Attending Church or a Lecture?

Worship is an incredibly important activity in the life of a Christian. There are thousands of books, articles, and blog posts written on the subject. Yet, no matter this truth, I find that in most churches it is simply meant to be the “music time” of the service. It does not matter if your church is “traditional” or “contemporary,” this truth is ubiquitous. I think that worship leaders can help this feeling. Often times we say “join me in worship” and “now it is time for the message.” Is it not true that the entire service is worship? Why do we section it out like this?

“I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb. To great sections of the church, the art of worship has been lost entirely, and in its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’ This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the public services which now passes for worship among us.”
— A.W. Tozer

I think there is something in our minds where we do not recognize that preaching is just as spiritual an activity as singing praises to God is. We expect the pastor to tell us what the Bible says, never mind the fact that understanding the whole Bible takes faith in God and the action of the Holy Spirit. Any good pastor knows that it is not their own minds that create the words that they speak to us on Sunday morning, but rather, it is the Holy Spirit influencing them to interact with us. Essentially this does segment our services, but not as worship/speaking blocks but rather “us talking to God” then “God talking to us” blocks. This is where we show God the honor and praise He deserves and then He tells us what He wants from us. Sometimes preaching is rough, but that does not make it any less of a worshipful experience.

“Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing on another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
— Colossians 3:16, NASB

This month my worship team is focusing Colossians 3:16. I love the way Paul put this together. He asks us to let Christ be within us, have wise teaching, and sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. This is what a worship service should be. We pray that God is with us, we have teaching that is inspired by God, and we sing songs that let God know how great He is. It is all worship. Not some lecture where we happen to also worship in song. I think this is where lots of Christians (including me) have failed. We forget that if we are participating in worship, that includes being present with the sermon. It’s not enough for us to sing and say “okay, I worshipped!” Worshipping includes listening to the Word preached.

Songs this Week

Idol Worship is Foolishness (Isaiah 45-48)

Book of Isaiah

After Gods’ promises of salvation and victory in the previous section, God begins to talk about an anointed one to bring forth salvation for all mankind. However, knowing His people the way He does, God knows that people will begin to question His motives or the method that He uses. But God tells His people, “What sorrow awaits those who argue with their Creator. Does a clay pot argue with its maker? Does the clay dispute with the one who shapes it saying, ‘Stop, you’re doing it wrong!’ Does the pot exclaim, ‘How clumsy can you be?'” (45:9, NLT). God uses the fact that He is the Creator as His reasoning for His ability to do as He sees fit. God then speaks on the future conversion of the Gentiles. He says, “I would not have told the people of Israel to seek me if I could not be found. I, the Lord, speak only what is true and declare only what is right.” (45:19b, NLT). Which then leads to the conclusion at the end of the chapter, “The people will declare, ‘The Lord is the source of all my righteousness and strength.’ And all who were angry with him will come to him and be ashamed.” (45:24, NLT).

God continues to call out to His people to repent. He does not want to punish these people; they are His and He loves them very much. However, He knows that a time is coming that He will have to unleash His wrath upon them. He makes yet another plea to them saying, “Listen to me, descendant of Jacob, all you who remain in Israel. I have care for you since you were born. Yes, I carried you before you were born. I will be your God throughout your lifetime — until you hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you. I will carry you along and save you.” (46:3-4, NLT). He points again to idol worship of the pagans, especially Babylon. These idols cannot save the people who worship them or do anything else for them but stand there and look pretty. But God tells them that He is a living God who is willing to act for them. “Listen to me, you stubborn people who are so far from doing right. For I am ready to set things right, not in the distant future, but right now! I am ready to save Jerusalem and show my glory to Israel.” (46:12-13, NLT).

Turning towards the new oppressors, God addresses the Babylonians. They claim that they are the only one, and none are more powerful than they are. Yet God tells them that a great calamity is coming their way, one they are not prepared to handle. The consequence of this is that they will sit in shame before all people. God says to them, “Come down, virgin daughter of Babylon, and sit in the dust. Four your days of sitting on a throne have ended. O daughter of Babylonia, never again will you be the lovely princess, tender and delicate. Take heavy millstones and grind flour. Remove you veil, and strip off your robe. Expose yourself to public view. You will be naked and burned with shame. I will take vengeance against you without pity.” (47:1-3, NLT). Nothing about this image is nice, it is all a place of shame. God seeks to take a once great nation, and bring it down low because it was too prideful and worshiped false gods.

He then brings the idol worship back home to the Israelites. God knows that even they are subject to breaking this Commandment.”You don’t keep your promises, even though you call yourself the holy city and talk about depending on the God of Israel.” (48:1-2, NLT). Even Israel is not safe from the condemnation of idol worship. But God offers them a new prophecy to show that He is God and none of the idols can compare to Him. He tells His people that His anointed one will come and destroy Babylon.  This act is going to cause the Israelites to be set free, and return home after the Exile.

There is a single theme that keeps grabbing me today as I read these passages, idol worship is foolishness. Back during the times of Isaiah’s writing, idol worship was easy to pick out. If someone created a statue and decided to worship it, that was idol worship. Yet, this sin still exists in our world today, it just normally doesn’t come up as a statue anymore. The biggest form we see today is over money. People seek after the “great green George” thinking that all their problems would be solved if they made enough money. I myself have been caught thinking these same thoughts a time or two. Another form of idol worship comes in the form of fame or the famous. We either want to become well-known, see our name in lights, or be some big hot-shot movie star. We can also tend to take a person and follow their every move, know everything about them and their life as if we were actually friends with these people. The list goes on and on over what idol worship looks like to us today. I simply ask that we be mindful of where our gaze gets taken away from the Creator and given towards created things. Many times in these passages God calls the people who worship idols foolish. Do you want to be foolish? Or would you rather stick down a path that leads to wisdom? Proverbs says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 9:10, NASB). We must seek out God and not allow our sights to be taken off of Him.

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 108

 

Also in this Series

True or Idol Worship (Judges 18)

Worship1

Today we read about the tribe of Dan, traveling to claim their land allotted to them by God in the land of Israel. The send out five scouts, who come to Micah’s house. The consult the Levite serving as Micah’s priest about their mission, to see if it will be successful. After the priest gives his blessing, the scouts head out to survey the land. When they return home, they tell their fellow Danites about the peaceful people inhabiting their land. They then took 600 men ready for war, and traveled to their allotment, but first stopped at Micah’s house. They took all of Micah’s idols, and convinced the Levite to come with them and serve as priest for the tribe of Dan. Once they had taken over the land, they installed Jonathan (the Levite) as their priest, and placed Micah’s idols as their idols in their temple.

Idol worship brings many problems, the biggest is that it takes our praise away from the only god that deserves it. But idol worship has a common theme, no matter what you are idolizing. When the Danites took his idols, Micah came out saying, “You’ve taken away all the gods I have made, and my priest, and I have nothing left.” (18:24, NLT). Did you catch what he said? “…the gods I have made…” That’s what sets idol worship apart from true worship. In true worship, we give glory and praise to something we have created; whether it be money, power, false gods, etc. But true worship give glory and praise to the one that was not created, but rather is the Creator. These men in Dan, and even Micah, did not understand how idol worship was wrong or even offensive.

During the season of Lent, we have a practice where we give up something as a fast to become closer to God. I know I’m a little late in suggesting something like this, but take some time in prayer to figure out what is higher in your heart than God. It can get rough. Sometimes it can be something that you wouldn’t think would be a problem. For instance, there are times that my family or my ministry gets a higher place than God. This should not be the case. Jesus said to a crowd of people, “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison — your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters — yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:25, NLT). Jesus wants us to place him above everyone else in our lives, so that nothing can hold us back from Him.

So figure out what is distracting you from glorifying God above everything else. Try to give it up for Lent, or learn to give it an inferior place in your heart.

Also in this series

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 79-83

Let Us Exalt His Name Together!

Worship crowd

Today has been a great day so far! That’s not to say it hasn’t had it’s rough patches. I’ve had technology falling apart all around me, and some conflict with a coworker. I know that many of us would see this as the makings of a terrible day, and I would’ve have said the same if it had been any other day. But today during my prayer time, I prayed through a psalm that has impacted my day.

“I will bless the Lord at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul will make its boast in the Lord;
The humble will hear it and rejoice.
O magnify the Lord with me,
And let us exalt His name together.”
–Psalm 34:1-3, NASB

It has been my reminder to day to live a lifestyle of worship. “I will bless the Lord at all times”. This doesn’t say I will bless Him when I feel like it, or when He’s done good for me. It says, at all times! Today has been a rough one for me to keep up this mentality. But it has been my experience that when you are adamant that nothing will get in the way of you living for God, that’s when the Enemy works his hardest against you. I know it’s hard. So let’s “exalt His name together” today, and let’s see how it can change your day for the better.

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 33-36

A Firm Foundation, Part 3

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There has been a hymn on my mind this whole week while talking about Jesus being our firm foundation. This hymn is called How Firm A Foundation. But I came across it today during my devotional time and thought I would share a little about this hymn. I know it’s not Sunday, but it fits with the theme this week!

Each of the four stanzas are reflections of a promise made in the Bible. The first is Isaiah 41:10, “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My right hand.” (NASB). This is a promise that God is delivering to the people of Israel through Isaiah to let them know that He is with them. The author of this hymn took this promise and brought it to the followers of Jesus. It starts by telling us that Scriptures are our foundation and what more can God tell us, since we found Him in Jesus. God strengthens us when we center our lives around Jesus. And since Jesus is our firm foundation, it makes complete sense.

“How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word!
What more can He say than to you He hath said,
To you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?”

The second promise is Isaiah 43:2, “When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you.” (NLT). God is furthering His promise to the people of Israel. He is telling them that since He has redeemed them, He will stay with them through all of their circumstances.

“Fear not; I am with thee. O be not dismayed,
For I am thy God, I will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, And cause thee to stand,
Upheld by My righteous, Omnipotent hand.”

The third promise comes from Paul’s writing. “And [the Lord] has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore , I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (2 Corinthians 12:9, NASB). The promise being made here is that we should rely on Christ. We often get caught up saying, “If only I could do _______, it will all be better.” But there’s a problem with that statement. We can’t do anything. We must fully rely on the power of God and acknowledge that we are nowhere near His greatness. Paul says that he will boast in his weakness, so that the power of Christ can be shown. If people know that we are weak, when we overcome, who deserves the credit? You or God?

“When through fiery trials Thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, Shall be they supply.
The flames shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.”

The final Scriptural promise in this hymn is Hebrews 13:5, “Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you,” (NASB). This promise is the same one that I’ve been talking about all week. Jesus is with us, and he isn’t going anywhere. God’s promises can be trusted because He stands firm and will not fade away. So build your life upon His promises, and see how much better you life becomes!

“The soul that on Jesus hate leaned for repose,
I will not, I will not desert to its foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.”

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 19-20

True Worship: From the Archive (8/15/13)

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As a worship leader I am constantly asking myself, is this worshipful or how can people worship with this? Sometimes this question gets pretty hard to answer. Our job is to create an atmosphere of true worship. But with so many ideas out there for what worship is (especially traditional vs contemporary), it gets pretty hard to answer what is true worship. So let’s look at what the Bible has to say.

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24 NIV). This comment made by Jesus was a statement to help the Samaritan woman at the well understand worship. She says earlier that the Samaritans worship on the mountain, but the Jews say they have to worship at the temple in Jerusalem. However, Jesus says both are wrong. Instead he says that we must worship in spirit and truth. So what does that mean? To worship in truth is to worship with the knowledge of who God is, including what He has done for us and our relation to Him. I believe that in order to worship in truth, it is important to remember that God is God and deserves all glory and praise and I am nothing, and deserve far less than He has given me. To worship in spirit means to allow the Holy Spirit to work and move within you. When I first started worship leading this was the second hardest thing for me to used to (the first being “stage fright”). I think it was so hard because worshiping in spirit means that we let go of control on worship and let the Spirit move us as appropriate.

Going along with worshiping in spirit, true worship must be directed by God. “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own; it is not for man to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23 NIV). If we are not even worthy to guide our own lives, what would make us think we should control something designed to praise God above all? This is why lots of prayer is needed for those that plan worship services. We must be in tune with God and know what He wants from His people. It is also important to let God guide your personal worship time. Don’t go into it thinking “I really like this psalm, so I’m gonna pray it,” rather sit for a few moments in silence listening for God to direct you.

The final act of true worship I would like to discuss comes from Paul’s letter to the church in Colossae, “Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things” (Colossians 3:2 NIV). Lots of people might think “well duh”, but think about it for a moment. How many times at church do we only go because we like the music, or the pastor, or people around us. Now these are all important things to look at when it is time to choose a church, but it is not the reason we come to worship. We come to worship, so we can worship the one true God, the maker of Heaven and earth. If we focus on the things around us though, we become susceptible to idolatry. And that, my friends, is something we must shy away from (Exodus 20:4).

So the main focus for worship is to connect with God and give Him glory and praise. If something else becomes your focus, I encourage you to spend time in prayer over it. God does not what you to worship something other than Himself (Exodus 20:3). So focus on Him, and thank Him for all He has done for you.

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 14-16

I Lift My Hands!

man in praise

I came across a video today (below posted as “The funny video”) that is poking fun at raising hands in church. He is talking about the difference between a “hand raising church” and a “non-hand raising church”. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was hilarious, but it got me thinking about something. All churches should be hand raising churches! Paul wrote to Timothy, “In every place of worship, I want men to pray with holy hands lifted up to God, free from anger and controversy.” (1 Timothy 2:8 NLT). Lifting our hands is an expression of worship, not one that someone has lost their mind. Or on the other side, they did lose their mind and gave all of themselves in worship of their Heavenly Father!

I have to admit that hand raising was something that I never understood, even when I first started leading worship. Then I tried it. I will never judge someone who lifts their hands in worship again, or any other symbol of praise (shouting, clapping, dancing, etc). I would suggest, if you haven’t before, lift your hands in worship. You can do it right now. Praise God with your hands lifted high. It is truly an experience I wish everyone would have, and not sit there and think others are silly for doing it. I was that way, but never again. We were made for worship, so let’s give our all in worship.

The funny video:

On a more serious note (Louie Giglio from Symphony (I Lift My Hands):

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalms 3-4

Here’s My Heart (The Return of Worship Sunday!!!!!)

giving god your heart

Hey friends, it’s been awhile since I’ve made post like this. But I really felt like we should bring back Worship Sunday.

The song this week is entitled Here’s My Heart performed by David Crowder on the Passion album, Let the Future Begin. If you watch the video here, this song has an interesting story behind how it came to be what was released at Passion ’13. It finds it’s Scripture in Psalm 119, and is a great proclamation of verse 94, “I am Yours, save me;…” (NASB). This song is such a perfect example of what worship is supposed to be like. We come to church not just as something we do week after week, but rather it is us offering ourselves to God. The chorus of this song puts it perfectly:

“Here’s my heart, Lord
Here’s my heart, Lord
Here’s my heart, Lord
Speak what is true”

I would encourage you to let this song fill you up today, and spend some time in worship with it as well. We bring ourselves as an offering, so let God take that offering and use it as He needs.

This week’s set

  • Fill Me Up
  • Here I Am To Worship (Tim Hughes)
  • Better Is One Day (Matt Redman)
  • Always (Kristian Stanfill)
  • Here’s My Heart (performed by David Crowder)
  • We Glorify Your Name (Chris Tomlin)

“You Get A Fresh Start”!

keep-calm-and-start-a-new-life

Rejoice my friends! Christ has come and died for our sins. We are made new and clean through the shedding of his blood! Through the process of sanctification, we become holy and cast off our old sins! Shout out this psalm with me:

“Count yourself lucky, how happy you must be —
you get a fresh start,
your slat’s wiped clean.

Count yourself lucky —
God holds nothing against you
and you’re holding nothing back from him.

When I kept it all inside,
my bones turned to powder,
my words became daylong groans

The pressure never let up;
all the juices of my life dried up.

Then I let it all out;
I said, ‘I’ll make a clean breast of my failures to God.’

Suddenly the  pressure was gone —
my guilt dissolved,
my sin disappeared.

These things add up. Every one of us needs to pray;
when all hell breaks loose and the dam bursts
we’ll be on high ground, untouched.

God’s my island hideaway,
keeps danger far from the shore,
throws garlands of hosannas around my neck.

Let me give you some good advice;
I’m looking you in the eye
and giving it to you straight:

‘Don’t be ornery like a horse or mule
that needs bit and bridle
to stay on track’

God-defiers are always in trouble;
God-affirmers find themselves loved
every time they turn around.

Celebrate God.
Sing together — everyone!
All you honest hearts, raise the roof!”
–Psalm 32, MSG

For those of you how like the FaceBook page, I quoted v. 5 this morning. I think this psalm is a good celebration for today! So let’s rejoice because we have been made clean!

And here’s something you can “raise the roof” to

Waiting Here For You

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I know that I posted something similar to this post recently, but God has really placed this song and the feeling of waiting on Him on my heart. I love the beginning of this song, “If faith can move the mountain, then let the mountains. We come with expectation, we’re waiting here for you.”

This song references Hebrews 9:28 which says, “so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for him.” (NLT). It calls for us to wait in anticipation of Jesus’ second coming to this world. This song is a call for us to worship Him as we wait.

I also feel that this song fits in a time of waiting in your life. As we celebrate Advent, we aren’t simply celebrating the birth of Christ, but we are also anticipating His return. So as the song says “We’re waiting here for you with our hands lifted high in praise.”

I thought I would post two versions of this song. Take time an listen and spend sometime worshiping and anticipating Christ’s return for us.

Martin Smith’s version

Christy Nockels’ version

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