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

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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)

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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

Being Thankful (Judges 5)

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In today’s chapter, Deborah and Barak sing a song. This song is a song meant for worship. It retells all the events from chapter 4, with some other bits added in. The purpose was to give God thanks for all that He had done through them, and for deliverance from their Canaanite oppressors.

I think that there is a simple lesson to be learned from this chapter. We pray and ask for God’s help with many situations in our lives. But how often do we turn around and thank Him for what He has done? Being a task oriented person, I tend to move one when something gets accomplished, no matter how difficult. There have been things where I have really needed God’s help, and spent lots of time in prayer over these matters. But wants it’s done, I go onto the next thing. But I should slow down and spend some time thanking God for His provision and help. It’s easy not to do this, but I think that it is the lesson that Deborah and Barak teach us in this chapter of Judges.

Let’s spend some time being thankful to God today. You can give Him thanks for anything, just acknowledge Him today.

 

Also in this series

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 45-47

Set A Fire

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Today’s Worship Sunday song is called Set a Fire by Will Reagan. It is a simple song with only two repeated sections. I started singing this during my personal worship time, because it is a cry out to God for us to know Him more. There’s a Psalm that I like that seems to fit into the feel of this song:

“O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for you,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.

When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
My should clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.”
–Psalm 63:1-8, NASB

David writes that his body and soul are yearning and searching after God. The true heart of worship is to be this way. We don’t simply get together to sing songs. Rather we open our hearts, and search out God’s. So we ask in this song “Set a fire down in my soul, where I can’t contain and I can’t control. Cause I want more of Your God”!

This week’s set:

  • Open Up Our Eyes (Elevation Worship)
  • Set a Fire (Will Reagan)
  • Day After Day (Kristian Stanfill)
  • Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Hymn)
  • The Solid Rock (Hymn arranged by Charlie Hall)
  • Fill Me Up

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 37

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

In Christ Alone

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The song I want to talk about this week has been around for awhile. It has touched many peoples lives, and is fairly well known within the Church. In Christ Alone by Keith Getty and Stewart Townsend is a simple declaration of why we put our faith in Christ and nothing else. The line “No power of hell, nor scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand” just speaks to the level we are supposed to be given to Christ. Paul writes in his letter to the church in Philippi:

“But whatever things were gain to me, those thing I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and counted them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I amy know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” –Philippians 3:7-11, NASB

We give our all to Christ, and place all of ourselves in His mighty hand. We will be singing this song in my church today, but I hope you take time to listen and spend time in worship with it. It is a great song of our faith because “here in the power of Christ [we] stand”!

This week’s set:

  • O Praise Him (David Crowder* Band)
  • Open The Eyes of My Heart Lord (Paul Baloche)
  • Center (Charlie Hall)
  • Lord, I Need You (Kristian Stanfill)
  • In Christ Alone (Keith Getty/Stewart Townsend)
  • The Solid Rock (hymn)

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 25-26

Nothing But The Blood

know-his-blood

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight…” Ephesians 1:7-8, NASB

This wee’s song is Nothing But The Blood. In my church we will be singing the version that Matt Redman made, but it is actually based on a hymn. Both songs ask the question “What can take away my sin?” This is a basic question we face when we realized we have sinned. People tend to decide that they can get rid of their sin by “doing good”. Others believe that it was by making sacrifice that we get rid of our sin. But the answer lies on the Cross. The refrain of the hymn says this:

“O, precious is the flow
That makes me white as snow;
No other fount I know,
Nothing but the blood of Jesus”

This song tells us that Try as we might, nothing can remove our sin from us but the blood of Jesus. The blood that was poured out for all mankind as a means to remove sin. God did this for us. There is nothing we can do, nothing else will satisfy the need of salvation. God died on the Cross for us, and that is the only way we can be saved of our sins.

This week’s set:

  • O Praise Him (David Crowder* Band)
  • Open They Eyes of My Heart (Paul Baloche)
  • Nothing But The Blood (Matt Redman)
  • Give Us Clean Hands (Charlie Hall)
  • Here’s My Heart (performed by David Crowder)
  • God of This City (Bluetree)

 

Psalms to Pray: Psalm 6

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

Open the Eyes of My Heart

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There’s a song that has been around for awhile that it’s become a standard for all worship teams, Open the Eyes of My Heart by Paul Baloche. It’s a great request for God to open us up so that we can learn about Him. It expresses our basic need to see and know God in all His glory. God created us to not only care for His Creation, but to also be in communion with Him. We yearn to see God and know Him. Paul writes in his letter to the Ephesians, “I pray that they eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,” (Ephesians 1:18, NASB).

Use this song as a prayer today, that we may come closer to God and learn more about Him.