More Thoughts on Worship

Last Sunday I preached on how the Church is called to Worship God according to His Word, and why the way we prepare our hearts for worship is vital to our experience in worship.  I made mention in the sermon of A. W. Tozer’s book, The Pursuit of God, and I thought I share some of the highlights from that book that didn’t make it into my message.

Worship is to feel in the heart and express in some appropriate manner a humbling but delightful sense of admiring awe. Worship will humble a person as nothing else can. The egotistical, self-important man cannot worship God any more than the arrogant devil can worship God. There must be humility in the heart before there can be worship.

Worship is no longer worship when it reflects the culture around us more than the Christ within us.

We enter the house dedicated to God, made out of bricks, linoleum and other stuff, and we say, “The Lord is in His holy temple; let all kneel before Him.”  I personally enjoy starting a service that way occasionally. But it does not stop there. Come 9:00 A.M. Monday morning, if you do not walk into your office and say, “The Lord is in my office and all the world is silent before Him,” then you were not worshiping the Lord on Sunday. If you cannot worship Him on Monday, then you did not worship Him on Sunday. If you do not worship Him on Saturday, your worship Sunday is not authentic. Some people put God in a box we call the church building. God is not present in the church any more than He is present in your home. God is not here any more than He is in your factory or office. If God is not in your factory, if God is not in your store, if God is not in your office, then God is not in your church when you go there.

The total life, the whole man and woman, must worship God. Faith, love, obedience, loyalty, conduct and life – all of these are to worship God. If there is anything in you that does not worship God, then there is not anything in you that does worship God very well. If you departmentalize your life and let certain parts worship God, but other parts do not worship God, then you are not worshiping God as you should. It is a great delusion we fall into, the idea that in church or in the presence of death or in the midst of sublimity is the only setting for worship…

Worship pleasing to God saturates our whole being. There is no worship pleasing to God until there is nothing in me displeasing to God. I cannot departmentalize my life, worship God on Sunday and not worship Him on Monday. I cannot worship Him in my songs and displease Him in my business engagements. I cannot worship God in silence in the church on Sunday, to the sound of hymns, then go out the next day and be displeasing to Him in my activities. No worship is wholly pleasing to God until there is nothing in us that is displeasing to God.
Without Jesus Christ, there is no goodness, and so I do not apologize at all when I say that your worship has to be all-inclusive and take you all in. If you are not worshiping God in all your life, then you are not worshiping Him acceptably in any area of your life.

Tozer, A. W. The Purpose of Man: Designed to Worship.(Bethany House Pub., Bloomington, MN, 2009)

From the Pastor’s Desk – Here is a bit of the things I’ve been reading this week, or watching, that I thought I’d pass along.

Three Approaches to Ecclesiastes: Understanding how we are to read and interpret the Book of Ecclesiastes is one of the biggest challenges for any thoughtful reader.  This essay presents three approaches to Ecclesiastes that I think are helpful.

Fleecing the Flock: Last week I posted a link to an article about PreacherNSneakers, a twitter account that showed pictures of Preachers wearing incredibly expensive and elaborate fashion.  Along the same line, here is an article from the BBC on the scourge of “Prosperity Gospel” preachers and the people who give their money to support them. It is heartbreaking to see how some will use the name of Christ to benefit themselves and bring ruin to others.

Just for Fun

Solving the Rubik’s Cube: I’ve been working one of my sons to try to solve his Rubik’s cube.  I’m down to maybe 10 minutes, but I don’t think I’ll ever be a speed cuber.  This is simply amazing.

A Golden Performance: If you haven’t seen this amazing performance by Kodi Lee on America’s Got Talent, you really should watch it.  I wasn’t crying when I watched it, I just had something in my eye.

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Car Chases & God’s Grace

Why do we watch high speed car chases? 

I’m not talking about those in the movies, though they are exciting in and of themselves. No, I’m referring to the helicopter or dash-cam views of police pursuits on the city streets in real time.  

It seems like every week you see another chase play out on national media.  Just last week there was a wrecked RV leading police through Los Angeles, and what got everyone watching was the fact that there were two dogs in the RV – and yes, both are fine.

Are we drawn to this because we want to see fugitives come to justice? 

Is there a darker side of us waiting for the fiery crash that may come at the end? 

Is this now our Coliseum, where we cheer and boo the gladiators in the arena, and watch until all is settled?

Maybe these events speak to our inner “fight or flight” instinct, and we’re watching to learn what we already know – running from your problems never works.

As I was pondering our obsession with chases this morning, I read from Isaiah 30 in my M’Cheyne Bible Reading plan.  Here, God is speaking to the people of Jerusalem though the prophet, warning them of the coming judgment for their rebellion, and telling them not to go to Egypt in order to escape judgment, thereby “adding sin to sin” and face greater ruin. The people were ready to fly to Egypt, to ride swiftly from the hand of God. God’s warning was clear, “your pursuers will be swift. A thousand shall flee at the threat of one…” 

Reading this is like watching the chase unfold. You say to the screen, “Don’t run!” but you know they’re going to anyway.

Still, in this midst of the warning, God extends a gracious promise  Isaiah 30 is beautiful in its promise. Even in the threat of coming judgment, God calls to His people, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength (Isa 30:15).”  Turn to me,  God is saying, find your rest, your salvation, and strength in me.  

From verse 19 on, the remainder of the chapter is God’s promise of restoration:

  • God will be gracious to the sound of your cry
  • Though the Lord gives the bread of adversity, your Teacher will not hide himself anymore
  • Your ears will hear him speak to you, telling you which way to go
  • You will turn from your idols
  • He will give rain for the seed, and bread, and produce, and livestock
  • There will be brooks flowing with water
  • The Lord will bind up the brokenness of His people and heal their wounds
  • You will have a song, and gladness of heart
  • The Lord will cause His voice to be heard
  • The enemies of God’s people will tremble before Him.

No one likes to see the lights in the rear-view mirror, or hear the siren calling them to pull over. Neither do we like the discipline of the Lord when we have erred. But with our Father’s discipline, there is always the promise of rich and redeeming grace, a promise confirmed for us in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Trust in His gracious promises, and know that resting in Him you will shall be saved.

From the Pastor’s Desk:

Here are some of the things I’ve been reading this week that I’d thought I’d share:

Don’t Be a Lazy Pastor: Lately I’ve been sharing articles on what the Pastor does, and how you can pray for your Pastor. Here’s another, from Desiring God, on the plague of the lazy Pastor.

PreachersNSneakers: Speaking about Pastor’s, there’s apparently a trend among some Pastor’s of wearing REALLY expensive shoes, clothes, or jewelry. Here’s an article about the trend – and just to clarify – my suits are all over 10 years old, and my most expensive shoes are the Brooks I run in.  I’m not saying I’m above the cultural trappings, but fashion is not mine.  Something I read a while ago, however, did lead me to stop wearing a preachers robe. One of the old Puritans stated that anything that separates you from you congregation, keeps you from your congregation.  If what your wearing, or the house your living in, or the car the pastor is driving is an extravagant leap from what the people of the congregation would have, there’s a disconnection taking place.

Can A Christian Lose their Salvation:  Finally, here’s an article by R.C. Sproul on the perennial question about one’s security in salvation.
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A Sacrifice of Praise

“My offering, my food for my food offerings, my pleasing aroma,
you shall be careful to offer to me at its appointed time.”
(Numbers 28:2)

My daily reading plan has me currently reading through the book of Numbers, and, while I cannot say how many times I’ve actually read this book, I am always amazed at the new things that stand out to me.

I was struck this week with an early morning read through Number 29.  Here, God provides instructions to Moses on how the regular feasts and celebrations were to be celebrated.  The amount of blood and sacrifice is overwhelming.  Just consider the required offerings for the Festival of Booths. This festival followed the Day of Atonement, and was a week-long enacted celebration in which the people of Israel would live in Booths to remember and give thanks for God’s provision during the 40 years in the wilderness.  As a sign of their thanksgiving, sacrifices were to be brought to the Temple – a lot of them.

Here are the totals for the offerings: 70 Bulls, 15 Rams, 105 lambs (plus another 18 lambs for the regular daily offerings and the Sabbath offering), and 8 goats for the sin offerings. Imagine the quantity of blood, the smoke from the burnt offerings, the market for the feasts, the commotion of the celebration.  All of this, done each year, to be reminded of God’s mighty hand in delivering His people into the Promised Land.

Contrast this with how we bring our praise and thanksgiving to God in the new administration of the covenant in Christ. Christ has come as our high priest, and has entered the holy places on our behalf, “not by means of the blood of goats and calves, but by means of his own blood, thus securing eternal redemption” (Heb 9:12).  We, therefore, bring our sacrifices of praise to God, not in the blood of the bull or ram, but rather presenting ourselves, “as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is our spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1).

From the Pastor’s Desk

An Ordinary Red Brick Church – This is an excellent article about an ordinary church.  So often we compare ourselves to other churches in other settings and wonder why we’re different.  Here, the Pastor provides a great reminder that we are to celebrate who Christ has called us to be as a rural, Presbyterian, and Biblical Church.

Today in Church History – On this day in 337 A.D., Constantine, the first Roman emperor to consider himself a Christian, died. While Constantine did not bring Christianity to the Roman Empire, nor declare Rome a Christian state, he did issue an edict officially tolerating Christianity and summoned the Council of Nicea to settle the Arian dispute over the nature of Christ.

Theopedia – Here is a great resource I’ve been using for years as a Wikipedia for Theological topics. Theopedia is a growing online evangelical encyclopedia of biblical Christianity, a network of interconnected pages, constantly being refined and updated.

Free e-books – If you’re looking for something to read, and like reading on a Nook, Kindle, iPad, or other device, here is a website for you.  There are tons of free books ranging from classic Puritans and early church fathers to modern, contemporary, reformed writers.

Just Because… Here’s a video on the book of James

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From the Pastor’s Desk – May 9

I was on the road most of yesterday so I didn’t get a chance to put this together until today.  Here are some of the things I’ve been reading this week.

Equality Act (HR-5) in Congress – This is a link to a writeup from VCY’s report on HR-5, the Equality Act which is currently in Congress. In brief, the Equality Act would amend a number of federal laws by elevating sexual orientation and gender identity (LGBQT…) to the same level as race in areas such as public accommodation, employment, etc. Most significantly, this law would remove religious protections in these matters. Certainly keep this in your prayers.

Indescribable – During the Children’s Message on Sunday, the book that I pulled out of the bag was a neat little devotion for children called “Indescribable: 100 Devotions for Kids About God and Science.” If you are interested in learning more about the devotion book, I’ve provided a link to the Amazon bookstore.

The Funeral is becoming a Relic: With three funerals in the church last week, the headline of this article in the Washington Post certainly caught my eye.  “Death is a given, but not the time-honored rituals. An increasingly secular, nomadic and casual America is shredding the rules about how to commemorate death.”  I’m not sure that is the case in rural, Christian communities, but I do see some changes in the way people approach planning their funeral.  What I find striking about the article is that there is never any mention of the hope or the promise of eternal life in Jesus to which a Christian funeral bears witness.  On a side note: there will be no “water ballet” at my funeral.

Slow Church Growth: As we continue to discuss ways in which we can help facilitate growth in our congregation and better reach out into our community, this article from 9 Marks comes as a helpful reminder.  “The desire for fast growth isn’t sinful, but it is sinful to make an idol out of the size of your ministry. And sometimes, the line between godly and ungodly ambition is dangerously thin.”

Finally, there was something strangely appealing about this video. Whether its the joy of discovery or the childlike wonder, or just watching golf balls get squished, this has become one of my favorite videos. Warning – there’s a lot of physics – elastic verses plastic deformation, linear collision velocity, etc – but it looks like a lot of fun!

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From the Pastor’s Desk

Here are some of the things that have come across my desk this week.

The Dangers of Social Media: From Crossway Publishers, Tony Reinke points out 10 Things You Should Know about the Danger of Media. I found #7 particularly powerful: Media endangers our prayer life… “The worst of our compulsive social media habits are filling our days and corroding our prayer lives.”

How to Listen to Preaching: This is a great article on based on The Westminster Larger Catechism, questions 154-160.  As a pastor, my endeavor is to always be growing in my ability to write and preach sermons that are Biblical, Christ-Centered, God-Honoring, and effective in calling sinners to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and encouraging believers in their walk with Him. In this article, Joel Smit encourages the listeners in how they are to prepare themselves to hear the Word.

Today in Church History: On this day in 418 AD, a relatively minor Synod meeting of the North African Church assembled, but it made a major declaration.  The council met to take action concerning the errors of Caelestius, a disciple of Pelagius, denounced the Pelagian doctrines of human nature, original sin, grace, and perfectibility; and it fully approved the teaching of Augustine.

Allergy Season is Upon Us: As the Zyrtek bottle is nearly empty at my house, I recalled this article from a while ago. Here’s the take away illustration:

And Finally:

A random video about the massive city of an Ant Hill.

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More Readings From the Pastor’s Desk

Following last weeks blog, I thought I’d share more of what I’ve been reading, what I’ve stumbled upon while studying, or what’s randomly arrived in my inbox.  Enjoy!

  • Update on Notre Dame
    It was shocking to see the massive fire in the attic and roof of the beautiful Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. To think that such a structure which has stood for 850 years could be lost so quickly was astonishing.  But as this article from the Gospel Coalition points out, while tragic, we shouldn’t be quick to say that this fire is not a moral lesson.
    This is another excellent articlefrom PCA Ruling Elder and writer for National Review, David French on how the Notre Dame fire affects all Christians, and the hope we can find in the midst of the ashes.
  • The Love of God
    I’ve been doing research on 1 John 4:19, “God is Love,” and found two interesting articles I wanted to share.  The first is from A.W. Pink’s book, The Attributes of God. If you click here, it will take you to the chapter on the Love of God, but the entire book is available on the website for free. It is a great read and I highly recommend it.
    Second, I love the hymn by Frederick Lehman, “The Love of God,” particularly the final verse

Could we with ink the ocean fill
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a quill
And every man a scribe by trade,
To write the love of God above
Would drain the ocean dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Tho’ stretched from sky to sky.

In researching the hymn at Hymnary.org, I came across this note:

The first two stanzas are Lehman’s own work. The third, by his own account, he added based on lines “found written by a demented man on the wall of his narrow room in the asylum where he died”; those words are a translation of an Aramaic poem, “Haddamut”, written ca. 1050 by Rabbi Meir of Worms, Germany. They hearken back to the 31st Sura of the Qur’an, where one reads
If all the trees on earth were pens, and the ocean were ink, replenished by seven more oceans, the writing of God’s wonderful signs and creations would not be exhausted; surely God is All-Mighty, All-Wise.

If you read the hymn in its entirety, it is undoubtedly Christ-centered and God-honoring, but it is interesting to note the source of the material.

  • Sunday’s Coming
    If you’re not familiar with S.M. Lockridge’s Good Friday message, make sure to take a moment and listen. I listen to this each year as I prepare for the celebration of Good Friday and the Resurrection. I find the video distracting, so turn up the volume, and just listen.
  • Daily Dose of Greek
    In case your thinking to yourself, “I wish I had a way to learn to read and understand Biblical Greek” (and let’s be honest, who isn’t thinking that), here’s a great, free, website to help you out. They even have apps for your smart phones and tablets. If you’re serious about learning, I’d even be willing to start a Greek New Testament reading group.
    I anxiously await your calls.
  • Pastors are Special
    At the risk of seeming self-serving, I share this article that I read today. I don’t share this to garner your pity, but because I would agree with everything he has said here, and seek your prayers for the effectiveness of my ministry, and my diligence for the work before me.
  • I Miss B.C.
    Finally, I came across this old comic strip and it reminded me how much I miss reading Johnny Hart’s B.C. comic with my dad on Sunday mornings.easter comic

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Readings from the Pastor’s Desk

Today, rather than my usual blog, I thought I’d share links to the things I’ve been reading (or viewing) today. Some are deeply theological or biblical, while others are just food for thought.  I pray you will be encouraged and blessed as I was.

  • Expiation and Propitiation
    I have to admit, I often don’t do a very good job of keeping these clearly defined. L. Michael Morales does a great job in TableTalk this month in defining the two terms, and showing how both are tied up in the work of the cross. “A Christian basks securely in the warm rays of the Father’s favor only because that storm of judgement has already broken in the full measure of its fury on the crucified Son of God. His shed blood cleanses us from our sins, removing our guilt from the sight of God.”
  • On the Immutability of God
    In preparation for tonight’s Middle School study on “God Never Changes” I came across this site from Precept Austin, which has a lot of great quotes on the immutability (unchangeability) of God. I’ve posted several readings from Tozer and Pink here before, and both are found in this article.  My favorite has to be A.W. Pink’s, “God cannot change for the better, for He is perfect; and being perfect, He cannot change for the worse.”
  • A Little Biblical Archaeology
    I had a class on Biblical History and Archaeology in college, taught by a former archaeologist from Jerusalem who actually passed around ancient oil lamps and coins dating back to the time of Abraham. Since then, I have always been interested in the finds of archaeology that are tied to Biblical history.  Here’s a short video about some recent important finds in Jerusalem.
  • Listen to the Bible
    Someone was sharing this week how they were listening to the Bible on CD in their car. Any opportunity we can get to be in the Word of God is a good thing.  If you’re looking for a way to hear the ESV Online, this link is for you.  If you want to hear what the Greek sounds like, click here.  When I read Greek, it sounds like Spanish, so please don’t ask me to read it out loud.
  • What did Shakespeare Sound Like?
    This has nothing to do with my studies, but it sure was fun to watch!

Enjoy!

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