is something we can never fully repay, for the magnitude of the gift is infinite in scope. Therefore, our wonderment expressed in worship should never cease, for the gospel will always contain some hidden dimension that we can newly ponder and appreciate.

Christ is the rightful object of your desires. Christ is “just what you’ve always been wanting.” Look upon him. Let him stir your soul.

Holy and Blessed Father, you are worthy of all glory and praise. Amen.

From Committed to Christ: Tweets, Posts, and Prayers by Ben Simpson, Copyright © 2012 by Abingdon Press. Used by permission.