Posts tagged Lenten Devotional
Monday Message: On Lent and Love

No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
- John 15:13
 
The Season of Lent is a gift the liturgical calendar gives us.  We need the time to prepare ourselves to grapple with the greatest gift of love we will ever receive.  In this verse in the gospel of John, Jesus’ disciple reminds us that Jesus’ Passion, his death on the cross, and his resurrection are all testament to the love that Jesus has for us. 
 
Now, there is both promise and problem in that opening paragraph.  The promise is that it is possible to discover ever more deeply the love that God has for us.  The problem is that most of us think about it in one of two ways.  Either we think we already know and therefore don’t bother to truly discover its ever greater depths.  Or we think that John is talking about Jesus’ love for someone else.  Our own shame, guilt, or lack of self-worth keep us from believing that Jesus’ testimony of love is fully and truly for us.
 
To answer the first way, I will simply point you toward the sermon series we will be walking through together through the Season of Lent.  To answer the second, let me point you to the apostle Paul’s take on our John verse.  In Romans 5:7-8, Paul writes, “Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”
 
Did you read that?  While we were still sinners, Jesus testified to his love for us in the greatest way possible.  No amount of shame or guilt or lack of self-worth can disqualify us from this.  Jesus loves you even at your worst.  Still does.  Nothing has changed.  Nothing can change that.  It may take Lent done right for you to receive that.
 
Gracious Lord, we are thankful for your love for us.  We are also pretty poor receivers of that love.  We ask that you work in us to unearth our defenses and overwhelm our doubts so that we might become people rooted and grounded in your love.  We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lenten Devotional Series: To Worship You I Live
"To Worship You I Live" by Israel Houghton

by Sophia Harang
Worship Vocalist at 945 Service

I live to worship you!

Over the last 5 years, I really struggled with my purpose. Financial challenges, unknowns in my career, relationships - and at the core of it all, I was having an identity and purpose  crisis. When I finally dropped to my knees and began to put God first, everything came together for me. I rediscovered one of my old favorite songs  "I Live to Worship you”, and it took on a whole new meaning for  me, giving me an even greater revelation about my purpose and thus my priorities. My purpose, was to worship and my identity was “in Christ”. 

The lyrics of the song...
I just want to bless your name
I just want to make you glad
I just want to move your hear God, and give you all I am
For it’s by your will and for your pleasure I exist
You are worthy
To worship you I live, To worship you I live, I live to worship you.

Rather than seeking my identity and my purpose in an academic accomplishment, or in my career, I began to turn wholly to my creator. My identity shifted from being a single mother, to a human being designed to worship and be in fellowship with my creator. And it was as if a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. The scripture Matthew 6:33 helped me to restructure my life “But seek ye first, the kingdom of God and all these things, shall be added unto you." Rather than looking to please others or myself, or even to be the best mom, or best at my job…(I stopped waking up and checking emails, and started waking up and giving thanks). I understood that I had been created to worship the almighty God. And in seeking to worship him, and putting him first…everything else started coming together.  

Lenten Devotional Series: All Creatures of Our God and King

All Creatures of Our God and King
Lyrics by St. Francis of Assisi
 
Hymn 455 in our Hymnal
 
Classical: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26DHOhynJ1Q
 
Contemporary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSFK7UiH5Us
 
Psalm 148
 
I chose to share thoughts on  All Creatures of Our God and King for two reasons. First, we sing this song in both services. We sing the hymn in the classical service, and we sing the adaptation by David Crowder in the contemporary service. Second, this song is one of my favorite hymns, and it is a song that translates well into contemporary worship music.
 
The lyrics of All Creatures were originally in a poem by St. Francis of Assisi in 1225. Francis is considered the patron saint of Italy, San Francisco, CA, and the environment. The latter is evident in this song. In the spirit of Psalm 148, which I encourage you to read, Francis calls upon God’s creation to praise its Creator.
 
Do you ever consider other parts of creation praising God? If you are like me, you usually think of humanity alone praising God. This song challenges us to see beyond that. It opens up to us the mystery and grandeur of God’s creation. It’s not just God and me. It’s not just you, some friends, God, and me. This song reminds us that it’s not even merely humanity and God.
 
What does it mean for another part of creation to praise God? If St. Francis is right, creation praises God simply by being. “Thou burning sun with golden beam, Thou silver moon with softer gleam;” “Thou rushing wind that art so strong, Ye clouds that sail in Heaven along;” “Thou flowing water, pure and clear, Make music for thy Lord to hear.” These parts of creation praise God bydoing what they were created to do.
 
What are you created to do?
 
We are all specially created, and we all have something special to do to honor our Creator. God has plans and purposes for you individually. But I think this is true for each of us: we were created to worship God. All of us. Individually, corporately, continually. As we continue through the Lenten season toward Easter with our series on worship, ask God to continue to build you and your worshiping life. Pray for the Holy Spirit to move your heart constantly to worship God. It is what you were created to do. - Drew Hanson

Lenten Devotional Series: Thy Dwelling Place
Fourth Movement of Johannes Brahms Requiem

by Roy Atherton
member of BHPC Choir
How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts! My soul longs, indeed it faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God.
Psalm 84:1-2
 
My personal connection with the text of the fourth movement has always been my reflection of Brahms' feeling that there will always be another dimension of life that is beyond our earthly existence. Although his expressed intent was to be mindful of the living souls who remained behind on earth, it was his intention to be mindful that the departed would be remembered as those spirits who entered the Lord's beautiful dwelling place.
 
Spiritually, the soaring musical phrasing and textual appeal of "...Thy dwelling place of the Lord..." compliments my sense of personal well-being in our troubled times.  The text is apropos and mindful of those who have departed.  I have been blessed by my parents and know they sought the Lord's beautiful dwelling place. Blessed are my parents who dwell in the house of the Lord.
 
In my own way, I also pray for forgiveness, hope and the unlimited blessings that God has bestowed upon each of us.  I will always remind each of you that there is a daily need to count your blessings. Be thankful for your blessings, large and small, and always be in the presence of the Lord - willing and able to be of assistance others.  It is well to remember those who came before us, who taught us the way and wisdom of our Lord how to be of assistance to others less fortunate and guide us through the final days of our lives into the Lord's dwelling place.

Lenten Devotional Series: A Little Jazz
Blue Train
"Blue Train" by John Coltrane

by Drew Hanson, Director of Family Ministry

I like jazz. Maybe it’s because it is the quintessential coffee shop music, and I love coffee shops. Maybe it’s because it seems difficult or sophisticated to my musically untrained ear. Maybe it’s because I really loved the movie Whiplash. But if I had to guess, I would say that I like jazz because of the importance of improvisation. Here’s my limited understanding of jazz improv: a musician composes music on the spot within certain musical parameters set by the rhythm instruments. It is the improvisation aspect that actually leads me to not only enjoy jazz, but to also use it as a way to worship.
 
If you’re like me, you can identify parts of your life that are improvised. Following Jesus involves improvisation. When Jesus sent out his disciples to do God’s work, the Gospel of Luke says this: “Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, ‘Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic’” (Luke 9:1-3). Jesus gave them parameters, a rhythm, for how to do their work: to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal. But for everything in between, I think Jesus wanted them to improvise. That’s part of the reason he told them to take nothing extra on the journey. They had to depend on their ability to improv.
 
How do you follow Jesus when you hit a fork in the road of your life? How do you follow Jesus when an important business deal lands on your desk? How do you follow Jesus when a loved one is sick? How do you follow Jesus when you get in an argument with your spouse? In those moments, we improv. The Bible does not act as an answer book for each of life’s situations. Rather, the Bible provides the parameters and rhythm in which we are called to live. For example, when we begin to live a life in which we consistently love God and love our neighbor as ourselves (see Matthew 22:37-39), we are able to improvise in a way that honors God. When we are away from God’s presence - when we go outside of the parameters and rhythms of God - it is difficult to improvise in a way that honors God.
 
In the song I shared with you, Blue Train by John Coltrane, the beginning and end have this compelling melody with a single saxophone and piano. Then it goes into this amazing journey with all sorts of instrumental solos and improvisation. But it is bookended with that compelling melody that sets the tone for the whole song. In our lives as Christians, I think that this can teach us of the importance of worship. Think of this song as a week. On Sunday, we gather as the Body of Christ, and this gives us a place to rest from the previous week, prepare for the upcoming week, and be in the presence of God with other Christians. This is the melody that sets the tone for the week. Worshiping God sets the tone for the week. The week itself is the amazing journey filled with improvisation within the tone set during worship. This is the middle of the song. Then Sunday comes around again, renewing us to continue improvising in our weeks.

This week, challenge yourself to improv in a way that honors God. Improv within the parameters of God’s love, grace, and mercy. Improv within the rhythm of his salvation. May God bless you and keep you in the parts of life where improvisation are needed, and may God carry you through to the next compelling melody of Sabbath and worship.

Lenten Devotional Series: Worship Music
"How He Loves" - Live Performance Video

by Ronnie Steadman
945 Worship Lead

With its soaring guitar riff and it's catchy repeating chorus it's no wonder that John Mark McMillan's How He Loves is a favorite worship song. What sustains the song for me though is the gritty, earthy and "sloppy" verses. The words come rapid fire almost like an Eminem song, and though they are poetic they are organic and packed with feeling. You talk them more than sing them. Somehow, at least for me, the song is at once sad and searching, but hopeful and victorious at the same time.

David Crowder's version of the song, which is great by the way, takes out the lyric "heaven meets earth like a sloppy wet kiss" and replaces it with "unforeseen kiss". I like the "sloppy" version. It speaks to the mess. It's forceful and chaotic just like my relationship with Christ. In this mess, in this chaos, in this doubt, He still loves me. He is still jealous or like Drew mentioned in church "zealous" for me. In my doubt He is still there. 

The author of the song wrote it at a time when he lost a good friend to a car accident. In the haze of confusion and loss he was just plain mad at God. And this song was part of his conversation with Him where he expressed that frustration and anger and he found that God loved him through all of that. I have certainly had my times of being angry with God. That is something I would not have thought okay when I was young. It would have felt blasphemous to me to express that anger, to question my beliefs, to let myself be frustrated with the things He lets happen in our lives. Things weren't really allowed to be messy when it came to talking about God. I have come to believe that the Christian walk is a struggle not a breezy walk with no questions, but a true struggle, a journey, a mystery. It's messy. It's ugly sometimes. And sometimes it doesn't look "Christian", at least in the way I used to see it. We have to work it out. And God is okay with that. He's much bigger than that.

He loves "like a hurricane". He loves so passionately it is overwhelming. I don't think I could've fully understood that line until I became a parent. You love that kid so hard. So hard they could never understand it. And it is not always pretty either. But even though they make you crazy, and they don't do things like you want them to, you still love and you love hard. It doesn't really matter what they do. It's not going to make you love less. Our grace may not be " ocean-like" such as God's, but it extends further than the grace you have for anybody else. And somehow God loves me even more than that! And the song pays that off so wonderfully with the chorus of "Oh's" and in one of these versions even "Whoa's." Whoa, how He loves us!

Check out the song on our Spotify playlist (on the right). I also encourage you to check out the story behind the song as told by the author, which has live version of the song at the end that is worth the experience..



Spotify Classic Worship Playlist
Spotify Contemporary Worship Playlist
How He Loves : A Song Story
The Story Behind the Song
 
Lenten Devotional Series: Singing Scripture

When we sing worship music, no matter the style, we are given the opportunity to sing Scripture; the inspired words of God. Additionally, one of the beautiful gifts in any type of worship music is that it provides us a way to interact with Scripture artistically. It provides us a way to learn and memorize Scripture in a creative way and embed those words in our everyday speech and thoughts. It provides us a way to sing back to God the words He wrote for us. Your Love is Strong is a great example.
 
                                                           

                                                               Jon Foreman's "Your Love Is Strong"

Scripture beautifully frames this song. Lyrics and music retranslate Bible passages so that we learn Scripture through song. Below is a side-by-side comparison of the lyrics along with the passages of Scripture that inspired those lyrics. I invite you to listen to this song several times. Listen to it with an open Bible, and turn to the passages referenced in the lyrics. Note the changes the artist made. Note the significance of the passages in your life as you listen and sing. Allow these lyrics, these Bible passages, to wash over you and remind you of God’s love for you. At church this week, remember that you are joining other voices in singing Scripture.

     Lyrics                                                                                

Heavenly Father, You always amaze me
Let Your kingdom come in my world and in my life
Give me the food I need
To live through today
 
And forgive me as I forgive
The people that wrong me
Lead me far from temptation
Deliver me from the evil one
READ:  Matthew 6:9-13 

I look out the window
The birds are composing
Not a note is out of tune
Or out of place
 
I walk to the meadow
And stare at the flowers
Better dressed than any girl
On her wedding day
 
So why should I worry?
Why do I freak out?
God knows what I need
You know what I need
READ:  Matthew 6:26-31

The Kingdom of the Heavens
Is now advancing
Invade my heart
Invade this broken town
 
The Kingdom of the Heavens
Is buried treasure
Would you sell yourself
To buy the one you've found?
READ:    Matthew 13:44

Two things You told me
That You are strong
And You love me
Yes, You love me
READ:  Psalm 62:11-12a 

 

This lent, we have decided to focus upon musical worship.  When we worship God, we essentially fast from our own tendencies to self-absorption, control, fear, anxiety, and an assortment of other problems of focus. Instead of focusing upon ourselves, we rightly focus on God.

For Lenten we offer a number of devotionals centered upon music. These devotionals are meant to invite you into moments of worship throughout your week.

To help you practice the discipline of worship, we have made some of the music from our two worship services available as playlists on Spotify on the HOME page.  Simply click on the words or photo to be directed to the site to setup your new Spotify account. Spotify is a free website.

- by Drew Hanson



    

Lenten Devotional Series: Music helps us to focus on God

 

Lent is a season of the church life where we prepare our hearts for Easter by being aware of our need for redemption.  Traditionally, Lent has been a time of fasting.  A choice to deprive one’s life of something to remind us of our dependence upon God alone.  

This lent, we at Beverly Hills Presbyterian Church have decided to focus upon musical worship.  When we worship God, we essentially fast from our own tendencies to self-absorption, control, fear, anxiety, and an assortment of other problems of focus.  Instead of focusing upon ourselves, we rightly focus on God.

So this Lent, we offer a number of devotionals centered upon music.  These devotionals are meant to invite you into moments of worship throughout your week.



I can remember the point in my life where worship music transitioned from church into my car.  Shortly after college I was working at a bank in downtown Atlanta, Georgia.  The grind of my commute, my new lifestyle of “work-all-day-every-day” was different from my “wake-up-when-you-want, study-when-you-want” college lifestyle.  It was a bit of a shock to me.  I soon found that I was getting to work each morning in less than a good mood.

One morning, I realized that the radio personalities I was listening to on my commute weren’t helping my attitude.  So I turned the radio to a local Christian music station.  I believe I would have called the Christian music at the time “a bit cheesy.”  But I was desperate for as much positive to be poured into me as I could get.  

Before long, I found my mind and heart turning to God’s goodness and grace.  My morning commute became a time of worship.  This practice not only transformed my commute but affected the rest of my day.

Today, the songs have changed but the practice is the same.  I am blessed by the gift of music to help remind me that I am defined by the God who has called me, saved me, and sent me into my every day.  Each day, he does so with singing!

We’ve created two Spotify lists with some of the music we use during our two worship services.  Click on the link below to listen!

https://open.spotify.com/user/drewhanson89/playlist/3eDumU1iiYXgUqfthj7bq8