The Pilgrims Gave Thanks

PilgrimsCaptain Myles Standish was hired by the Pilgrims as military advisor for their Plymouth Colony in America. He eventually became a full member as well as a valued leader of the community. Standish had come to the “New World” with his wife, Rose, with high expectations. When Rose became ill, however, he did his best to spend as much time as possible at her bedside. That wasn’t easy, though. That first winter in Plymouth was harsh. With endeavoring to find food, guarding against natives and cutting trees to build homes, he had little time to spare.

William Bradford described the scene in his History of Plymouth Plantation:

Then the sicknes begane to fall sore amongst them, and the weather so bad …. the Gov’r and cheefe of them, seeing so many dye, and fall downe sick dayly, thought it no wisdom to send away the ship….

The winds were bitter and blew through every crack in the Mayflower as she lay anchored in the harbor. Rose’s chills turned to uncontrollable shaking and then turned to blazing fever. The crude medicines they had available did little to ease her discomfort. By spring Rose had died, along with so many others. Thirteen of the original eighteen wives who had set sail were no longer among the living.

What must that have been like? Try to imagine such a scenario. Of the 110 Pilgrims and ship’s crew who left for America, more than half died that first winter. The pain of children and spouses dying—not just one or two but so many—from sickness and lack of food…such pain would not be simple to overcome. It could easily last for years. If they allowed it to, such pain could have completely consumed them.

The high hopes that Myles and Rose Standish had brought to the new world were gone, evaporated into grief. Yet that next autumn, Captain Standish joined the other Pilgrims—who undoubtedly still mourned those who had passed on—to give thanks for a bountiful harvest. In the midst of their pain, they celebrated and gave thanks to God.

Should we do less?

(AdaExcerpted from Worshiping God in the Hard Times, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2009 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, Missouri. Get your copy at
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Worship Priorities

worship prioritiesYears ago, I heard a comedian talking about going on vacation. He spoke of how the things we take with us on vacation are really a mini version of home. Smaller sizes of essential toiletry items. Fewer options for clothes. Just what we’ll actually use while we’re gone.

He went on to talk about a time he and his wife were on vacation, and they did a quick overnight excursion away from the house where they were vacationing. For that single night, they took an even more cut-down version of home. Just what was absolutely vital for that overnight trip. But once they arrived, they left most of the things they brought at the place where they would spend the night, and went out sightseeing for the day. They took even fewer items for that daytime jaunt. An even smaller array of necessities.

Honestly, I don’t remember his point or even what made the whole story so funny. (Although I seem to recall that it was funny.)

But the whole idea does make me ponder what’s really important. When everything is all stripped down – when we have to decide what is life-sustainingly important – what would we choose? What things are absolutely essential for us to survive?

And for us as Christians – if we look at it from the perspective of worship – this is a powerfully important question.

What if every Christian church no longer had any choices about many of the things that have divided us? What if those choices were made for all of us and we were all forced to acquiesce in exactly the same way?

  • What if you couldn’t choose the music style – it was already chosen for you? And everyone did it the same?
  • What if chairs vs. pews was mandated by the government? You were forced to take what they gave you, and so were all the other Christian churches?
  • What if video projection vs. hymnals was also a decided issue? And every church did it exactly the same way?
  • What if sermon length, number of songs used during a service, even appropriate dress – were all predetermined by those in governmental authority?

You could still meet together – as often as you wanted. You can still preach the Word, and use whatever text you want. You’re even free to expound on that text with total and complete freedom. But these other issues could not be changed.

And more, what if every single issue that I just listed went against your own personal preference? Not that your preference was used once or twice, but never. Every single one of those was done in a way that is the exact opposite of the way you would prefer.

How would you respond? And, most importantly, could you still worship God in the midst of such a scenario?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Lone Ranger Christian?

togetherI have read numerous articles recently about the growing number of people who are dropping out of churches. They are still attempting to maintain their own relationship with God by themselves, but refuse to gather together with others.

I think that’s very sad.

Right from the beginning, the Christian faith has been a together-faith. Jesus didn’t just do everything on His own. He hung out with a dozen guys that he poured His life into. When He sent them out, He sent them with at least one other (Mark 6:7, Luke 10:1). Later, throughout the book of Acts, the apostles always seemed to have a traveling companion and fellow minister.

The writer of the book of Hebrews tells us plainly, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Have you ever considered that you can’t “stir up one another to love and good works” on your own? And you can’t be stirred up by someone else to love and good works on your own?

The fact is that you can’t meet together on your own. You can’t encourage one another on your own. All of these take at least one other person. So, it takes other people in our lives to accomplish what this passage says, right?

So, if we’re honest, we can’t go it alone and be obedient to the Bible.

Other people help us see from a different perspective. They remind us about God and the truth of His Word, what is right and what is wrong. They often can sway us toward right and godly choices. They pray for us. They encourage us. They help us along on the right path.

And although we can do some of those things on our own, they are increased exponentially when we are in koinonia – true biblical fellowship – with others.

You need the strength that comes from regularly being in fellowship with other believers.

Posted in Scriptural Perspective | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

What’s the Real Mission?

prayerLet me be really candid: I think we, as the Church, too frequently focus on the wrong thing. And when we do, our mission gets out of whack.

If you look at history, whenever the Church had the greatest impact on culture, they were not focused on affecting the culture. Instead, they focused on the mission of the Church: loving God and loving people. The gospel was shared, not as means for making a better society, but to cause dead people to find life.

When our primary focus is on passing laws or electing people who will make society a nicer place to live*, we have a misdirected focus. See, if tomorrow everyone in the nation suddenly started being nice to one another, we would certainly have created a more pleasant atmosphere, but the real war – the one for men’s souls – would still be raging underneath the veneer. If every politician, bureaucrat and lobbyist suddenly recognized the long-term moral and financial implications of their decisions, and then acted in accordance, the U.S. might be a better place to live, but the vast majority of its citizens would still be on a path to hell.

The early Church, though persecuted mercilessly, flourished under the oppressive hand of Nero. Christianity eventually was the most important factor in the radical culture change that took place. Yet, it didn’t happen by them fighting against Nero.

Or I think of the many stories from various nations that were a part of the Soviet Union, where Christianity had grown and blossomed, and ultimately helped cause the fall of the communist leadership. Consider that even today, the Church is flourishing in China. It will be of little surprise to me when the government topples – and it will topple at some point – not because Christians fight against Beijing’s leadership, but because the Lord has been quietly using His people to change the lives of the citizens.

What if we, as the Church, really had our primary focus where it should be?

*I am not suggesting that we should not be involved in politics. I am clearly stating that politics and/or cultural change should not be our primary emphasis.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 1 Comment


inoculationRecently, I have heard many Christians lamenting that we are being marginalized in our society. People, in general, seem to be far less interested in hearing the gospel than in times past. Instead, those of us who believe in the Bible are often viewed as fringe whackos. Many believers wonder, How could this have happened?

Personally, I don’t think this scenario is difficult to figure out. It’s called inoculation. Think about it. When a person receives an inoculation, they are given a very small amount – or a weakened strain – of a particular disease. The idea is that their body will then build an immunity to the disease, keeping them from contracting it.

The majority of people in our culture have encountered only a weak form of Christianity. The most common people who refer to themselves as Christians are those who may – at least occasionally – go to church on Sunday mornings, but have no real evidence of faith in their lives.

No wonder our society has no interest in Christianity. Why would anyone be favorably disposed toward a milquetoast, emasculated religion that clearly has no true impact on the lives of its adherents? The very idea is ludicrous.

The Church in America looks so much like the rest of society that people can see no discernible difference. So of course they ignore and marginalize us. We are seen as having nothing to offer of any real value.

So, perhaps, instead of laughing at the dirty joke around the water cooler with the other guys, what if we demonstrated that we weren’t interested in it? What if we told positive stories about our spouse instead of negative ones? What if we were clueless about last night’s popular racy television show, because we aren’t interested in that type of “entertainment”? What if we encouraged people instead of dragging them down? What if we genuinely cared for people, not just superficially? What if we publicly admitted that our lives are far from perfect, but that we have a Savior who is still at work in us?

Because, by His grace, He is.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

A Response to: 8 Reasons the Worship Industry Is Killing Worship

guitarMore than one person has now asked my thoughts about an article that has been widely-circulated, “8 Reasons the Worship Industry Is Killing Worship.” (Link to article: So, here goes.

First, there is a flaw in the basic premise of the article. The author seems to indicate that there is some nebulous and nefarious blob out there somewhere called the “worship industry.” Later in the article, he refers to the “worship machine.” I’d be interested in a precise definition of that. Is it a gigantic conspiracy to undermine the Church as whole? I personally know some of the best songwriters and musicians, people whose songs are used worldwide. They would be part of the “worship industry.” They have hearts that truly want to help people engage in worshiping God. Are they wrong for desiring that? I don’t think so. Are they perfect? No.

Now, with that as a premise, let’s look at each of the eight points.

  1. “It’s [sic] sole purpose is to make us feel something.” Where exactly is that written? Again this evil force (the worship industry) wants us to “feel something.” Ask the songwriters if that’s their main motivation. The ones I know would say, emphatically, “No.”

However, I would add this. Worship, divorced from feeling, is not really worship. God doesn’t primarily want our actions; He wants our hearts. The Webber quote, “Worship is doing God’s story” seems to miss the biblical depiction of worship: people whose attention and hearts are fixed on God to reverence and honor Him. Look at the biblical glimpses of heavenly worship in the Revelation. How could those folks cry out with loud voices or fall on their faces without any feeling? They couldn’t.

  1. “The industry hijacks worship.” I’m a bit confused by this one. I agree that worship should look beyond us and our experience. It’s about God and honoring Him. However, I have frequently heard the very same statement, “I can’t worship with that kind of music!” used by those who advocate a very traditional style of worship. So how can that be attributed to the “worship industry”? I would suggest that the hijacking of worship to be about us has more to do with our sinful nature than with an “industry.”
  2. “It says that music IS worship.” Again, none of the songwriters or musicians I know would make such a statement. They would agree that things like prayer, spoken words of praise, giving, etc. can all be worship. It certainly does not need to be music. At the same time, the late Dr. Robert Webber said, “Music is the wheels on which worship moves.” It’s a good point. Songs help us express words that we might not otherwise say.
  3. “It’s a derivative of mainstream commercial music.” It may be influenced by the music that is popular in the culture, but that’s very different from it being a derivative. To say that worship music is a derivative of mainstream commercial music would be the same as saying that preaching is a derivative of speechmaking. There may be similarities. Some people might even use some of the same mannerisms and practical thought-processes. There may be those who use some of the same tools – a dictionary and thesaurus, for example. But that hardly makes preaching a derivative.

Further, using forms of music that are “mainstream” and popular is nothing new. It’s been done for generations in the Church. Why is it suddenly a bad thing now?

  1. “It perpetuates an awkward contemporary Christian media subculture.” The further in the article I read, the more frustrated I have become. I’m not entirely sure this one warrants a response. Because the author can point out a really good mainstream “Christian” movie and a couple of less-than-stellar ones from Christian movie producers, that proves the point? I don’t think so. There are only a handful of today’s secular songs that will be remembered as classics fifty years from now. The same is true with Christian songs, even worship songs. That doesn’t somehow make the whole idea of writing worship songs – or even songs in general – wrong.
  2. “It spreads bad theology.” Finally, a point I can guardedly agree with. I have said this for years. Many current Christian songs have words that do not reflect sound theology. However, we can’t stop with the statement that it spreads bad theology. Because it also spreads good theology. There are lots of really biblically-solid worship songs being sung around the world today because of the “worship industry.”

So, the point is that we don’t throw out the “industry” because some have poor theology. (We’d also have to throw out preaching if that was the case.) Instead, we must be vigilant to be sure that the songs we sing are theologically sound.

  1. “It creates worship superstars.” I find it frustrating that the author makes blanket statements but offers no remedies. So, based on this same premise, we should have no more preaching because Billy Graham, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Ravi Zacharias, Chuck Swindoll, etc. are too famous. Hmmm. Maybe that’s not a good premise.
  2. “It’s made music into a substitute Eucharist.” Although I see the point, I think we’re comparing apples to oranges. If we recognize that worship is God-directed, then the Eucharist is not worship. It may, like preaching, cause us to worship. It has frequently provoked me to worship God by remembering what He has done. As I have encountered the Lord through His Body and Blood, I have often been inspired to worship. But the actual act of communion is not God-directed. So comparing the Lord’s Table to worship is not really a fair comparison.


Whereas the author does offer some good warnings, his throw-the-baby-out-with-the-bath-water approach is far too extreme. The “worship industry” (whatever that is exactly) has given us much for which we should be grateful. To trash the entire thing and all those involved because of some abuses is going overboard.

The heart behind the article seems to says, “I want what we do to be real. It should be Christ-focused.” I would agree. But I think that many songwriters and musicians want that same thing.

Instead of demanding that all those who did or said wrong things be thrown out of the Church, most of the time the Apostle Paul simply taught what was right. That might be a good approach for us to consider.

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

God’s Mysterious Ways

India street sceneSince early childhood, a Christian young woman had dreamed of ministering in India. She loved the country, she loved the people, and she had a burning desire to go and share her faith in Christ Jesus with them as a missionary.

She worked and studied, preparing for ministry in India. After a lengthy time of preparation, the Mission Board of her church accepted her application as a missionary, and she was on her way. She packed up all her worldly belongings and she was officially sent to India as a missionary. Her lifelong dream was finally being fulfilled.

Shortly after arriving in India, though, she received word that her sister and brother-in-law were killed in an accident. That would have been tragedy enough. With her recent move it was unlikely that she would even be able to attend the funerals. To compound the misfortune, she was asked to come back home and care for their three orphaned children.

What a dilemma! She had just begun to see the fulfillment of her goal as a missionary in India. After all the work and study and preparation, how could she just give it all up? Yet she knew in her heart it was the right thing to do. So, leaving the land that she loved so dearly, she once again packed her belongings and returned home to become mother to three grieving youngsters.

And mother she became. She loved those kids as though they were her own. In big and small ways she consistently demonstrated her care for them. As a result, they began to reciprocate and love her back. Moreover, because of her undeniable love for the Savior, they too began to love Him. And because of her obvious passion for India and its people, the three of them also developed a passion for her beloved India.

Here’s the amazing twist. All three of those children married as adults, and had children of their own. And each of them served as a missionary to India.

There is no way the woman could have envisioned such a scenario when she packed up her possessions that second time to head home. It must have seemed like her world was crumbling. It certainly could have appeared as though God had abandoned her, but He hadn’t. He was at work behind the scenes in His own mysterious way.

(Excerpted from Worshiping God in the Hard Times, by Tom Kraeuter, ©2009 Training Resources, Inc., Hillsboro, Missouri. Get your copy at
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment