Well, I thought I might make it back to the States without any health issues, but I thought wrong. I suspected last night that something was going on in my stomach, but hoped that God would keep it under control. For His own reasons, He didn’t. I’ll spare you the details, but it wasn’t pretty. I ended up giving a significantly shortened version of one of the sessions, and then took an hour nap. During that time God renewed my strength, and I was able to give the whole last session sitting down. I’m definitely on the mend.
I began the morning by sharing that I had an impression that God wanted to minister to those who were married and had families. I read from Psalm 128, explaining how God blesses those who fear the Lord and delight in His commands – their family relationships reflect peace, joy, and fruitfulness. When I asked who was discouraged about their family due either to sin or difficult circumstances, almost 75% of the group stood. We had a precious time as God’s Spirit filled hearts with conviction, encouragement, and faith for the future.
I then continued the message What Do We Sing About? I began by finishing up the section on God’s worthiness. We can proclaim God’s worthiness by remembering his attributes, both general and specific, but also by expressing our love and longing for Him. We live in a fallen world and even as Christians, we continue to fight indwelling sin. For that reason we can experience times when we feel like God has forgotten us or is ignoring us. During those seasons, we magnify God’s worth by expressing our hunger for Him, our desire to know Him better, and commitment to trust Him. We can remind ourselves of how much we anticipate the day when He will wipe away every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more sin. The Psalms are filled with such expressions, and we spent time in Psalms 63 and 42 to get a better idea of what it looks like.
I then went on to talk about praising God for His works. We spent much time in Psalm 111 and Psalm 103, where David expounds on the wonderful works of God as provider, deliverer, ruler, healer, redeemer, and more. As we spent time feasting on what God has done, I was reminded again that worship is all about magnifying what God has done, not what we do.
My short session was on God’s greatest work, the work of redemption. In the last session, I spoke to those who lead congregational song, as well as songwriters (there were about 7-8 present.) That ended up being most of the people at the conference. I think it was a fruitful time, as I spoke personally about how any fruit from our time together is largely dependent on God working through their leadership in the days to come. I reminded them that no one is changed simply by listening to messages.
I addressed the areas of words, music, and leadership. I reminded them that we want to magnify the glory of God as we sing, not the glory of our music, so the words we sing are primary. I encouraged them to sing different kinds of songs, and to use variety in their instrumentation, even when they only have a drum. That woudl be the case for most of the churches represented here. It seems that musicians across the world all share the problem of over-playing. Finally, I talked about leading people to magnify the worth of God and the work of Jesus Christ. I discouraged them from practices that can become rote over time. One I’ve observed here is again pretty common. When the leader shouts, “Hallelujah!” the people respond immediately with a loud, “Hallelujah!” That can be effective at times, but when done repeatedly, it’s like pushing a “hallelujah button,” that requires no involvement from the mind and heart – just voices. They seemed to respond to everything I was saying, and even laughed occasionally at my jokes. They don’t even do that very much in America…
Thank you for praying for me. It means more than you know. Tomorrow we finish up with two more sessions, where I’ll be teaching on How Do We Sing? I’m looking forward to see what new mercies God has in store.
PS Larry says hi.