Worship in the Midst of Tragedy

worship with abandonAwhile back, I had the opportunity to meet Cara Brovont. She’s a bubbly young Christian mom from Indiana. It didn’t take long for me to realize she had quite a story to tell.

When she was just 23-years-old, married for less than four years, with two little girls, Cara’s husband, Derek, died in a tragic accident. I can’t imagine such a scenario. She admitted that it wasn’t easy, but her faith brought her through.

I asked Cara about her worship life. She responded, “Before Derek passed away I really didn’t view worship properly.” She told me that afterward she could picture Derek before the throne of God in heaven, worshiping. That image had a profound effect on her own worship life. “Worship has taken on an entirely different dimension.”

“Yesterday at church we sang the song, ‘Hallelujah, What a Savior.’ And I couldn’t even sing because I was so caught up in the awesomeness and purity and sovereignty of God. I just stood there and wept as I thought, ‘Hallelujah! What a Savior!’ Each day I look forward to taking the time to just focus on the Lord and worship Him.”

Indeed, what a Savior! Even in the midst of tragedy, even as we grieve a loss or pain, we can still worship that great Savior. He is still worthy.

(Adapted from Worshiping God in the Hard Times, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2009 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, Missouri. Get your copy at http://training-resources.org/worshiping_god_in_the_hard_times.html)
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You Can Be Anything You Want to Be … Or Not

Why You Cant Be Anything You Want to BeThere is a fascinating book dedicated to the idea that each person is uniquely gifted to accomplish what God wants that person to do. The book is entitled, Why You Can’t Be Anything You Want to Be. Everybody has been gifted by God to be able to do certain things.

The guy who told me about it is an amazingly gifted musician. He had been greatly impacted by reading the book and wanted to tell me about it. He shared with me the title, author and publishing company, so that I’d be able to find a copy for myself. Funny thing, though: He got none of those three pieces of information correct. He was close, but it made it a bit of challenge locating the actual book.

I don’t fault my friend for misinforming me about the facts regarding the book. In fact, it’s a great illustration of what the book is about. It’s true that you really can’t be just anything you want to be. You can’t wake up one morning and decide you want to be a carpenter if you don’t have any knack for it. If every attempt you’ve ever made at baking has been a dismal failure, you may not have what it takes to be a baker. My friend could never be an administrator. He has none of that gift at all. But he is one tremendously gifted musician.

In 1 Corinthians 7:17, Paul writes, “Only let each person lead the life that the Lord has assigned to him, and to which God has called him.”

What has God gifted you to do?

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Hillsboro, Missouri Controversy

(Author’s note: I live in the Hillsboro, Missouri, area. When out in public, I’ve been asked about the controversy. So, I thought I should address it in a larger forum.)

male - female -- not the sameRecently, a woman named Rachel Dolezal was forced to resign as head of the NAACP in Spokane, Washington. The reason? Because, although she “identified” as black, she actually was not. It’s one of those inconvenient facts of life. Either you are or you’re not.

A century-and-a-half ago, Abraham Lincoln made a brilliant observation. After a lengthy speech by one of his political opponents, Lincoln stepped up to the podium, looked out at the crowd and asked, “How many legs would a horse have if you called his tail a leg?”

Someone in the crowd called out, “Five.”

Lincoln responded, “No, just four. Calling a tail a leg doesn’t make it a leg.”

We can say that something is what it is not, but that doesn’t suddenly make it true. I could call my Ford Escort a Lamborghini, but that doesn’t make it a Lamborghini.

If someone wants to “identify” as a gazelle, or a rutabaga, or the Empire State Building, that’s their choice. But that doesn’t make it true.

Why have we allowed logical, rational thought to be shoved aside by absurd “political correctness”? Does no one in our culture notice that what we are espousing actually is contrary to common sense?

Let’s permit a teenage male to be in the girls’ locker room so he can somehow feel better about himself. Sure, that makes sense. Or not.

Have we forgotten that there is a reason why males and females have separate restrooms and locker rooms?

No wonder U.S. students’ test scores in subjects like math and science are falling compared to the rest of the world. We can’t even figure out basic anatomy.

(By the way, I have nothing at all against “Lila” Perry. I’m not a hater, even a little. His story is simply one of many logical outcomes in a society that declares that right and wrong do not exist, and that everyone should selfishly do whatever makes them feel good.)

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Drywall Dust … and Heaven

drywall dustMy wife, Barbara, is a fastidious housekeeper. Clutter and dirt do not generally last very long in our home. The weekly cleaning day restores pretty much the entire house to its pristine condition. Periodic spot cleanings throughout the week demonstrate her resolve to keep our home immaculate. It is a trait inherited from her full-blooded Dutch mother, and a trait that has been tested numerous times by her very messy husband.

Barb asked the Lord to show her how our knowledge of heaven should impact our lives. After all, the Bible says, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Colossians 3:2). So, my wife asked God to teach her what the hope of heaven has to do with life here and now.

We were in the midst of a remodeling project, adding a new portion onto our home. The plastic sheeting between the present living space and the new addition was only minimally effective. Sawdust and drywall dust still found their way through somehow. The mud from around the new foundation seemed to take great delight in sneaking into the house on the shoes of our children. Once inside, of course, it loosed its hold on the shoes and dropped off onto the floors. Everywhere.

Obviously these newfound supplies of dust and grime were a major source of frustration for my wife. At times she gritted her teeth and smiled. Other times were worse. Then, one beautiful summer day the sun shone brightly through the windows and illuminated not only the fresh layer of dust on the furniture, but also the airborne particles that had yet to find their way to the furniture. My wife peered through the plastic sheeting at the place where our soon-to-be family room was located and thought, “Soon it will all be over and we’ll be able to enjoy our home without all the mess.”

As these thoughts passed through her mind she realized that this is how our hope of heaven should affect our lives now. Although there are trials and tribulations in this life—situations that make us uncomfortable and maybe even irritable—as we look forward to the promise of our new home—our real home in heaven—we can face those things with assurance that they are just fleeting inconveniences. Even in the midst of present-day difficulties, we can still worship the Lord because of the hope of heaven.

(Excerpted from Worshiping God in the Hard Times, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2009 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, Missouri. Get your copy at http://training-resources.org/worshiping_god_in_the_hard_times.html)
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Don’t Run Away

leaving church madAlthough I would certainly not put commitment to a specific congregation on the same level as commitment to marriage, there are parallels. Statistics show that those who have divorced once are much more likely to do it again. The same is true in our congregational relationships. Leaving a church because of a disagreement makes it easier to leave the next time.

Popular author and pastor Joshua Harris recently wrote a new book entitled Stop Dating the Church. In it, he says this:

Going away is easy. Do you want to know what’s harder? Do you want to know what takes more courage and what will make you grow faster than anything else? Join a local church and lay down your selfish desires by considering others more important than yourself. Humble yourself and acknowledge that you need other Christians. Invite them into your life. Stop complaining about what’s wrong with the church, and become a part of a solution.  [Joshua Harris, Stop Dating the Church, Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 2004.]

I’d like to suggest Christians running away from difficult situations is rare, but I wouldn’t be honest if I did. I’ve witnessed the scene played over and over again in the lives of believers all across North America. People repeatedly run from uncomfortable situations and end up greatly hindered in their own spiritual walk.

(Excerpted from the book, Are There Terrorists in Your Church, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2005 Training Resources, Inc. Hillsboro, Missouri. Get your copy at http://training-resources.org/are_there_terrorists.html)
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Beethoven’s Joy

BeethovenMost musicologists would agree that Ludwig van Beethoven was a premiere musician and composer. More than 150 years after his death, his music still inspires and entertains. His Ninth Symphony has been hailed by some as perhaps his finest work. It is all instrumental until near the end when one single baritone voice comes in chanting “Joy, joy…” (Actually it is in German so the word is freude, but it means “joy.”) Soon others join in until an entire chorus of voices is singing, “Joy, joy…”

The first time the Ninth Symphony was ever performed it generated such enthusiasm that when the “Joy” section crescendoed, it was almost as though someone gave a command for the audience to rise to their feet and cheer. They applauded clamorously, but Beethoven did not even notice. Finally one of the singers leaned over and tapped Beethoven on the shoulder to show him. The reason he had not heard the commotion was simple: he was deaf. In fact, at that point he had been deaf for ten years.

I’m a mediocre musician, but I know lots of really talented musicians. I cannot even fathom what it must have been like for a musician the caliber of Beethoven to be deaf for ten years. He easily could have said that he was going to wait for more favorable circumstances in order to write about and exercise joy, but he didn’t. Instead, even in the midst of what was seemingly the very worst that life had to offer, he still chose to express the joy that God had given. Beethoven had made the decision to live above life’s circumstances by choosing to walk in joy.

(Excerpted from Worshiping God in the Hard Times, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2009 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, Missouri. Get your copy at http://training-resources.org/worshiping_god_in_the_hard_times.html)
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No More Pain

no painI don’t know about you, but I thank God for doctors. Medical physicians, doctors of dentistry, and chiropractors have all helped me and various members of my family through some physically trying times. Their knowledge of the human body and how to fix what’s wrong has been a big comfort on many occasions.

My sister had major headaches for years. Some days she was unable to function at all. After years of searching, she finally found a clinic that offered her not only hope, but real help. It took a while, and she’s not totally cured yet, but she is light-years better than she was before. She still has some pain, but it is minimal compared to what she previously experienced.

Before she passed away, my mom had arthritis in her hands and wrists. Not just a little touch of it occasionally but full-blown, all-the-time arthritis. The kind where the painful cortisone shots directly into the wrist were worth it because it made the real pain diminish. Eventually, though, the shots were no longer helpful. She was in such pain that she finally had to have a wrist-replacement on one arm, and the other wrist surgically fused in place. Mom was also a quilter. Quilting steps that she once could do in a matter of moments ended up taking much longer, and that’s not to mention the pain involved in doing those steps.

I won’t bore you with my root-canal-gone-bad story, but I’ve never experienced such pain before or since. This from the guy who had stitches in his head at least six different times before reaching the age of ten. I’ve known my share of pain.

Pain is a part of this life. Many of us, especially as we get older, have simply learned to live with it. After all, what else can you do? But in heaven, it’s all gone. Revelation 21:4 says, “neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore.”

No more pain. No more little nagging muscle aches. No more broken fingers. No more paper cuts. No more slivers. No more ingrown toe-nails. No more cancer. No more migraines. No pain at all. It’s gone. It’s all gone. That’s heaven. For eternity.

I’m looking forward to that!

(Adapted from Worshiping God in the Hard Times, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2009 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, Missouri. Get your copy at http://training-resources.org/worshiping_god_in_the_hard_times.html)
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