Our Worship Playlist

Music, particularly worship music, plays an important role in our family. In fact, one of my favorite spiritual disciplines is listening to worship music.

In 2007 (before kids), I wrote Songs for Leaders, a post reflecting on some songs that were encouraging me and challenging me, at the time. In 2010, I wrote about how we began listening to worship music with Ethan in Ethan’s Repertoire. And, last year, I wrote Sing Psalms, Hymns, and Spiritual Songs! on the role of worship music in my life, particularly as it impact my passion for God.

I believe the music we listen to is formational for us, giving us hearts for God and making us more and more like Jesus!

Now, it’s not like we listen to worship music all the time. Mostly, we listen to music when we’re on the road, usually traveling out of town, though we may occasionally listen to music around the house. Of course, we sometimes go days without listening to music, but we try to make it part of our lives as much as we can.

I try to add an occasional new song to the playlist, one that I think will be catchy for the kids (not to mention contain good theology). Previously, I’ve written about songs like, “Trading My Sorrows” (the song that started this spiritual discipline), and “My Savior Lives.” Recent favorites include, “God’s Not Dead” (Newsboys), “Build Your Kingdom Here” (Rend Collective), “Your Grace Finds Me” (Matt Redman), “Open Up Our Eyes” and “Nothing is Wasted” (Elevation Worship), and the latest, “Our Great God” (Casey Darnell, North Point).

I enjoying hearing what phrases and concepts the kids pick up on. I love it when the kids pick up phrases that haven’t grabbed me yet.

How does music (especially worship music) inspire and shape you?

Replenishing After Easter

Taking a break after Easter has become a family tradition. It started before we had kids, but now, it’s more important than ever.

We used to take off a few days after Easter, but with kids, we have to work around the school calendar. This year, we took two days off after Easter (school holidays), but because we had expected to lose those two days for snow makeup days, we had also planned to take the weekend after Easter off. So, we ended up taking two mini-breaks this year. And, it was a good thing: Joleen was sick on Monday, and I was sick on Tuesday (Ethan had been sick the day before Easter)!

After Easter, we spent a couple of days relaxing in a borrowed cottage along the Juniata River. The kids got to play, fish, watch a couple movies, while we took turns being sick!

This past weekend, we went to Pittsburgh and spent several hours at the Carnegie Science Center and the Pittsburgh Zoo.

Here are some photos from Easter and our post-Easter break …

The Resurrection of Jesus

It’s impossible to underestimate the importance of the resurrection of Jesus. It is central to our faith as followers of Jesus!

The Apostle Paul wrote, “if you confess with your mouth ‘Jesus is Lord’ and in your heart you have faith that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10.9, CEB). Jesus told his friend, Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live, even though they die. Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” And, I think he asks us what he asked her: “Do you believe this?” (John 11.25-26).

Everything rises and falls on the reality of the resurrection!

If there was no resurrection, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, then the rest of the gospel has no foundation. Paul put it like this …

If Christ hasn’t been raised, then your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins … If we have a hope in Christ only in this life, then we deserve to be pitied more than anyone else. (1 Corinthians 15.17,19)

This year, I was particularly drawn to Luke’s account of the resurrection. Luke conveys how much of a surprise, and how hard it was for Jesus’ disciples, to comprehend that Jesus had risen from the dead.

When the women arrived at the uncovered and empty tomb, “They didn’t know what to make of this” (Luke 24.4). The angels they met there asked them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He isn’t here, but has been raised” (Luke 24.5-6).

After they reported what they heard to the rest of the followers, “Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women” (Luke 24.11).

Even after repeated attempts by Jesus to prepare his followers for his death and resurrection, the resurrection was still a total surprise!

Luke also includes the story of Jesus encountering the two disciples on their walk home from Jerusalem. Over the course of a lengthy and painful discussion, their eyes were slowly opened to the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, when all of a sudden, they realized that it was Jesus they were talking to!

The gospel writers conclude their accounts with a commissioning to go and be witnesses of Jesus. Especially for Luke, the end of the gospel is also the beginning of our mission and work on the earth. In Acts 1, Jesus is with the disciples, challenges them with the great commission, and returns to heaven. And several days later, the Holy Spirit is poured out on Jesus’ followers, empowering them to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth!

This all happened because Jesus is who he said he was. He lived, suffered, was brutally killed, and was also raised from dead, conquering sin and death forever. Everything rises and falls on the reality of the resurrection!

Each of us, like Peter, who went to the tomb to check out the women’s story, must investigate the claims of the gospel, including the resurrection. We must choose whether to embrace the reality of the resurrection or to reject it.

I believe Jesus’ words from the sermon on the mount apply …

Everybody who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise builder who built a house on bedrock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house. It didn’t fall because it was firmly set on bedrock. But everybody who hears these words of mine and doesn’t put them into practice will be like a fool who built a house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the wind blew and beat against that house. It fell and was completely destroyed. (Matthew 7.24-27)

Rejecting the resurrection is like building on sand. But embracing the reality of the resurrection, and living in its power, is like building on solid rock. The resurrection is that important!

Everything rises and falls on the reality of the resurrection!

Pray for The United Methodist Church!

If you’ve been following church-related news lately, you know The United Methodist Church is in turmoil. Some are even calling for schism, seeing no way out of the current mess.

The best thing we can do, though, at this point, is PRAY.

That’s what the Aldersgate Covenant is planning to do. They have called a gathering for May 16-17, 2014, which will take place at The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, KS. (I’m not able to attend; I keep hoping some or all of it will be webcast!)

I wrote in 2011, What The United Methodist Church Needs is nothing short of an awakening by the Holy Spirit. As I noted, John Wesley said …

I am not afraid that the people called Methodists should ever cease to exist either in Europe or America. But I am afraid lest they should only exist as a dead sect, having the form of religion without the power. And this undoubtedly will be the case, unless they hold fast both the doctrine, spirit, and discipline with which they first set out.

Wesley seems to indicate that survival of the organization isn’t the most important thing; being faithful to God and staying connected to God is.

I’m grateful for the UMC and I’m hopeful that God will revive us and make us a movement again. Here are a few posts I’ve written in recent years that come to mind …

What are your prayers for the UMC?

2014 Confirmation Trip

The Clearfield Cluster of United Methodist Churches offers a two-day confirmation bus trip every few years. We left last Thursday morning around 5:30 and returned home around 10:30 Friday night. It was a full, fast-paced two days!

The trip included nine youth from three area churches plus seven adults. We made stops at the Pennsylvania Capitol Building, The Neighborhood Center, the United Methodist Home for Children, the Conference Center of the Susquehanna Conference, Mission Central, before ending the first day with dinner and free time at the Galleria Mall in York.

After spending the night sleeping on the floor of Aldersgate United Methodist Church, we embarked on our second day with visits to Strawbridge Shrine and Lovely Lane United Methodist Church. Both locations are significant in United Methodist history.

Everyone enjoyed the trip. The youth also seemed to enjoy getting together with youth from other churches.

One of the highlights of the trip was a spontaneous one. Driving by the Governor’s Mansion, we saw Governor Corbett in his gated driveway. We stopped and a couple of women from our group approached the gate and asked Governor Corbett if he’d be willing to greet the confirmands. Surprisingly, he agreed!

While the Governor was on the bus, I tweeted (and the Governor’s staff later retweeted) …

Pretty wild. Not only did the Governor greet the group, he also took photos with everyone on the bus. The Governor certainly scored some points with the group!

Here are some photos from the trip …