Worship Through the Wall: Worship’s unique ability to give spiritual wisdom and insight…especially in suffering

by Zac Hicks

Psalm 73 makes a shocking claim that often gets overlooked.  It is a raw psalm that is perhaps more honest than many Christians would dare to be before God.  Its first half is nearly bitter:

I envied the arrogant
when I saw the prosperity of the wicked
They have no struggles;

…Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure;
in vain have I washed my hands in innocence.  (vv 3-4a, 13, NIV)

The psalmist expresses being on the brink of despair.  Haven’t we all been there?  Whether we’ve merely scratched our heads or actually shaken our fists toward the heavenlies, we have all sensed from time to time that the wicked seem to have it just fine and the righteous seem to be loaded with trials.  It is one of the most apparent Divine injustices.  But here comes the surprising pivot-point:

When I tried to understand all this,
it was oppressive to me
till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.  (vv 16-17, NIV)

How was this theological and existential struggle alleviated?  Not by a Bible study.  Not by a counseling session with a pastor.  Not by taking a seminary class.  The psalmist communicates that a very special spiritual wisdom and insight was imparted in “the sanctuary of God,” in the context of worship.

Extrapolating outward, is it not easy to see the rich benefit of corporate worship?  Of the many blessed by-products of worship, this is surely one of them–that, in worship, we are often given (many times supernaturally and mysteriously) wisdom from God that aids in gaining perspective on some of life’s deepest struggles and problems.

This is a vivid reality for me.  Five and a half years ago, I was finishing up my seminary degree and leading worship in a small church plant in north Denver.  My wife, Abby, was diagnosed with cancer.  During that period of time, I can recall feeling that worship was very much a discipline foisted on me by God…something I had to do simply because it was my job.  Believe me, I wanted to retreat.  But worship became a most blessed discipline.  Worship perpetually put before my head and heart the greatness of God, the eternal perspective, the Kingdom mentality, and the love of Christ.  Worship provided the frame of wisdom and insight that bordered the portrait of my suffering.  It didn’t take away the sting of suffering, but those of you who have been there know the difference between suffering well and suffering poorly.  I believe I suffered well.  In the words of Sheldon Vanauken, I believe that worship helped me to experience suffering as a “severe mercy.”

I believe that this is one of the reasons the book Habakkuk ends the way it does—with a worship song.  I believe Habakkuk understood that when we come to the end of our wrestlings about the vexing incongruities of life, when we hit that wall, worship is one of the ways God graciously provides for us to break through to the wisdom on the other side.

Perhaps Psalm 73 would have us then rephrase James 1:5: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should gather with God’s people…and worship.”

For more from Zac check out zachicks.com

Advertisements

What about Teens?

Many parents who want to see their teenagers follow Jesus haven’t done a great job of discipleship when their kids were young and don’t really know what to do now.  In this video Jenna Hallock from Family Time Training and her blog, Mom in Progress, explores the important topic of how to approach discipleship with teens, especially when a parent hasn’t done much before.

The Now: Enjoying All of Life

I have always looked forward to the next big event of life. My birthday, the first day of school, going to summer camp, moving on to junior high then high school then college then seminary, getting a date getting engaged and getting married, having a kid and then having another one. It seems I have lived life seeing 90% of it as a means to an end. The necessary time waiting in line before hopping on the roller coaster. Mundane but something you had to put up with to get the next high.

Now that I’m old(er) I’m learning to see that all of life is to be enjoyed. I’m learning to appreciate the rhythm of life. Getting up, seeing my family, working, relaxing, cooking, reading, sleeping. I guess none of those are mountain-top experiences, but they’re all great. They’re my life, the life God has given me to enjoy. I’m learning to love the road and not just the destination.

For those who want to be disciples of Jesus I think this is an important discipline to learn–to really be present and content in the moment.  If we are not able to do that we will miss opportunities to love others as ourselves, find joy in what’s happening, and even to find a path to growth through life’s difficult times.  Our lives are a gift from God and it’s great to look forward to what’s coming, it’s just good if we can do that without forgetting what’s happening now.

 

Calling All Parents

This month we’ve been focusing on what discipleship looks like for kids.  As I’ve read articles and listened to Jenna Hallock and others talk about the topic, one of the things that struck me is the importance of adult discipleship in the process of discipleship with kids.  Jenna raised the point that if parents have no idea what it means to be a disciple of Jesus they won’t be able to teach their kids or model a life of discipleship for them.  A few takeaways for me from all this:

  • This got me thinking about how I can teach the parents I work with not only to be disciples but to make disciples of their kids as well.  Passing on discipleship to kids isn’t necessarily something that comes naturally to parents so we need to think about how we can help them fulfill this important calling.
  • Part of unique conformity for every parent is discipling their kids.  This is not something a parent needs a special call for, it is something they are called to because they are parents.
  • The church needs to be proactive in it’s role helping parents with how to make disciples of their children.  We can’t just preach and hope they get it.

If you’re a parent or someone who knows parents (which means everyone), consider what this essential task of discipling children looks like for you.

Family, Courage, and Giving: Thoughts from our Board Chairman

This post contains some thoughts from the chairman of the board of Unique Conformity, James Gleghorn.

I want to thank Trevor for letting me write a guest blog post.  I have been on the board with Trevor from the very beginning of UC (and before that on the board of Infuse).

One of the joys of my life is Jake, my little eight-year-old prayer warrior.  Jake likes to talk about the Atlanta Mission and his little capitalist venture, “Jake’s All-Star Services”.  Jake’s “services”, include items like:  Yard work, house cleaning, worship consultant, church stewardship consulting, chef (wouldn’t recommend this one) and general contractor.  Jake gives his 10% tithe to 12Stone Church, saves 10% and also gives 10% to the Mission through cash or through buying food for our men’s shelter, The Shepherd’s Inn.  I love my family and there is something special about seeing your kid make wise and Godly decisions.

Jake did something a while ago that I didn’t see coming and thought worth sharing.  He met with Jim Reese, Atlanta Mission’s President and CEO.  Jake asked me to schedule an “official” appointment through Jim’s admin.  He had some things to discuss with Jim about the Mission (I wish I had his gumption at 8, or now…).  Jake wouldn’t tell me what he wanted to discuss, he only said he had ideas for how to make the Mission better and that Jim needed to hear them (unfortunately, I think he gets most of his “confidence” from me).  He and Jim had a great meeting and Jake and Jim gave each other a list of follow-up items.  I love the fact that Jim cares enough about his work family to take 30 minutes to talk with Jake.  His leadership makes it a pleasure to work here.

What are my take-aways from Jim and Jake?  I have an unbelievable family and work family.  I need to pray more fervently for Jim, our clients, our donors/volunteers and of course my family.  I also am challenged on how much and with what spirit I give.  If my eight-year-old can give more with a cheerful heart, I can too.

What are my take-aways for UC?  We need to pray more fervently for Trevor and Michelle, God’s wisdom for UC, the next year as UC really takes off and most importantly that God would be honored by everything UC is doing.

As we continue to grow and thrive as Unique Conformity, it is my heart’s desire that we would grow to be like the Atlanta Mission…a ministry that successfully serves for over 70 years and is able to change generations.  I pray that we would be wise stewards of the resources you entrust us with and we would use those resources to influence the discipleship conversation all over the world.

I love UC and consider it a great privilege to be able to serve and to give of my time, talent and treasure.  Like Jake, I can be a cheerful giver each month knowing that the resources are going to promote a great cause…discipleship.

My challenge to each of you (and to me!) reading this is to really think through your giving and spending.  If God truly owns it all and we are just stewards, are you giving were God’s wants you to give and is your giving in line with his gifting to you?  I hope you will continue to pray through your giving in 2011!  There are a lot of worthy ministry opportunities that you use your time, talent and treasure.

God bless!

James Gleghorn is the Chief Development Officer at Atlanta Mission, and organization committed to ending homelessness.  He is the chairman of the board of Unique Conformity.

Un-Resolved

I used to always make New Year’s resolutions–I think I assumed it was as much a tradition as hanging ornaments on the Christmas tree.  My success in sticking with the resolutions was a mixed bag.  Sometimes I stuck with them for a while, but more often I had given up in a matter of weeks.  I can’t point to any developments in my life or character that are a result of a resolution made at the beginning of a New Year.

Because of that I went through a phase where I was adamantly (and I’m sure to others annoyingly) against New Year’s resolutions.  I was sure there was no point in anyone making them and even assumed they were naive if they thought it would work.

As I’ve continued to move through life and become (a little) less cynical, I’m reconsidering the benefit of resolutions at the beginning of a new year.  On one hand, if something is worth changing there’s no reason to wait for a new year to get going on it (other than being able to enjoy vices for “just a few more days”).  On the other hand, there is something about the beginning of a new year that is a natural time to take stock of your life and see the places where some things need to change.  In a life of discipleship it is essential to continue to resolve to change things as the Holy Spirit asks us to.  So resolutions are not bad and the New Year is as good a time as any to make them.

So that said, I didn’t make any resolutions this year.  I imagine I’ll make some during the year, and maybe by next year I’ll be ready to take the plunge again.