Nouwen on Gratitutde

Have you thought about the difference between "giving thanks" and "being thankful"? Today's Worship Quote of the Week directs our thoughts to the spiritual attitude of gratitude. The author, Henri Nouwen, writes about the prodigal son's older brother.

GRATITUDE
Resentment and gratitude cannot coexist, since resentment blocks the perception and experience of life as a gift. My resentment tells me that I don't receive what I deserve. It always manifests itself in envy.

Gratitude, however, goes beyond the "mine" and "thine" and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.

Gratitude as a discipline involves a conscious choice. I can choose to be grateful even when my emotions and feelings are still steeped in hurt and resentment. It is amazing how many occasions present themselves in which I can choose gratitude instead of a complaint. I can choose to grateful when I am criticized, even when my heart still responds in bitterness. I can choose to speak about goodness and beauty, even when my inner eye still looks for someone to accuse or something to call ugly. I can choose to listen to the voices of forgiveness and to look at the faces that smile, even while I still hear words of revenge and see grimaces of hatred.

There is always the choice between resentment and gratitude because God has appeared in my darkness, urged me to come home, and declared in a voice filled with affection: "You are with me always, and all I have is yours."

- Henri J. M. Nouwen, The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming, Image Books/Doubleday, 1994.


CHIP'S THOUGHTS

Dear Lord, thank you again for your steady and lavish (prodigal) love. Protect me from a spirit of resentment, and nurture in me a deep sense of gratitude for all that is mine because of my relationship with you. Amen!

Have a great week!


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Chrysostom on Pleasure in Church Music

Today we have another Worship Quote within a Worship Quote, a fourth-century comment about the pleasure of church music as quoted in Don Hustad's Jubilate II.

PLEASURE IN CHURCH MUSIC
It should be apparent that pleasure is one of the meanings of functional church music. For unless worshipers find some measure of enjoyment (which I equate with understanding or "appreciation") in a certain church music language, they will probably not be edified by either the music or the words... St. John Chrysostom in the fourth century gave such an explanation for the appearance of music in worship.

"When God saw that many men were lazy, and gave themselves only with difficulty to spiritual reading, He wished to make it easy for them, and added the melody to the words, that all being rejoiced by the charm of the music, should sing hymns to Him with gladness."

- St. John Chrysostom (c. 350-407) as quoted in Donald Hustad's Jubilate II: Church Music in Worship and Renewal, Chapter 2, "Church Music: A Functional Art," Hope Publishing Co., 1993.


CHIP’S THOUGHTS

I often marvel at the way a well-crafted melody can intensify or clarify the meaning of a noble text. On the other hand, I am also aware that carefully reading the text of a hymn or song can sometimes reveal meanings that had previously been overpowered or even obscured by the power of the music. Why is that?

Have a great week!


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Chambers on Worshiping God with the Best

Today's Worship Quote of the Week is another from Oswald Chambers' devotional classic, My Utmost for His Highest.

WORSHIP GOD WITH THE BEST
Worship is giving God the best that He has given you. Be careful what you do with the best you have. Whenever you get a blessing from God, give it back to Him as a love gift. Take time to meditate before God and offer the blessing back to Him in a deliberate act of worship. If you hoard a thing of blessing for yourself, it will turn into spiritual dry rot, as the manna did when it was hoarded [Exodus 16]. God will never let you hold a spiritual thing for yourself, it has to be given back to Him that he may make it a blessing to others.

- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, Barbour & Company (http://www.barbourbooks.com). Selected mostly from talks given during the years 1911-1915, these devotionals were first published in 1935 by Dodd, Mead & Co., renewed in 1963 by Oswald Chambers Publication Association, Ltd.


CHIP’S THOUGHTS

Lord, help us to respond to your goodness with deliberated acts of worship - worship that pleases you and is a blessing to others. Amen!

Have a great week!


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Lawrence on Worshiping All the Time

Today's Worship Quote of the Week comes from a letter that Brother Lawrence (17th century Carmelite monk) wrote to a woman who was overcome with the cares of life. He instructed her in "the practice of the presence of God."

WORSHIP ALL THE TIME

Madame,

In the midst of your work console yourself with Him as often as you can. During your meals and your conversations, lift your heart towards Him sometimes; the slightest little remembrance will always be very pleasant to Him. To do this you do not need to shout loudly. He is closer to us than we think.

We do not have to be constantly in church to be with God. We can make of our heart a prayer room into which we can retire from time to time to converse with Him gently, humbly and lovingly. Everyone is capable of these familiar conversations with God - some more, some less. He knows what our capabilities are. Let us begin: perhaps He is only waiting a generous resolve on our part. Take courage: we have little time left to live. You are almost sixty-four years old, and I am approaching eighty. Let us live and die with God! The sufferings will always be sweeter and more pleasant when we are with Him, and the greatest pleasure without Him will be cruel torture. May He be blessed by all. Amen."

-Brother Lawrence (c. 1611-1691) in The Practice of the Presence of God, translated by Robert J. Edmonson, Paraclete Living Library, 1984.


CHIP'S THOUGHTS

Lord, take my heart for a prayer room. Help me to practice your presence today. Amen!

Have a great week!


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Brink on Strange Worship

What happens when non-Christians visit Christ-centered services of worship? How much of what we say and do is understandable to the "outsider"? Today's Worship Quote addresses this important question.

STRANGE WORSHIP
We must expect some of Christian worship to seem strange, even unintelligible, to people who do not know Christ. Certainly all people are worshipers by nature, the impulse to worship is universal. But Christian worship is the worship of those who have died and risen again to a brand-new life and way of living. In this new community where Christ is head, things are different. Here people are less concerned with finding their life than with losing it for Christ. Here meekness, not muscle, is the mark of greatness. If the church is not radically different from the world, something is radically wrong. To be salt and light in the world implies a marked contrast between the way of life in the world and the way of life in the church. Peter says that Christians are "aliens and strangers in the world" (1 Peter 2:11). It follows, then, that Christian worship will have its peculiarities.

- Emily Brink, editor, in Authentic Worship in a Changing Culture, by the seven-member Worship Study Committee for the 1997 Synod of the Christian Reformed Church, CRC Publications, 1997.


CHIP'S THOUGHTS

Highly recommended for worship planners, ministers, and church musicians.

Have a great week!


To learn more about Chip Stam and his Worship Quote of the Week, click below.

Foster on when Spirit Touches Spirit

This Worship Quote of the Week is another from Richard Foster's The Celebration of Discipline.

SPIRIT TOUCHES SPIRIT
"Worship is our response to the overtures of love from the heart of the Father. Its central reality is found 'in spirit and truth.' It is kindled within us only when the Spirit of God touches our human spirit. Forms and rituals do not produce worship, nor does the disuse of forms and rituals. We can use all the right techniques and methods, we can have the best possible liturgy, but we have not worshipped the Lord until Spirit touches spirit."

- Richard Foster, The Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, Chapter 11, "The Discipline of Worship," (San Francisco, CA: Harper, 1988), p. 158.


CHIP’S THOUGHTS

Holy God, touch us with your Spirit as we respond to the amazing overtures of your love! Amen!

Have a great week!


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Tozer on the Most Winsome of All Beings

Today's Worship Quote of the Week is another from the pen of A. W. Tozer.

WINSOME
"The blessed and inviting truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and in our worship of Him we should find unspeakable pleasure."

-A. W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, Christian Publications, 1948.


CHIP'S THOUGHTS

Tozer was the pastor of Chicago's Southside Alliance Church from 1928 to 1959.  He never went to be a Bible school, seminary or university, but his many writings consistently and powerfully direct the reader's attention to the amazing God who desires our love, devotion, and worship.

win-some: adj. 1. Causing joy or pleasure; pleasant; winning.
Synonyms: captivating, charming, attractive.

Have a great week!


To learn more about Chip Stam and his Worship Quote of the Week, click below.

Foster on Worship and Discipline

This Worship Quote of the Week is from Richard Foster's The Celebration of Discipline.

TO WORSHIP IS TO CHANGE
Just as worship begins in holy expectancy, it ends in holy obedience. If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it has not been worship. To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change. Resentments cannot be held with the same tenacity when we enter his gracious light. As Jesus says, we need to leave our gift at the altar and go set the matter straight (Matthew 5:23, 24). In worship, an increased power steals its way into the heart sanctuary, an increased compassion grows in the soul. To worship is to change.

- Foster, Richard J. The Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth. San Francisco, CA: Harper One, 1988, 173.


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Stott on the Heart and Mind

Pastors and worship leaders often wrestle with the delicate balance between fact and feeling in worship, between the objective and the subjective aspects of our response to God. Today's Worship Quote of the Week comes from John Stott and deals with the heart and the mind in worship.

Authentic Christianity
By John R. W. Stott

HEART AND MIND
The first characteristic of heart-worship is that it is rational; the mind is fully involved in it. For the 'heart' in Scripture is not simply equivalent to the emotions, as it usually is in common parlance today. In biblical thought the 'heart' is the center of the human personality and is often so used that the intellect is more emphasized than the emotions. Thus, the exhortation in Proverbs 23:26, 'My son, give me your heart,' has often been interpreted as an entreaty for our love and devotion. It has served as a convenient text for many sermons on whole-hearted discipleship. But in reality it is a command to listen, to pay attention, to sit up and take notice, an appeal more for concentration than for consecration."

-John Stott, Christ the Controversialist, InterVarsity Press, 1970, p. 162, as collected in Authentic Christianity: From the Writings of John Stott, compiled by Timothy Dudley-Smith, InterVarsity Press, 1995.


CHIP'S THOUGHTS

Lord, teach us that heart-worship is mindful worship. Amen!

Have a great week!


To learn more about Chip Stam and his Worship Quote of the Week, click below.

Augustine on Emotion

Today we have a Worship Quote within a Worship Quote, a fifth century comment about the power, emotion and truth of church music as presented in Don Hustad's recent Jubilate II. Read on!

EMOTION
The use of music as an expression of emotion linked to theological truth is common in all churches. In the evangelical traditions where personal religious experience is emphasized, emotional expression is one of music's most important meanings; it is probably that function which folks refer to when they identify "music that speaks to the heart."  But this is not a new experience for churchgoers. St. Augustine mentioned it in the fifth century.

"How greatly did I weep in thy hymns and canticles, deeply moved by the voice of thy sweet-speaking Church! The voices flowed into mine ears, and the truth was poured forth into my heart, whence the agitation of my piety overflowed, and my tears ran over, and blessed was I therein."

The emotional power of music is perhaps best realized in the life of the church when proper music is well coupled to appropriate text. (Note that Augustine joins emotion with truth!) In this union, the music dramatizes, underlines, "breathes life" into the words, resulting in more meaning than the words themselves could express.

St. Augustine (354-430) as quoted in Donald Hustad's Jubilate II: Church Music in Worship and Renewal, Chapter 2, "Church Music: A Functional Art," Hope Publishing Co., 1993.


To learn more about Chip Stam and his Worship Quote of the Week, click below.