If worship is about ‘ascribing worth’, then it’s easy to see where worship goes wrong. Adam and Eve think what they’ll gain from the fruit is of greater worth than what they have with God…

As sinless image bearers, Adam and Eve were part of creation’s perpetual testimony to the worthiness – the goodness, glory, brilliance and beauty – of God’s handiwork. As soon as they sinned, the broke rank with that testimony, choosing to exalt and serve their own glory.

-Mike Cosper, Rhythms of Grace

Worship is Loving One Another

This past weekend, we had a tech crisis. But in the middle of a crisis, our bigger problem was loving one another. All of life is worship and that includes the way we love another another.

[In Holy Communion] There is a symbolic communication involved in our very taking of bread and wine, our eating and drinking. . . . Bread and wine are to be consumed. They are to be taken into the hand, put into the mouth, and digested in our stomach. This is the human side of the Table, the response that the signs of bread and wine call for.  When we receive that bread into our mouth, bite and chew it, we are claiming God’s work. We are saying,

“You paid the price; you did the work; you achieved my salvation; I accept it.”


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

I’m a Grace-Amnesiac

Hi.  My name is Sam and I’m a grace-amnesiac.*

Recently, I’ve realized that I forget so much of the time.  I forget how sinful I am.  I forget how holy God is.  I forget how much grace I’m given every day.  I forget how much that grace cost.  And because I forget, I think that I’m better than other people I meet who fail and fall short.  They are just like me, but like I said, I’m a grace-amnesiac.  I forget.

The beautiful thing is that when I am reminded of God’s grace and live inside that same grace, my whole life is changed.  My whole life becomes an act of worship.  Author Mike Cosper writes,

…it all happens in union with Jesus, before the eyes and presence of a loving God, who by a miracle of boundless grace receives each and every act, though offered with mixed motives or frailty of heart, as a pleasant and acceptable offering…The whole mess of our lives is transformed in Christ, from corrupted to glorious, from ashes to beauty.**

So this week, look and see God’s grace in your life.  Don’t forget.

Extend that grace to others all around you.  Don’t forget.

Know that your whole life is now an act of worship because of receiving and giving grace.  Don’t forget.

This week, don’t be like me.  Don’t forget.

My name is Sam and I’m a grace-amnesiac.

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* The phrase “grace-amnesiac” is from Paul David Tripp’s New Morning Mercies.

** Quote from Mike Cosper in Rhythms of Grace, 77.

God’s goal in history, so to speak, is to win back his world by his own two hands—the incarnate Word and the Holy Spirit—and to unite humanity with the community of God.  His original creational purpose will be fulfilled at the end of history.

-Robert Webber, Who Gets to Narrate the World? Contending for the Christian Story in an Age of Rivals

Worship itself is a re-presentation of Christ. . . . Consequently, when we worship, the conflict between good and evil that we experience in our everyday lives is confronted and resolved.  We leave worship once again with the personal assurance that the battle is won—Satan has been, is now being, and will be defeated. Because we are confident in Christ’s victory, we experience a great release from the burden of our sin and we become filled with joy and peace.

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

New Song: Gadol Adonai (Great is the Lord)

Last year, our family traveled to Mexico.  While there, we worshipped with a Spanish speaking congregation.  It was hard to follow along, I won’t deny it.  But there were moments when I understood what we were doing together.  For example, when the band transitioned from an upbeat praise song that I didn’t know into “Cuan Grande Es Dios” (or “How Great is our God”), I raised my hands and sang.  It was a taste of what heaven will be like when every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord and his people will shout praises.  This weekend, I’m hoping to have a similar experience as we sing both in English and Hebrew.  Yes, Hebrew!  AND You already know the song!  It’s the same song we sang last summer.  And I know, I know, it will be stretch for us, but we will take time to learn it together.  And when we get it, it will be powerful to hear God’s praises in another language.  We will sing the intro and chorus in Hebrew and the rest in English.  Here goes…

Intro: Gadol Adonai umehulal me’od, B’ir Eloheinu, B’har kodsho X2

I know, it’s going to be a challenge at first, but hang with it!  This comes straight from Psalm 48:1 which says,

“GREAT IS THE LORD, AND MOST WORTHY OF PRAISE, IN THE CITY OF OUR GOD, HIS HOLY MOUNTAIN.”

So not only are we singing in Hebrew, we are singing God’s word in the original language!  But I still don’t want to push it, so back to English…

Verse 1: I’ll come before Your throne, The God of my joy

I’ll give the fruit of my lips

And remember the great things You did, for me

Remember.  That word shows up in the scriptures 231 times.  Why, do you think?  I’m pretty sure it’s because God knows us so well, he knows that we forget.  I also love that this verse refers to Psalm 34 where we see that God’s light and care guide us into his presence and that is where we praise and remember.  Check it out…

Send me your light and your faithful care,
    let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy mountain,
    to the place where you dwell.
Then I will go to the altar of God,
    to God, my joy and my delight.
 -Psalm 34:3-4a

Moving on…

Verse 2: Behold the temple of God, is now with man

As His people all nations will rise

He will wipe every tear from their eyes

Death, pain and mourning will cease forevermore!

We are going to see this as we dig deeper into studying the temple, but now we are the temple of God.  This is clear in two different places…
“Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple,” writes Paul in 1 Corinthians 3:16, “and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?”  And he also writes, “In him (that’s Jesus) the whole building (that’s us!) is joined together and rises to become a holytemple in the Lord” (Eph 2:21).
Back to Hebrew…

Chorus: Hallelujah ki malach Adonai Eloheinu, Hallelujah ki malach Elohei Tzvaot

This comes almost directly from the last book of the bible where John sees a vision of heaven.  He writes,

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude…“Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns”. -Revelation 19:6

Just like my taste of heaven in Mexico, at the end of time all people in every tongue will praise God.  But the song also gives us a chance to slow down and meditate.  We aren’t in glory yet.  So until we get there we need to remember and rejoice.  As it says in the psalms,

Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord
    and delight in his salvation.
My whole being will exclaim,
    “Who is like you, Lord? -Psalm 35:9-10

Bridge: Rejoice, oh rejoice my soul, And give honor to him X2

Dear Worship Leader:

“Dear Worship Leader:  You have an extraordinary job with high stakes and grand opportunities.  You aren’t just a song leader.  You aren’t just a…musician…You aren’t merely on stage, and those people out there aren’t merely the audience…They are disciples, followers…Each and every week, you are helping people answer the question, How do I approach God?”

-The Worship Pastor by Zack Hicks

This is true for you no matter your role.  You might be behind the sound board.  You might be behind the light board.  You might be a set builder.  Whatever your role, you are helping people approach God.

I’ve realized this more as I’ve watched our Tech Director, Michala Halstead, learn and model this.  She didn’t start out wanting to serve in a church.  She just knew that she loved music, technology and Jesus, but here she is.  As she takes her role seriously, she realizes that learning about her brothers and sisters at ECC, praying with them and living out her faith before her family and friends is part of her role.  She is helping people approach God.

And you are the same.

Whether you realize it or not, if you are a christian then you have opportunities each week to minister to people.  The question for me this week was simply this:

“Am I going to step up and lead people to God or not?”

It’s not easy.  It takes work and effort.  I have to step out of my comfort zone at times.  But that is my calling.  And so when someone told me about a struggle they were having, I asked, “Do you mind if I pray for you right now?”  And together we approached God, the only one who has all the answers to our daily and eternal problems.

And that is your calling too.

Dear Worship Leader, this week may you not only sing or tech or design or act for the Lord.  May you live for him as you help people approach God.

Singing Songs I Don’t Like…

I grew up Presbyterian.  The thing about being Presbyterian is that you learn how to sing in 4 part harmony.  We sang both hymns AND psalms every Sunday, morning and evening.  There is power and unity in the voices of God as they sing.  This Sunday, we are going to do something VERY different for Emmanuel, but something that other traditions do every weekend…we are going to sing ac capella.  That’s right.  We are going to strip away all the instruments so we can hear the people of God sing.  Colossians 3:16 says,

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.”

But why would we do this? I think there are three reasons.  They apply to all singing, but especially this weekend…

  1.  Singing Helps us Teach and be Taught God’s Word.  We are a teaching church.  We use the phrase, “His Word, Our Walk”.  The problem is that too many times, intentionally or not, we assume that means preaching and teaching the Word and applying it to our walk.  The unique thing about singing is that we are doing both at the same time!  We are teaching the Word of God to each other AS we live it out through singing.  So singing is the perfect example of “His Word, Our Walk”!
  2.  Singing Helps us Express and Engage our Emotions.  Not only do we learn, we engage our emotions and express them to the rest of the congregation.  It’s good to know the right things, but if we don’t engage our desires we will experience deep and lasting life change.
  3.  Singing Helps us Show our Unity as a Church.  Singing allows us to spend time all focusing on the same action and thought.  Now, I know that not everyone loves every song we sing at Emmanuel.  There might even be a song that you really don’t like, but we don’t just sing for ourselves.  We sing for God’s glory.  As worship pastor and author, Bob Kauflin writes,

“That means there might be times when our most sincere worship is singing a song we don’t prefer because we know someone else is helped by it.  It’s one way we can let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts and count others more significant than ourselves (Phil 2:3)”

So this Sunday, we are going to sing with God’s people around the world and the hosts of heaven who are worshipping the Lamb who was slain.  That is unity…even if we are singing songs we don’t like!

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*The three main points in the blog are also from Bob Kauflin’s book, “True Worshipers”.