What was I created for? What is the purpose of the Church? The answer to both questions is the same; we are made to worship. Check out our video that begins a new series on the practical theology of worship.
Psalm 114 ~ We Ran So Far Away
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turned the rock into a pool,
the hard rock into springs of water. Ps 114:7-8
The psalmist pours out his worship as he remembers the great work of God in bringing His people out of Egypt. Psalm 114 is brief but wonderfully expressive. He writes of the moment marking the birth of Israel, of the becoming God’s people.
When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,
Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion. (vv 1-2)
Do we have an equally exquisite psalm stored up in our hearts for the day we were called out from our previous bondage? In true worship of the Holy Almighty God, you and I as His people should be putting pen to paper and leaving a legacy of thanks for those who come after us. That they may read of our transition from imprisonment to freedom is the greatest motivation we can give to others, imbuing them with hope for their own situation.
Grace and Peace to you..
Four Chords and Seven Hours Ago…
The progression itself wasn’t anything special—D Am7 C G. Guitar players have been fashioning songs from those notes since the first neck attached to a spruce top and strummed. That the fingers naturally move from one tone to the next may contribute something; a natural abandon inhabits the musician when following the chart becomes secondary. The feet move, the neck is raised in emphasis and the voice finds its volume.
Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty
Who was and is and is to come
With all creation I sing praise to the King of Kings
You are my everything and I will adore you
Your eyes roam around the stage as you are caught up in the moment of worship being shared with your fellow musicians. The world truly fades away and an apprehension sets in as the last verse is sung and you know the end of the song is approaching but you don’t want it to stop. There are smiles and closed eyes as each person approaches the throne through their own music. Harmonies are heard, the drummer locked in and then filling with abandon. The Spirit heavy in His presence, descending in reception and encouraging us on. Laying aside the crowns of this world for a brief glimpse of heaven, this is the privilege of worship.
And then the realization that so few on Sunday will share this moment…the heart breaks.
Filled with wonder, awestruck wonder
At the mention of Your name
Jesus your name is power, breath and living water
Such a marvelous mystery
Worship the Mystery of Christmas
When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented and presented him with gifts of gold and incense and of myrrh. Matthew 2:10-11
For God to condescend to assume human form and to walk among a people clumsy violence known for killing their prophets is the mystery of the first Advent. He does not appear as a fully grown man of mysterious provenance, but rather, as a baby with a human mother who herself possessed the sin nature derived of her descent from Eve and Adam. The baby Jesus endures the growth process, emptied of His divine powers and prerogatives and walks sinless on the inexorable journey to Calvary.
How is it that the baby attracts the worship that He deserves? He possesses nothing outward that belies His perfection and divinity. No halo, no translucent glow surrounding him, he does not spring from the womb preaching the good news. He is a hungry, cranky, sleepy and weepy infant, despite the beatific scene painted by the hymnists. Yet worshipped He is.
He is worshipped because of the divine revelation of heavenly hosts singing Gloria in excelcis deo. He is worshipped because the archangel Gabriel left the presence of God and appeared to various people telling them that the long-awaited King had come. He is worshipped because the string of witnesses stretching from Mary to Elizabeth to John to the shepherds quietly watching over their flocks at night. He is worshipped because it is indisputable as to who He is.
With the distance of time comes a casual familiarity. We can see how the story ends and see the baby as the grown Savior. Returning to the first days of His life we return to a faith that requires trust in an unknown future. It is faith in history that is not written yet, but rooted in the signs we have seen. We may know the ultimate conclusion to the story as God has revealed it to us, we can restore the mystery about tomorrow. We can step out in faith to attempt great things according to our calling, knowing that all preceding promises have been fulfilled.
Be blessed this Christmas and in all of your days to follow…
Learning to Kneel–Four Means War
A.W. Tozer wrote this about worship and the fact that we were created for that purpose: “If we do not honor this purpose our lives will degenerate into shallow, selfish, humanistic pursuits.” Oh, the prescience of brother Tozer.
One of the components of paradise was perfect worship. Before humankind elected to rebel against their Creator, they enjoyed perfect communion with God. They understood Him and were able to communicate directly with Him. They were in the perfect environment and were able to live out the purpose for which they were created, worshipping God. None of the concerns that plague us today were present. Worship was uninhibited, unlimited, untimed, uninterrupted and the participants were unafraid and unblemished.
And then the wars came.
The theological history of worship begins long before Creation, in the heavens. More than our mundane battles over music style, instrumentation or volume, the wars began to be waged over the object of worship. The first worship battle was sparked by Lucifer, the Star of the Morning, being cast out of the presence of God. The Cherubim to which all others aspired desired for worship to be directed to Him rather than its proper object. God, whose name is Jealous, would not abide with this shared arrangement and the wars began.
Coming in the form of a serpent, a creature over which Man had dominion, Satan slithered into the second battle to interrupt the perfect communion of the Garden. A subtle twisting of the words of God bewitched and betrayed the inhabitants of the garden. Putting themselves above the place of God, they’re minds were opened to the worship of self. Redemptive history begins.
The first casualty of the second offensive was Abel. Differences in worship style start here even though God gives every opportunity for propriety in worship to be restored. Rather than do so, Cain becomes the first to divide fellowship with other men over the way in he decides to worship. Rather than seeking God’s desire for worship, the long, sad history of church division get’s its introduction here.
Grace and peace to you…
Sauntering into the Sanctuary
After expressing his displeasure at improperly brought worship ( see Nadab and Abihu – Lev 10 ), God commanded that the following steps be followed in meeting Him on the Day of Atonement.
- Locate a young bull
- Locate a ram
- Bathe thoroughly
- Put on the linen tunic
- Put on the linen undergarments
- Tie the linen sash around waist
- Put on the linen turban
- Locate two goats without blemish
- Locate another ram
- Sacrifice the bull for the atonement of the priest and his household
- Light a censer get two handfuls of incense
- Take these implements behind the curtain
- Put the incense in the censer to create fragrant smoke, protecting the priest from direct sight of the Ark and the presence of the Lord
- Sprinkle the bull’s blood seven times
- Bring the goats to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting
- Cast lots to determine which goat will be the scapegoat
- Sacrifice the goat whose lot fell to the Lord
- Repeat steps 11 to 14 with the goat’s blood
- The priest will go to the Altar
- Sprinkle blood of both the bull and goat on the Horns of the altar seven times
- Bring the scapegoat out
- Lay both hands on the goat’s head, assigning all of the sin of the nation to the goat
- Another man will take the goat and shoo it away into the desert
- The priest will return to the Tent of Meeting
- Remove the linen garments
- The priest will bathe and dress in his regular clothes
- Sacrifice the burnt offering for himself
- Sacrifice the burnt offering for the people
- Burn the fat of the sin offering on the altar
- The man who released the goat will bathe and wash his close before returning to camp
- The remains of the bull and goat must be taken outside of the camp and burned
- The man who burns the remains must bathe and wash his clothes before returning to camp
The meticulous and precise nature of these worship instructions should cause us to pause and consider the way in which we will enter God’s presence this Sunday. Do we toddle in with no more thought than if we were buying a gallon of milk?
There is great privilege in being the children of God, but also great responsibility.
Grace and peace to you.
Learning to Kneel – Three
So God created man in his own image, in the image God he created him; male and female he created them. Gen 1:27
The first two chapters of the Bible are a commanding call to worship. In these verses we experience the beginnings of God’s revelation of Himself to His creation, a revelation that drives us to our knees as we encounter it. The first words of revelation point us to recognizing the person, presence, power, plan and purpose of God. As our personal relationship with God intensifies, our instinctive response is to worship.
The person of God is revealed through the creation account. It reveals that God is a creator, fashioning something (everything) from nothing. He shows himself to be sustainer, life giver, lover and provider. God’s divinity is on display; no greater being commanded Him to create or what to create. He acts of His own volition. He reveals Himself to be desirous of relationship with another like Him, thus man.
The presence of God reveals that we were created in such a way that we might be aware of His constant presence. Dulled senses can allow us to avoid recognizing it but it grates against our created state. When we allow ourselves to notice the presence, our natural response is to worship.
The power of God is revealed in the magnificence of His creative process. He spoke, it happened. He created, He review and He blessed. All creation sings His worship. Have you ever seen a sunset, the waves against the coast or the intricate society of an ant hill and not seen creation bless its creator?
The plan of God is revealed in His creation. Time propels the plan forward. It demonstrates a God that is moving creation toward an objective. The Bible reveals the objective, a new creation of Heavens and earth. Worship is our part of this plan.
The purpose of God is revealed and that purpose is communion with humankind. He created us with balance as our natural state: labor/rest, worship of the creator/enjoyment of the creation. The purpose is to have companionship with His creation and to have it respond appropriately.
The person, presence, power, plan and purpose of God in creation call us to a single response, worship.
Grace and peace to you.
image Lawrence OP
Learning to Kneel–Two
Does the grace, mercy and love of God preserve us from suffering the same fate as that visited upon Nadab and Abihu? Do we no longer heed the words of Moses paraphrasing his experience?
Among those who approach me I will show myself holy;
in the sight of all the people I will be honored. (Lev 10:3)
Worshippers read this passage and cannot help but wonder why God would refuse to be worshipped. The young priests added incense to their censers, lit them and swung them back and forth, spreading the pleasing aroma heavenward.
Only to have it received by Yahweh as the stench of death.
So offensive was the smell to God that he sent fire down the same path that the smoke travelled, instantly killing the priests as one might remove an annoying gnat. So rapid was the response to the impropriety of worship that Aaron, the mouthpiece of Moses, is struck silent.
In our modern worship mindset we ask, why would God be offended at their worship? Why would God be offended at any worship? The passage is silent about God’s reasons, nor are we in a position to demand explanation. God alone sets the standards for worship. We can speculate as to the details of the breach. Perhaps they entered the sanctuary unprepared to worship or came at an inappropriate hour. The fire that lit the censers may have been improperly sourced or unholy. The incense might have been similarly profane.
We don’t know the reasons for God’s offense in the case of the priests, but the encounter must cause us to reflect upon our own worship. Are we equally impious?
The words of Moses are a warning to communities stretching into our own day. We must learn to worship properly so that we may worship properly.
Grace and peace to you.
Learning to Kneel-One
Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;*
If you have ever paddled the quiet waters of a remote lake, gently placing the blades into the water so as not to churn the stillness around you…
If you have ever chanced upon the grandeur of a mountain vista or a verdant valley or the deep crimson of a desert sunset and found yourself quietly absorbing the beauty…
If you have ever held a newborn, warm and taking his first few breaths, and had no words to utter…
… you are familiar with the feelings that overtake you as you truly enter the presence of the Living God.
Many a sanctuary this coming Sunday will be filled, not with awful, prayerful silence overwhelmed by the presence of God, but the noise of a hundred casual conversations that grow slowly louder as more of the brethren enter the room. Bibles will remain closed, guitars will be tuned, and children will play.
As if God will appear at the appointed hour, like the train from Bakersfield, and all we need to do is to be there to meet Him.
Reverence is the first lesson in learning to kneel. This requires a change of attitude and a soul attuned to the Omnipresent God rather than the culturally popular Compartmentalized God. My next post will begin here, unpacking the twin threads of omnipresence and reverence and noting how a heightened awareness of both can radically change our times of worship. This coming Sunday however, enter your sanctuary or meeting room and try sitting quietly, making yourself aware of His enveloping presence. Pray for the service. Pray for the visiting family sitting behind you. Pray a Psalm. See if others follow your lead as the moments tick by toward the first notes of a song. See if your preparation hasn’t brought minutely closer to the throne.
Grace and peace to you.
image Joshua Conley
Disciplined Steps to Worship
One who apprehends worship as a spiritual discipline is going to stand forever separated from the mass of believers who treat worship as a singular event that occurs once per week. She is going to be intentional about the assimilation, preparation for, and spirit of worship. When worship is an event, minimal preparation is necessary; you need only appear at the appointed time and ‘worship’ when the music begins. It becomes a check list item.
For those who correctly see worship as contributing to their spiritual formation, there are number of exercises and attitudes that can be integrated into your practices in order to build up the strength necessary to properly worship the God of the universe. Is anything less rigorous true worship?
A disciplined worshipper will practice the presence of God as a regular part of their lives. Paul wrote of developing the proper spirit needed to worship: Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Do not put out the Spirit’s fire; (1 Thess 5:16-19) A mindset fixed in this way will heighten the expectancy of a meeting with God in worship, an encounter that change you.
A disciplined worshipper will seek out different worship experiences. She will worship alone and worship in community. He will find private moments to worship in solitude and will express the magnificence of God in public.
A disciplined worshipper will be intentional about preparing for the community worship experience. He will be physically prepared (rested, nourished, hydrated) and spiritually prepared (prayed through the services, confessed his sin privately).
A disciplined worshipper cultivates an attitude of Holy Dependency so that in the midst of the act of worship, she is completely dependent on God for anything at all. Any hint of manipulation is found to be abhorrent. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only god, who makes things grow. (1 Cor 3:7)
A disciplined worshipper is not distracted by events around him. Instead, he allows God to speak to him through the crying baby, the stifling heat, or the dancer in the aisle. Bless them, pray for them, see if there is a message embedded in what has grabbed your attention. Be in community.
A disciplined worshippers offers sacrificial praise and devotion even when he doesn’t feel like it.
A disciplined worshipper recognizes that true worship ends in obedience. To stand before God is to change.
Grace and peace to you.
image by miki