Worship is More than a Service

Lots of people think that worship is limited to a religious event, but the Bible teaches something very different.  We’ll walk and talk about how all of life is worship and that doesn’t end with a service!

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Who Invented Worship?

It’s easy to think that going to worship God is our idea…or at least our choice.  But, who invented worship?  Who calls the meeting between us and God?  We walk and talk as we think about who invented worship.

Worship is War

All of life is worship, but how is worship a declaration of war?  What other things are going to war for our heart, souls, minds and strengths?  What is the connection with allegiance?  We walk and talk this week about how worship is war.

Who Gets the Glory?

**Thanks to Aaron Ivey, Paul Tripp and Solomon for their thoughts on God’s glory!

Speak Lord, I’m Listening…

I talk too much and listen too little.  It’s always been a struggle for me.

Proverbs says to speak before listening is a folly and shame (18:3) and let me tell you, I’ve lived it.  Even now, as a guy in mid-life, I struggle to listen because I like the sound of my own voice.  But as I’ve reflected on it, I don’t think I’m alone.  We have one sided conversations all the time.  We wait until the other person stops talking so we can say our piece.  (SIDENOTE:  That is not a real conversation. 😉  That’s a monologue!)

But my namesake, the prophet Samuel, was able to listen, at least in the story we have of him as a boy.  He hears a voice in the middle of the night.  And that might have seemed a bit creepy, right?  So he runs to the adult, Eli, and asks him if he was calling.  Like most adults who get awakened by young children in the middle of the night, Eli groaned and said, “I did not call; go back and lie down.”  It happened a second time and this time, Eli, who probably felt like he had just fallen back to sleep, said, “I did not call; go back and lie down!” (emphasis mine!).  The third time, Eli figures out what is going on and tells the small boy to say one line:  ‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’

What strikes me now, is that Eli and Samuel know who they are speaking too and their place in the conversation.  They are speaking to the Lord.  The Mighty One.  The God who speaks and summons.  They are the servants who listen and respond.

I want to be more like Samuel.  So I put together this short “found poem” from the psalms to help me remember to listen first and speak later…

‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’

The Mighty One, God, the Lord,

speaks and summons the earth

from the rising of the sun to where it sets.

From Zion, perfect in beauty,

God shines forth.

Our God comes

and will not be silent

One thing God has spoken,

    two things I have heard:

“Power belongs to you, God,

    and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”

I will listen to what God the Lord says;

he promises peace to his people, his faithful servants—

but let them not turn to folly.

‘Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.’

-from 1 Samuel 3:9, Psalm 50, 62, 85

For This Child I Have Prayed…

Isn’t it funny how our lives, and history itself, move in circles?  Names and stories trigger memories and we see meanings emerge that we were blind to before.

As I think about my name, “Samuel”, and as I read the story of his mother, written thousands of years ago, I notice that my wife had a similar experience to my own mother who had a similar experience to Hannah.

I obviously don’t remember, but my Mom and Dad struggled to have a child for 4 years.  She’s told me that she longed to be a mother and never dreamed, when she was married, that it would be that hard.  Both of my parents continued to pray for a baby and I was born in a doctor’s office in the hills of western Pennsylvania.  They named me Samuel because, like Hannah, they prayed for a child.  That is what “Samuel” means.

Years later, Sara and I were in a similar situation, but we knew that there was no biological way for us to have kids.  So we prayed and pursued adoption.  God gave us a baby girl.  We named her Eliana, which means, “my God has answered”.

So this week, as we approach Mother’s Day, I’m thinking about Hannah, Samuel’s mother, who lived thousands of years ago.

First off, I’m reminded that the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.  He is a loving Father who cares for us even when it doesn’t feel that way and we don’t understand what is going on.  I have lived in the tension multiple times in my life.  Infertility.  Cancer.  The death of a child.  But it’s true.  Job is the one who first said this, but it’s true.  Blessed be His Name.

I also see that people will misunderstand you, adding to the pain of your experience.  Eli, a priest of God, thought Hannah was drunk when he saw her praying to God.  People told Sara and I that we were too stressed and needed to take a weekend away with a bottle of wine to make things happen.  We laugh about it now, but, people will mis-understand you.

Even when that happens, bring your pain and anguish to the Lord in prayer.  That’s my third thought.  Whatever you are going through, bring your pain and anguish to the Lord.  For a woman who desires to be a mother, this is deeper than I know.  But God hears you when you call.  God hears.  God answers.

Lastly, I am incredibly thankful for the example of these amazing Godly women.  Hannah prayed, trusting that God would answer her prayer.  And THEN, she fulfilled her vow, giving her little son back to the Lord.  Incredible.  My mom prayed to the Lord for a baby and I was born.  Since then, I have watched her continue to live a life of faith, even in the midst of hard times and hard questions.  My own wife has also showed me what deep faith looks like.  She also struggled, prayed and continues to do so.

Isn’t it funny how our lives, and history itself, move in circles?  Names and stories trigger memories and we see meanings emerge that we were blind to before.  As I think about my name, Samuel, I realize that it’s a reminder of the faith of women throughout history who have taken their pain to God and afterwards said,

“For this child I have prayed”.

 

Who Is Worship For? – Prt3

I have a confession.

I grew up thinking that worship was only for believers.  Now, I think you can make a case that only a believer can worship God in spirit and in truth, but how should we arrange our services with the third audience, the outside world, in mind?

A number of years ago, I took a class called “Perspectives on the World Christian Movement”.  It’s not a very exciting title, I know, but the class changed my whole perspective on worship.  Every week we had a different speaker who helped us understand what God has been doing in the world to build his Kingdom starting in the OLD TESTAMENT!  Did you know that God’s heart has ALWAYS been to have the nations hear the good news?  I hadn’t realized that this was God’s message to Adam and Eve, to Abraham, to David and on and on…to Jesus and then the early church.  God has always wanted his people to be a light and welcome anyone who comes.  As God says in the Psalms (46:10, 47:1, 18:49, 22:27)

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Clap your hands, all you nations; shout to God with cries of joy.

Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name.

All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him…

And as author and pastor, Tim Keller, writes,

It is a false dichotomy to insist that if we are seeking to please God we must not ask what the unchurched feel or think about our worship…God wants the world to overhear us worshipping him.  God directs his people not to simply worship, but to sing his praises “before the nations.”  We are not to simply communicate the gospel to them, but celebrate the gospel before them.*

Did you know that this happens at ECC?  We have people to walk up to our pastors after service and say, “I’m not a believer, but I’m thinking about what you said…”  We have people who are sitting in the seats who come to church, but aren’t following Jesus Monday through Saturday.

This is why I think Keller’s emphasis on the gospel is so important.  Not just because unbelievers need to hear it (and they do!), but that the gospel is what all three groups need to hear!  God wants us to tell him about what he has done for us in Jesus.  Believers need to be reminded and shaped by the gospel.  Un-believers need to be saved by the gospel.

We can focus only on seekers instead of encouraging believers and get lost in making Jesus “relevant”.

We can focus only on building up believers and make things incomprehensible and outdated for seekers.

We need to make sure that our services are fresh, conversational and understandable while always focusing on the gospel.

By focusing on the gospel, we bring all three audiences together in worship.

______________________________________

*Tim Keller quote from “Evangelistic Worship” as used in Rhythms of Grace.  Thanks to Mike Cosper for the concept of the three audiences in worship.  His book is an excellent read.  I highly recommend it!

New Song: Jesus

This is a classic Chris Tomlin song…he pulls metaphors from all over the Bible and arranges them in one song.  This song is no different, but the singular focus of the song is Jesus.  Only Jesus.  It starts by framing the cosmic struggle we are caught up in.  It is “older than the ages”, but we look forward to the promises that are “yet to come” while living in the reality of Jesus who was born of a virgin, as a descendent of mother Eve.

There are multiple scriptures I will reference throughout the song, but I think it’s best to start at the Fall when the whole story starts.  Satan tempts the woman and the man who disobey God and fall from the perfect design for their lives.  And God makes a promise that is fulfilled in Jesus who came, died on a cross and who is still yet to come…God says,

And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.” -Genesis 3:15

V1: There is a truth older than the ages 
There is a promise of things yet to come 
There is one born for our salvation 

Jesus

We move onto the promises that we see in the book of Isaiah that look forward to the coming of Jesus…but, it uses present tense to remind us that these things are still true for us today.

Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. -Isaiah 60:20

He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. –Isaiah 9:7

The Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners…-Isaiah 61:1

V2: There is a light that overwhelms the darkness 
There is a kingdom that forever reigns
There is freedom from the chains that bind us

Jesus, Jesus

Speaking of Jesus, the chorus moves onto specific stories of Jesus from scripture…

…He went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake…They cried out…Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” -Mark 6:48b-50

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. -Mark 4:39

“Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” -Daniel 3:25

Ch: Who walks on the waters
Who speaks to the sea
Who stands in the fire beside me

That last line is fascinating because it happened back in the OT before Jesus was born!  We understand this to be a “theophany” or a time that Jesus appeared as Jesus before he was born and before we knew him as Jesus.  He appeared in the fire with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, protecting them from the flames, and looking like “a son of the gods”.

But hold on!  We aren’t done with the chorus yet!  The second half shifts to speak about Jesus in metaphors…

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. -Rev 5:5

…you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors…with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. -1 Peter 1:18b-19

For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal. -Job 5:18

He roars like a lion
He bled as the Lamb
He carries my healing in His hands

Jesus 

The third verse takes all of that scripture and applies it to our lives.  This is the beauty of the song and one of the goals of the believer.  We are to understand that this book, the Bible, isn’t just a history book.  It isn’t just a manual for living.  It is a story that we are invited to claim as our own.  These characters from the Bible are part of your family…my family…and Jesus calls you to help write the story of His expanding Kingdom NOW, even in trouble, storms and the night.

This poor man called, and the Lord heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.

By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me— a prayer to the God of my life. -Psalm 42:8

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”  He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. -Luke 8:24

V3: There is a name I call in times of trouble
There is a song that comforts in the night
There is a voice that calms the storm that rages

He is Jesus, Jesus

…These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. -John 20:31

…to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! -Jude 25

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. -Psalm 19:14

Br: Messiah
My Savior
There is power in Your name
You’re my rock and my Redeemer
There is power in Your name
In Your name

This bridge takes the song and condenses it down to a simple declaration of faith.  He is the Messiah, Savior, Redeemer…who, you ask?  Jesus.

 

We need to rediscover the power of God’s Word as God’s speaking and communicating to his church now, today. . . . We must stop treating the Scripture reading as a preliminary. In worship there aren’t “preliminaries.” Every part of worship is an intricate aspect of the whole. Therefore, reading Scripture is not a preliminary—something to “get over with” so we can get on to the sermon. . . . There needs to be a revival of attention and care for the public reading of Scripture. We need to experience Scripture as the electrifying Word of God.

-Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation, Second Edition