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Archive for Worship

May
27

Worship 101

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Yesterday I began a four week series at First Baptist Church on the subject of worship. In my preparation, I was reminded of Elmer Towns’ famous observation that the first murder in the Bible occurred over a dispute concerning worship (cf. Genesis 4:1-9). As I reflected on the story of Cain and Abel, I thought about how deeply we think and feel about worship. God too, for that matter!

The first sermon was titled “Worship 101” and was taken from Exodus 20. You might be thinking, “Wait a minute, isn’t that where we find the 10 Commandments?” You are correct. Perhaps a little background will help you see the method to my logic. For 400 years the Israelites had been enslaved by the Egyptians. God saw their suffering and heard their cries and sent Moses to emancipate them from Pharaoh’s grip. There are plagues and the Passover, then the Exodus. Israel loaded up and moved out of town. The climactic end to their flight occurred as they passed through the Red Sea and stood on the shoreline while God folded the waters over Pharaoh’s army like a blanket.

Israel moved to the base to Mt. Sinai and set up camp. Moses went up the mountain to meet with God who gave him the Law. The first four commands are not just a list of rules. They are commands that are designed to help us know how to appropriately relate to God and to one another. These commands informed Israel as to how they were to worship.

Consider for example the prologue. “I am the Lord your God, who rescued you from the land of Egypt, the place of your slavery” (Exodus 20:2, NLT). The 10 Commandments represent God’s first words to the Israelites following their deliverance from slavery. As a redeemed people, their first priority was to learn how to worship God. Here’s the point: Worship is based on our redemption in Christ. The God who speaks is the God who saves, and He saves us so we might worship him. John MacArthur calls worship, “The ultimate priority of the Christian life.” We worship because of God’s saving grace.

Several years ago we permitted my daughter to get a dog. She was interested in a “rescue dog,” and surveyed the adoption listings from several area shelters. She found a Golden Retriever that she thought would be a good prospect, so we made an appointment to visit the shelter. When we arrived, the keeper introduced us to the dog who barely paid any attention to us. He just ran mad circles around the fenced in yard. While he ran round and round, another Golden came over and sat before us. “He’s a new intake,” the woman remarked. “Haven’t had time to put him on the website yet.” “Is he available?” we asked.

As the keeper told us his story, the dog that we would come to know and love as Jackson sat trembling before us. “We’ll take this one.” Rescue dogs can be a mess, and Jackson has been no exception. He’s chewed up countless shoes and two good pieces of furniture. We discovered that he was blind in one eye and had contracted Addison’s disease, both from suspected blunt force trauma from his previous owner. He takes two medications daily to regulate his Addison’s and believe it or not, depression. But he follows me around the house, regardless of where I go. If I’m at the table, he’s there. If I move to the couch, he’s there. If we sleep with our bedroom door closed, he lays across the threshold. I’d like to think that in some way Jackson behaves this way because he understands he’s been rescued and has been afforded a life that he never dreamed was possible.

That’s the first lesson in worship. We worship because we have been redeemed by Christ. He rescued us, and our worship is our appropriate response to God’s saving grace. If we don’t get that part down, much of what follows is meaningless.

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Mar
04

The Gardens of God

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heart.tree

On Sunday I will begin a new sermon series on the five major gardens found in Scripture. The series is based on a book by Murray Andrew Pura titled, Rooted: Reflections on the Gardens in Scripture. Here’s my speaking schedule:
March 10: Eden: The Garden of Birth
March 17: En Gedi: The Garden of Love
March 24: Gethsemene: The Garden of Death
March 31: The Tomb: The Garden of Immortality
April 7: The New Heaven and Earth: The Garden of the New World

I’d like to thank Mark Marturello for providing the graphic artwork for our worship folders during this series. I hope you’ll join us for worship. You can access sermon recordings from our website, www.fbcdsm.org if you cannot attend our services.

Categories : Preaching, Worship
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Mar
04

Mighty River, Mighty Fire

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Spirit of God, mighty river, flow over me, flow in me, flow through me.
Spirit of God, cleanse me, purify the channels of my heart.
Spirit of God, bear me along with thy flood of life giving service.
Spirit of God, mighty river, bear me down to the ocean of your love.
Spirit of God, might fire glow in me, burn in me, until thy radiance fills my soul.
Spirit of God, may thy light illumine my mind, may thy heat consume my will until I burn for Thee.
Spirit of God, mighty river, mighty fire, may the flames of thy love every blaze on the altar of my heart.

—Imant Raminish

Categories : Worship
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Aug
30

Go to Meeting:: 4

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My final observation from Paul’s classic text in Romans 12 was that worship results in a life that is re-oriented and re-directed to the will of God. In 1543, Nicolaus Copernicus published his final work, titled, On the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres. His supposition displaced planet Earth as the center of the universe and proposed that the Earth rotated around the Sun. For the believer, worship is a daily and weekly “Copernican Revolution,” where he or she is displaced as the center of the universe. Worship is our acknowledgement that God is God and we are not. We are creature, he is creator. In a sense worship is the denial of our own divinity.

In worship we become re-oriented to the greatness of God. He is God, and we are not. This is the foundational key to understanding God’s will. When we deny our own divinity, we are in position to discern God’s will, agree with God’s will, and act upon God’s will. This is true of our lives personally and our churches corporately. It all begins with God in worship.

This weekend I’m moving to the next paragraph in Romans 12. The title of my sermon is “Check out your Equipment.” From verses 3-8, I’m going to talk about the equipment God gives us to enable us to perform his will. I hope you’ll visit throughout the coming days of Training Camp.

Categories : Romans, Worship
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Aug
29

Go to Meeting:: 3

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This week I’ve been posting about worship from Romans 12:1-2. The third observation I want to make is that worship involves your total being. In the text, worship involves the presentation of our bodies and the transformation of our minds. Simply stated, worship involves both our thinking and our behaving. Allow me to unpack this a bit.

First, we are to present our bodies as a living sacrifice. Paul intentionally uses Old Testament sacrificial language here to cause the reader to make the connection between the testaments. He wants them to reflect on the Old Testament system, yet at the same time desires to redefine sacrifice to make it fitting to the new covenant. There are no more bulls and rams. The sacrifice is now the sacrifice of self–our bodies, our minds, even our very lives.

The Old sacrifices were dead, the New are to be living.
The Old sacrifices were unwilling participants, the New are to be willing participants; yielded and surrendered.
The Old sacrifices had no thoughtful participation, the New are to exercise reason and thought.
The Old sacrifices were offered on behalf of others, the New are the offering of self.
No worship can be pleasing that is purely inward, abstract, and mystical. It must express itself in concrete acts of service.

Second, we are to experience transformation as God renews our minds. Our thinking processes are changed. We begin to think as God thinks with a view of putting it into practice. This world and God’s will are placed in contrast with one another. Paul challenges us to not be conformed to the world. The word here is schema, from which we get our word schematic. Paul points out that the world is constantly trying to force us into its schematic, trying to fit us into its system. Do you ever sense that? But rather than conform, we are to be transformed, experiencing the metamorphosis that God enacts in us and through us. This transformation allows us to live in the world without being of the world.

Worship, in short, involves you total being. Which makes perfect sense because that is all God has wanted all along. He wants you.

Categories : Romans, Worship
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Here’s an interesting piece of research coming out of the University of Washington on the emotional impact of mega church worship services. This report, published by Huffington Post, can be viewed HERE. The research attempts to link the emotional experience with the success of mega churches in America. What do you think?

Categories : Worship
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Aug
28

Go to Meeting:: 2

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Worship is my appropriate response to the self disclosure of God. While worship may have private and personal expressions, it is also a corporate experience. There are a myriad of ways people feel most connected to God in personal worship. Some connect through a daily devotional exercise. Others through music or nature. There are those who feel most connected through in-depth Bible study. The list goes on and on. These personal and private expressions create avenues for God to reveal himself and for us to respond in worship.

But worship is not limited to our private experience. There is also an important corporate dimension to worship. In this week’s text, Romans 12:1-2, Paul references “brothers and sisters.” He’s writing to them as individuals and as a congregation, if you will.

Corporate worship is vital to the health and function of the church. When I served in Texas, I worked with a worship pastor who was completely convinced that corporate worship is the life blood of the church. It is where we draw strength for service and guidance for her unified mission. When the body worships together, a synergy is created that helps the body discern God’s will for the body, and, be strengthened to perform God’s will.

Categories : Romans, Worship
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Aug
27

Training Camp: Go to Meeting:: 1

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And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:1-2, NLT).

The first element of training camp that I emphasized to our congregation as we prepare for the fall is the importance of worship. I offered this simple definition: “Worship is my appropriate response to the self disclosure of God.” Let me unpack that a bit.

Worship begins with God, who reveals himself to his people. One clear example is found in Isaiah 6, where Isaiah, having seen the exalted, thrice holy God, sees himself as “undone” by his sin. God disclosed himself as holy, and Isaiah’s appropriate response was confession of sin.

Romans chapters 1-11 reveal God as the God of grace and mercy. In those chapters, Paul has reminded his audience that though they are sinners, God through Christ has extended grace and mercy to them. So his request in chapter 12 is based on the God who has revealed himself through the currency of mercy and grace. His plea for them to worship by presenting their bodies is not baseless or unfounded. The presentation of their bodies as willing offerings is their appropriate response to mercy and grace.

As I have mentioned, worship is our appropriate response to the self disclosure of God. How has God revealed himself to you? How is he presently revealing himself to you? Worship begins with God and involves more than our liturgy. It involves our attentiveness to him and his initiative. As we see him “high and lifted up,” our response becomes our act of worship.

Tomorrow I’ll continue with the second observation from Romans 12:1-2. Thanks for checking in today.

Categories : Romans, Worship
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Dec
22

N.T. Wright on Worship

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This week I posted a brief review of N.T. Wright’s latest release, titled Simply Jesus. In the concluding chapter of the book Wright made one of the best statements on worship that I’ve read in a long time. Check this out:

“All kingdom work is rooted in worship. Or, to put it the other way around, worshipping the God we see at work in Jesus is the most politically charged act we can ever perform. Christian worship declares that Jesus is Lord and that therefore, by strong implication, nobody else is. What’s more, it doesn’t just declare it as something to be believed, like the fact that the sun is hot or the sea wet. It commits the worshipper to allegiance, to following this Jesus, to being shaped and directed by him. Worshipping the God we see in Jesus orients our whole being, our imagination, our will, our hopes, and our fears away from the world where Mars, Mammon, and Aphrodite (violence, money, and sex) make absolute demands and punish anyone who resists. It orients us instead to a world in which love is stronger than death, the poor are promised the kingdom. and chastity (whether married or single) reflects the holiness and faithfulness of God himself. Acclaiming Jesus as Lord plants a flag that supersedes the flags of the nations, however ‘free’ or ‘democratic’ they may be. It challenges both the tyrants who think they are, in effect, divine and the ‘secular democracies’ that have effectively become, if not divine and at least ecclesial, that is, communities that are trying to do and be what the church is supposed to do and be, but without recourse to the one who sustains the church’s life. Worship creates–or should create, if it is allowed to be truly itself–a community that marches to a different beat, that keeps in step with a different Lord.”

What do you think of Wright’s words on worship? How do his words on worship compare or contrast with your weekly experience of corporate worship?

Categories : N.T. Wright, Worship
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Nov
27

A Call to Worship

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“Shout with joy to the LORD, all the earth! Worship the LORD with gladness. Come before him, singing with joy. Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us, and we are his. We are his people, the sheep of his pasture. Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and his faithfulness continues to each generation” (Psalm 100:1-5, NLT).

Your Bible probably has a subtitle to this text that says something like “A Psalm of thanksgiving.” While this is true of the content of the Psalm, the Psalm is really a Call to Worship. A Call to Worship is an invitation to the people of God to gather together in worship. It beckons us to put aside our distractions and to focus on the presence of God.

I remember when television preachers first became popular. Men like Oral Roberts, Rex Humbard, and Jerry Falwell graced our screens with eloquence and style. As a child I recall listening to those who expressed their fears that people would forsake assembling together for the opportunity to “have church” at home in their pajamas, complete with coffee. But people continued to worship corporately. Then came the advent of the internet and with it the online church. Again, people mused that the assembly would be forsaken by those who would favor of “having church” at their convenience. Neither the television or the internet has replaced the dynamic of gathering with others in a worship experience. Truth be known, it probably hasn’t even made a dent.

My community is still buzzing following the miraculous double overtime victory by Iowa State over the second ranked Oklahoma State football team. I watched the game at home, while my son attended the game in person. Watching the game at home in many ways is better. You can see each play from multiple camera angles. You can see if the ref really missed the call. The television provides a superior view of the plays in the game.

But if you go to the game in person you get the experience. You fight the traffic and strive to find a parking place. You enjoy the tailgating. You march to the stadium and wait in line to show your ticket. You feel the press of the crowd as you find your seat. You breathe deeply and take in the smells of the concession stand. You listen to the music blasting from the public address system. The band comes on the field and plays the fight song, and, if you know the words, you sing along with gusto. The team runs out of the tunnel and you cheer with fans and scream as they take the field. You stand and cover your heart for the playing of the national anthem. The game begins. You may not have the best seat or the clearest vantage point, but you have the experience of watching the game together with friends and strangers. You’ve not only attended the game, you’ve made a memory.

That’s the value of corporate worship. Their is a synergy that occurs when you encounter God with others who are encountering God. Private worship is important and necessary. But worshipping together is a valuable part of your Christian experience. Don’t be content to go it alone. Have the experience, and make a memory!

Categories : Psalms, Worship
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