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!
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.
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.
**Thanks to Aaron Ivey, Paul Tripp and Solomon for their thoughts on God’s glory!
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
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!
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.
Once again, I will be sitting in the doctor’s office looking through the blinds at people in cars passing by as their lives raced ahead of them. The steps and muffled sounds of nurses and doctor’s will filter through the door. Then my heart will starting to race and I will identify what is happening to me…
It will be fear.
It’s been 13 years since that April 5th when I was diagnosed with Stage 3 testicular cancer. In those first days and weeks, I knew fear intimately as an evil twin who was trying to kill me. Twelve weeks of chemo left me so weak that some days I couldn’t get off the couch to get a glass of water. The chemo not only ate the cancer, but also destroyed my stomach lining, brought on migraine-like symptoms and damaged the nerves in my fingers and ears. And all the time…fear.
The strange thing was that it took me years to identify the fear and anxiety that comes before my check-up. Some years, I would feel it grab me from from behind weeks before. Other years, it snuck up on me. But I never saw it coming and then wondered why I was in an emotional funk.
Now, I am able to remind my fear of what I’ve learned because of cancer…because of fear. I’m not always able to respond clearly. But now, before a check up, I try to speak these things to my fear. I tell it what I’ve learned from cancer…
Freedom from fear is a process. Some people might be able to defeat fear and never face it again, but not me. While it’s hold on me is less, I still have to wrestle with my fear! (If you’re fighting fear, here here are some further thoughts on fighting it.)
I am thankful for going through cancer. It changed me and gave me so many things that I couldn’t have learned any other way. And knowing myself better now, I realize I would have run from the pain and suffering so God made me face it head on…
We all die. I sat next to some amazing people in chemo. One man was a life-long smoker and had brushed shoulders with the Russian mafia, or so he said. Another woman was a worship leader and new mom facing breast cancer. Another man was a life-long farmer newly diagnosed with cancer and you could see the fear in his eyes. Some survived and some died. We are all mortal. Don’t waste your life. There is bigger story than just your life and you can join that story. It might mean you get cancer. It might mean that you son will die, but get in the game for God’s glory. You are on limited time.
Having your life destroyed will either make you withdraw into your own self or you will learn to trust God. We all the desire to control our world, but this is the truth. YOU CAN’T CONTROL YOUR WORLD. We are 100% guaranteed suffering in this life and we are promised that God is 100% faithful to meet us there.
I have hope in eternity. I am looking forward to it.
Facing cancer has deepened my love for others. I’m crazy selfish and I’m guessing I’m not the only one. When facing pain, the temptation is to focus even more on yourself.
Cancer helped me know Jesus better. Before cancer, I tended to love Jesus for what he gave me. I loved Jesus because a lot of family and friends loved Jesus. Cancer destroyed that world and taught me to love Jesus for Jesus. As author Tim Keller writes, “Sometimes God seems to be killing us when he’s actually saving us.” It’s a life-long process, but he is saving me from myself. It’s becoming less about me and more about him.
…And all of that will take place in my brain in the space of 15 min. Because after 15 min, the door will open and my doctor will walk in. He will asked me the litany of questions…
“How would you rate your pain? How are your side-effects? Any more pain in your fingers?”
As he is leaving, I can almost guarantee that he will forgot to tell me about the lab results from my blood work.
But you can’t be too hard on him. It has been 13 years.
How do you live out God’s Word in your life? With some scriptures, it’s fairly easy to understand. We don’t do it, but we have some level of understanding. But there are other scriptures that take awhile, for me at least, to understand, meaning that I live it out. One way I do that, is by re-writing it in a spoken word style of free verse.
Because, if he didn’t rise…what then?
And if he did…what then?
As we prepare for Easter, here is my attempt to live out 1 Corinthians 15:12-28.
IF HE DIDN’T/BUT HE DID
If some say Christ rose, how can you say, “no”?
If he didn’t rise, then Christ is still brought low.
If he didn’t rise, it doesn’t matter what we believe or say.
Even more, we are liars, for we preach, “Jesus, The Way”.
If he didn’t rise, the dead will stay dead.
If he didn’t rise, Christ lies on his tomb’s bed.
And if he didn’t rise, your faith is empty, you’re full of sin,
And those who have already been…
If only for now we hope in Christ, we’re pathetic…
…and we too are lost.
Christ has risen, he is the first who, in death, sleep.
For since a man damned us, a man will also raise us.
For since Adam killed us, so our Christ must
give us life, but him first then you and me.
And in the end, with all power and authority,
defeating all dominions with his final breath,
He hands the Father a kingdom, defeating even death.
Then the Father, who put everything under the Son,
will have His will done.
And the Son, will put everything under the Father
so we will see God is our history’s author.
Praise our God, three-in-one.
All glory to Christ, the Risen one.