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Tired

Today, the Men’s Choir performed four times.  We got up at seven in the morning, sang two songs in a nine o’clock service and three in an eleven fifteen service in El Paso, TX, then drove for an hour to Las Cruces, NM and sang a full concert at two in the afternoon.  After that was over, we drove straight back to El Paso and performed a full evening concert for the church we’d attended in the morning.  Needless to say, I’m exhausted.  We’ve been on the road for a week now, always moving toward the next thing with hardly a moment to breathe in between, and it’s beginning to take a toll on my relationship with God.  Of course, I can’t blame my own poor choices on a tight schedule, but I have to admit that that’s been my excuse.  “I’m too tired to really concentrate on prayer or Bible study now.  I just need to relax with a little music and get some sleep,” I tell myself.  “God will still be there in the morning.”  So every morning I get up and God is still there, but I’m not anymore.  I’m already thinking of where I need to be next, or worse, my head is full of the entertainment that I turned to for comfort and relaxation and I don’t give my Father a second thought.  He gets the leftovers, a minute here or there of half-hearted prayer, but mostly I just keep going and doing and getting to the end of the day and feeling even more tired than the day before, so I spend a little more time “relaxing”, try to slip in a few more hours of sleep, and do it over again the next day.  Then suddenly, this morning, God slowed me to a halt for a moment and told me, “You’re doing this backwards, Tim.”

Of course, those weren’t His words exactly.  He said it more like this: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28).” When God brought that verse to my mind, I realized that I’d been turning to all sorts of things, like music and internet surfing and TV, to give me rest, and all they were really doing was further cluttering my mind.  I assumed that spending time in prayer and Bible study was work (which in a way it is) and that I needed to be refreshed before I went into it, but now I realize that spending time with God is the only way to find the refreshment that my soul needs.  I’m thirsty for the Living Water, and no amount of sugary, soda-pop entertainment is going to quench that thirst – all it’s going to do is make me fat, hyper, and more tired than ever.  I can never be too tired or too busy to make time for God.  On the contrary, the more tired and busy I am the more often I need to come before Him.  He will give me rest, just as He promised, but first I have to come to Him, and all too often that’s the last thing that I think to do when I get weary and burdened.  It’s time to change that, time to make God my one thing, as Rich Mullins so aptly put it, and to be willing to put everything else aside just so I can be with Him.  It’s time to stop letting my weariness drive me away from God and start using it to push me into His arms as it should.  I’m tired of being too tired for God, and I’m thankful that He never gets tired of turning my foolish heart back to Him.  Come to Him, all you who are weary and burdened.  He will give you rest.

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Best Day Ever

The Moody Men’s Collegiate Choir performed a concert in Albuquerque last night, and we had another one planned for tonight, so today we spent most of the day sightseeing.  I got to the church around 9:00 and we set off for Santa Fe.  After a short bus ride, we arrived at the New Mexico capital building and went in to see the rotunda and the Senate chamber.  It turns out that the Senate was set to start their first session of the year at 11:00, so Doc let us stay to see it begin.  What we didn’t find out until a little while later is that he also wandered off and somehow secured permission for us to sing The Star Spangled Banner from the gallery as a part of the official opening ceremony.  We had to wait for a while because the session didn’t really convene until 12:10, but when the time finally came we said the pledge of allegiance with all of the New Mexico senators and then sang the national anthem to kick off the first session of the 50th New Mexico Legislature.

After that, we went out to the Santa Fe town plaza and wandered through a few of the shops. We also got to explore the Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.  They have holy water there, but it didn’t really feel that holy.  My friend Robert and I dipped our fingers in and made the sign of the cross anyway because that’s what you’re supposed to do with it.  From there, we went back to Albuquerque and stopped at Christ the King Anglican Church to set up for our concert.  As it turns out, that’s Fernando Ortega’s church.  Yes, the famous Fernando Ortega.  He came to our concert and listened to us sing, and in my opinion it was one of our best performances yet.

On top of all that, today is Saint Patrick’s Day, also known to some as my little brother’s birthday, so I called him while the choir was getting ready in our dressing room and they were all kind enough to sing “Happy Birthday” to him with me.  He really enjoyed it, and I was glad that I could still give him a gift from so far away.  All things considered, this was pretty much one of the most memorable days of my life.  I got to sing for the New Mexico Senate, Fernando Ortega’s church, and my little brother’s birthday all in one day, and I also got to eat cheesecake.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

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Pathos: Robert Wallace

Robert Wallace is my next door neighbor in the dorm I call home, and he is both a talented musician and bold-hearted lover of Christ. Find out how he would change the world – and maybe accidentally destroy it – in this week’s Pathos interview.

The Author’s Apprentice: What is your greatest passion? How are you using that?

Robert Wallace: This question plagues me often. At first glance I would say music, but this does not cover it. I really want to use music as a tool to encourage and exhort. Lots of my friends at Moody Bible Institute surpass me in musicality. Though few of them share my same passion to specifically direct it towards uplifting believers and travel extensively while doing it. Adventure paces in my heart. I cannot put it to sleep. So perhaps I will eventually search out the far-forgotten places of this country. If not I’ll settle down with my wife and have 20 children or so – that would be an adventure!

TAA: If everyone in the world gathered around to hear you speak for five minutes, what would you tell them?

RW: They would not understand me. If they did, I would tell them all to jump at the same time – just to see what would happen. On a more serious note, I would exclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ to them!

TAA: If it was up to you to change the world, how would you go about it?

RW: I would help plant a church movement in Chicago that would multiply itself every 2-3 years. I would help plant a church next to every stop on the “L”. After that, I would do the same in every other “Alpha” city in the world. (http://northshorecrossing.org/)

TAA: Who are your heroes? Why do they inspire you?

RW: Systematically I have heroes and then see how flawed they are in some aspect of their character. The greatest example of this is electric bass virtuoso, Victor Wooten; incredible player, amazing talent, horrible spiritual ideas.
However, probably the most continuing “hero” that I have (besides Christ) would be a friend of mine from high school, Nate. He is four years older than me. Seeming to possess all the creative juices the human race has in one body, he taught me a lot about music philosophy and how to be cool in general.

TAA: What is your favorite thing about being a student at Moody? The biggest challenge?

RW: Favorite thing about Moody – the intense classes.
Least favorite thing – the intense classes.

TAA: How can the readers of The Author’s Apprentice pray for you?

RW: Pray that I would learn to manage my time in a God respecting way and that I can encourage those around me.

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Awkward Worship Song Pauses

(This post is inspired by Stuff Christians Like, a highly entertaining blog by Jon Acuff.  Maybe someday I’ll get to write a guest post for him, but until then I’ll settle for “borrowing” his style once in a while and giving him a little free advertising in return.)

Journey with me to Sunday morning, in the auditorium of your church.  The worship leader is cranking out the heavenly tunes with his acoustic guitar, and everyone is singing joyfully along.  The third chorus ends, the words for the fourth verse shine forth from the screen, and then – disaster.  Instead of moving right into the verse from the chorus like every time before, the worship leader stands there, mouth and eyes closed, and plays through the chords from the chorus one more time.  Without warning, he has created a tear in the fabric of the song, a sort of dead space, and left everyone to fend for themselves.  In my experience, there are three responses to these awkward pauses:

1. The Early Bird.  This guy was really into the song.  He’s sung it a thousand times before, the fourth verse is his favorite, and he can’t wait to belt it out.  When the cataclysmic pause comes, he sings the first word and a half of verse four at the top of his lungs before he realizes that he is utterly alone in his joyful noise-making.  Most of the time, this guy will look quickly down at his feet and fake a cough to cover up his mistaken exclamation, but I’m sure that every once in a long while, an early bird is so confident in his correctness that he refuses to cut off in the middle, and instead blazes through with a rock star solo version of verse four until everyone else joins him for a reprise.  I’ve never met that guy, but he must exist somewhere.

2. The Latecomer.  She’s been the early bird before, and she barely managed to stop herself this time.  Determined not to embarrass herself, the latecomer waits until she’s sure that everyone else is singing before she joins in.  After all, the worship leader pulled his nasty dramatic pause trick once, so why wouldn’t he do it again?  Maybe this is the Worship: The Musical! arrangement of the song, and there’s going to be two and a half minutes of instrumental music and break dancers before it’s time to sing again.  Better safe than sorry.

3. The Champion.  This guy has seen it all before, and he knows just what to do.  With a cool, levelheaded demeanor and a confident twinkle in his eye, the Champion cuts out perfectly, comes back right on time and right on key, and doesn’t drop a beat.  Seasoned champions will keep their triumphs to themselves; they’re used to being awesome at this by now anyway.  Less practiced champions, however, will occasionally slip up and do a victory fist pump or even a celebratory dance of joy over their newfound rhythmic prowess (without dropping the tune, of course).

Has your worship leader ever imposed an awkward worship song pause on y0u?  Are you usually the Early Bird, the Latecomer, or the Champion?

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Song of the Week: “Creed” by Rich Mullins

I was sitting in Christianity and Western Cultures I this morning when the professor walked in and announced that we were going to start the class by reading the Apostle’s Creed together.  As we went over the powerful words of this fundamental document from church history, I couldn’t help but think of this wonderful song by Rich Mullins.  So, this week, I’m taking the Song of the Week feature on a trip to the past – recent and ancient – with Rich Mullins’ excellent musical rendition of the Apostle’s Creed.  Rich Mullins is one of the greatest Christian musicians from the recent past, and the combination of his music with the Creed is both enjoyable and challenging.  Why do you believe what you believe, and what difference does it make in the way you live your life?

Here’s the link: “Creed”

Here are the lyrics:

I believe in God the Father Almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son our Lord
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Born of the virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate
He was crucified and dead and buried

And I believe what I believe is what makes me who I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not the invention of any man

I believe that He who suffered was crucified buried and dead
He descended into hell and on the third day rose again
He ascended into Heaven where He sits at God’s mighty right hand
I believe that He’s returning
To judge the quick and the dead of the sons of men

I believe it I believe it
I believe it
I believe it I believe it

I believe in God the Father
Almighty Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son our Lord
I believe in the Holy Spirit
One Holy Church
The communion of Saints
The forgiveness of sin
I believe in the resurrection
I believe in a life that never ends

And don’t forget to leave a comment below with your suggestions for song of the week.  Have a great day!

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Journal Entry No. 5: Dating Troubles

I met a new church today, Harvest Bible Chapel. She’s a really nice church, with engaging sermons and fancy screens and this gorgeous, free, customized binder in which to keep all of your nicely-formatted, three-hole-punched sermon notes. There’s only one problem: I’m already dating another church. We’ve been involved on and off for a month. She fed me a free meal both times that I came to see her on Sunday, and I even accepted her invitation to come over on Thursday night and get involved in a small group. Her name is Moody Church, and I really like her, especially that Thursday night program, but I think I’m falling for Harvest and her dazzling, alluring Sunday services. I just don’t know how to tell Moody.

I could keep it a secret for a while, maintaining my small-group intimacy with Moody and still seeing Harvest on Sundays for a shot of her sleek urban style, but I’d feel like I was cheating on Moody. How could I go for weeks, even months, deceiving her like that? She deserves better. Besides, Harvest is already asking me for commitment, and she puts a huge emphasis on her small group programs. The way she says it, “I’m not a church with small groups, I’m a church of small groups.” If I don’t make my move and get plugged in soon, she might notice that something is up, and if she suspects that I’m just using her to get to her hip binders and relevant simulcast sermons she’ll be furious.

The last thing I want is to get a reputation as a player; I couldn’t live with myself if people thought that I was a heartless, manipulative church-hopper. I just love both of them so much, and I don’t want to hurt them. I know I should make my choice, commit to her, and move on, but I can’t bear the thought of losing either one. I never should have gone to see Harvest, I should have known that she would get me in trouble, but now I’ve only got one choice left: I’ll have to convert to Mormonism. They’re okay with polygamy, right?

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Center

Last weekend I was at the Men’s Summit at Kent City Baptist Church. It was a great event, very powerful, with some amazing times of worship and preaching. One of the songs that we sang, called “Center”, was new to me, and as I learned it I couldn’t help but fall in love with the simple, honest lyrics:

Chorus
Oh, Christ, be the center of our lives,
Be the place we fix our eyes,
Be the center of our lives.

Verse 1
And You’re the center of the universe,
Everything was made in You, Jesus.
Breath of every living thing,
Everyone was made for You.

Pre-Chorus
You hold everything together,
You hold everything together.

Bridge
We lift our eyes to heaven,
And we wrap our lives around Your life,
We lift our eyes to heaven, to You.

And turn your eyes upon Jesus,
And look full in His wonderful face.
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

So often when we hear a song like this, or read a verse, or listen to a sermon, we renew our passion for having Christ at the center of all we say, think and do. But slowly, He begins to slide back to the fringes of our lives. Instead of spending time in His Word first thing in the morning, we get in a few verses before bed at night – if at all. Instead of being consistently in prayer, we pray at meals, maybe at bedtime, and even then only a few words because we feel we should. We spend our time doing useless things, and our passion and our focus shift off of the God of the Universe and onto ourselves, and we slowly become lukewarm. It’s a shame, and it is killing us.
Perhaps the best way I’ve heard it explained is when Mark Lindsley spoke about it at the summit. As a pilot, he used an illustration from the world of aviation. For a pilot flying in the clouds, your instruments are the only way for you to know how high you are, how fast you’re going, which direction you’re headed, and how to get where you’re going. It is absolutely vital that a pilot continually scan his instruments so that he can spot any errors in his course that need correcting. But out of all of these instruments, there is one that is more important than all the others: the attitude indicator. Whenever a pilot sees that his altitude is too low, or that he’s a couple of degrees off in his heading, he must bring his focus back to the attitude indicator before he makes the adjustment. If he just keeps his attention on the instrument that revealed the problem, he will begin to go wildly off course in other areas while he tries to fix it. The attitude indicator has to be the center of his focus, the one instrument he returns to for direction as he flies the plane safely to its destination.
I think a lot of the time we have a similar problem. We want to find what’s wrong with our lives and fix it, and we know where to look for the warning signs. But when we see something wrong, instead of bringing it and surrendering it to Christ, keeping our relationship with Him central to our lives, we continue to focus on the problem. We try and try to adjust our course in our own strength, but all the while we are spiraling out of control because Christ has fallen to the sidelines. Instead, we should keep our relationship with God the top priority in our lives. Only He can keep us on the narrow path, not turning to the right or the left. Every day, as we cycle through our “instrument panel”, making decisions and adjustments, our eyes should always be coming back to Jesus for the answers we need. He holds everything together, and when you center your life under His control, He will guide you safely home. Even though you can’t always see where you’re going, if you’re willing to trust that Jesus knows what He’s doing, you’ll make it out alright. And when you finally reach your destination, He’ll be waiting on the landing strip with a smile on His face and open arms, and you’ll know you’re home.

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