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Posts Tagged ‘Worship’

 (B.R. Graves)

This is an excerpt out of a book Im reading called “God’s Passion for His Glory” by John Piper. What is the focus of our worship to God on Sunday mornings, or at times when the church is gathered together corporately? Is the focus man-centered in attempting to glorify God, or is the focus God-centered, glorifying Him at all times? The quote:

The basic movement of worship on Sunday morning is not to come with our hands full to give to God, as though He needed anything (Acts 17:25), but to come with our hands empty, to receive from God. And what we receive in worship is the fullness of God, not the feelings of entertainment. We ought to come hungry for God. We should come saying ” As the deep pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O’God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Ps. 42:1-2). God is mightily honored when a people know that they will die of hunger and thirst unless they have God.

Nothing makes God more supreme and more central in worship than when a people are utterly persuaded that nothing – not money or prestige or leisure or family or job or health or sports or toys or friends – nothing is going to bring satisfaction to their sinful, guilty, aching hearts besides God. This convivtion breeds a people who go hard after God on Sunday morning. They are not confused about why they are in a worship service. They do not view songs and prayers and sermons as mere traditions or mere duties. They see them as means of getting to God or God getting to them for more of His fullness – no matter how painful that may be for sinners in the short run.

If the focus in corporate worship shifts onto our giving to God, one result I have seen again and again is that subtly it is not God that remains at the center but at the quality of our giving. Are we singing worthily of the Lord? Do the instrumentalists play with a quality befitting a gift to the Lord? Is the preaching a suitable offering to the Lord? And little by little the focus shifts off the utter indispensability of the Lord Himself onto the quality of our performances. And we even start to define excellence and power in worship in terms of the technical distinction of our artistic acts. Nothing keeps God at the center of worship like the Biblical conviction that the essence of worship is deep, heartfelt satisfaction in Him, and the conviction that the trembling pursuit of that satisfaction is why we are together.

Furthermore, this vision of worship prevents the pragmatic hollowing out of this holy act. If the essence of worship is satifaction in God, then worship cant be a means to anything else. We simply cant say to God, ” I want to be satisfied in you so that I can have something else.” For that would mean that we are not really satisfied in God but in that something else. And that would dishonor God, not worship Him.

But in fact, for thousands of people, and for many pastors, the event of “worship” on Sunday morning is conceived of as a means to accomplish something other than worship. We “worship” to raise money; we “worship” to attract crowds; we “worship” to heal human hurts; to recruit workers; to improve church morale; to give talented musicians an opportunity to fulfill their calling; to teach our children the way of righteousness; to help marriages stay together; to evangelize the lost; to motivate people for service projects; to give our churches a family feeling.

In all this we bear witness that we do not know what true worship is. Genuine affections for God are an end in themselves. I cannot say to my wife: “I feel a strong delight in you, so that you will make me a nice meal.” That is not the way delight works. It terminates on her. It does not have a nice meal in view…

I do not deny that authentic corporate worship may have a hundred good effects on the life of the church. It will, just like true affection in marriage, make everything better. My point is that to the degree that we do “worship” for these reasons, to that degree it ceases to be authentic worship. Keeping satisfaction in God at the center guards us from that tragedy.” View article…

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Why is Reformed Worship so Serious? III

 

The Transcendence of Worship

And in longing for this rest from our labors we recognize that good liturgy is different because its very essence is that of transcendent. I read a survey recently by George Barna, the church growth guru, on the topic of worship. He reported that there is no correlation in most evangelical worshippers’ minds between enjoying worship and experiencing the presence of God. His reason for saying this? Nearly 66% of regular church attendees say that they have never experienced God’s presence at a church service, while 48% of regular church attendees report that they have not experienced God’s presence in the past year. Of course, not knowing what these people meant by “God’s presence” or “experience” or “worship” makes this a little meaningless. Yet it is a window into what churches are doing and the piety of Christians.

 

I truly believe that we as historic Protestants need to capture the attention and affections of our culture by presenting a worship in which people participate in something larger than themselves in this narcissistic culture. True worship, although in time, at a place, and with people, is not bound to any time, place, or people. Instead, it is the historical outworking of the pattern of heavenly worship. This is why in all historic liturgies we find the sursum corda (Latin, “Lift up your hearts”). We lift up our hearts to the Lord because He dwells in heaven, in eternity; therefore we must worship Him there by going there in our worship. It is while our enemies, the world, the flesh, and the devil, surround us during the week, that we cry out, “To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul” (Ps. 25:1). It is when we are downcast by the ways of the world that we come to worship to say, “Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul” (Ps. 86:4). It is when it seems that there is no purpose in this life and that we have no direction that we attend public worship and say, “Make me know the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul” (Ps. 143:8). It is when we sin and stray like lost sheep that we pray with the corporate assembly, “Let us lift our hearts and hands to God in heaven” (Lam. 4:41).

 

Too many of the visitors (whether truly seekers or merely tourists) in our churches have been captured or captivated by “new measures,” that is, innovations in worship (drama, dance, individual expressions of piety such as “special music,” multi-media, etc.). These things are “strange fire” and have never been done in worship until very recently and only in our American culture.

 

But since biblical religion is theocentric and not anthropocentric, worship is about what God wills for Himself in terms of our glorifying Him with “the glory due his Name” (Ps. 29:2). It is not what we will for God’s reputation (which inevitably ends up being to our own glory), what the Reformers called “will-worship” (Col. 2:22).

 

And because worship concerns the very heart of Christianity and of our piety, we must be driven to Scripture alone, and not to the culture in matters of worship. But unfortunately, going to culture first has been the wisdom of American Evangelicalism. This is why worship is only as important to evangelicals as much as it makes one feel. “Why do you like your church,” we ask? “Because the worship makes me feel so good,” we are told. As one author puts it

 

For the modern evangelical, worship is defined exclusively in terms of the individual’s experience. Worship, then, is not about adoring God but about being nourished with religious feelings, so much so that the worshipper has become the object of worship.2

 

But there must be more than this to the Lord’s house on the Lord’s Day, right? The apostolic Church emphasized worship as an act of obedience, but we see it as an experience. John on Patmos, worshipping all by himself, but the curtain is pulled back and he sees the significance of his worship: he’s joining myriads of heavenly hosts and saints at the throne of the Almighty (cf. Rev. 4-5). Our subjective feelings, whether over the mood of worship or the aesthetic quality of worshipping in a cathedral do not give worship its value. Worship, like faith, is only measured by its object. When our hearts delight in worshipping God, when we focus on His glory, on what He wants, then we will be pleased and be blessed by worship.

 

So because we are meeting with God, to receive His ministry to us, to break the tyrannical pattern of the world, and to join in the eschatological chorus, let us do so with “reverence and godly fear, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28–29).

Notes

1 Michael Horton, “Seekers or Tourists.” Modern Reformation 10:4 (July/August 2001) as found here.

http://www.oceansideurc.org/why-is-reformed-worship-so-ser/

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Why is Reformed Worship so Serious?
© 2004, 2008 by Daniel R. Hyde
Originally published in The Journal of the Church Music National Conference (Winter 2004): 3–6.

Here in San Diego county we have a weekly magazine called The San Diego Reader. It is a magazine primarily concerned with the cultural scene in the county. One aspect of the culture that gets some ink is religion. Until recently, Jewish reporter Mr. Abe Opincar went from house of worship to house of worship every week and would report on that congregation’s history, size, sermon, and worship in his column “Sheep and Goats.” At one point he reviewed a local Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and it’s new “Celebration Service,” which, according to its minister was “not about your personal taste. It’s about outreach. It’s about sharing the Gospel with someone else.” To this Mr. Opincar editorialized:

I wanted to seize Reverend Cansino by his chasuble and rattle him. I wanted to yell at him that PowerPoint displays have already numbed the minds of non-denominational evangelicals. I wanted to drag Reverend Cansino out to Shadow Mountain Community Church, Tim LaHaye’s old roost, to see how hellish and goofy a ‘screen-oriented’ service can be.

As a young, former evangelical myself, these comments resonated with me. In my experience as a Reformed pastor, there are two kinds of people that walk through our doors. There are the primarily baby-boomer evangelicals and there are primarily Gen-X and Net-Gen burned out evangelicals and unbelievers. It’s no surprise, then, that when the former are visitors (or as Michael Horton calls them, “tourists.”1) in our worship services they think we are strange and most never come back; whereas the latter group find us appealing, satisfying mentally and emotionally, precisely because our Lord’s Day liturgy is a 180° difference from what they are accustomed to.

As the only Reformed church in coastal North San Diego County, we revel in our being different than everything else out there, with our Word and Sacrament ministry, historic liturgy, and robe-wearing minister. From the beginning to the end of our worship, we assemble with a marked seriousness, a purpose, a reason why we do what we do. From entering into the presence of God with a time of silent prayer, to corporately confessing our sins and receiving absolution, to reciting the creeds and singing the Psalms, to hearing an Old and New Testament lesson, and culminating in coming forward to receive the bread and wine “from the hand of the minister” (Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 75), Reformed worship is different—seriously different.

 

A Meeting With God
The first thing we ourselves must understand in order to communicate to the “tourist” and unbeliever alike, is that worship is a meeting with the Triune God. It is no trivial matter for which we assemble. Worship in the Bible is a meeting between sinful people and a holy God, between servants and a King. As such to be in the presence of this all-holy King is to keep silence: “the LORD is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him” (Hab. 2:20). To be in the presence of the one true God is to stand on “holy ground” (Ex. 3:5).

What is happening, in Biblical terms, is that we as the LORD’s “treasures possession among all peoples,” the “kingdom of priests,” the “holy nation,” assemble to “encamp[ed] before the mountain” (Ex. 19:5,6,2). We are meeting with the Creator of the universe and the Redeemer of a people. And in the terms of the New Testament we do not come to a physical mountain, but to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Heb. 12:22-24).

Worship is not a time for “hangin’ out with Jesus,(emphasis mine – Keith)” being a part of a great social event, having our numerous needs met as consumers. Instead, it is time in which the infinite, all-holy God of the universe condescends to us in grace and the power of the Holy Spirit through the means of grace.

We see this illumined for us in the terms the Bible itself uses. First, there is the general Hebrew term ‘abodah (“service”), which comes from the same root as ‘ebed (“slave, servant;” Ex. 3:12, 21:1-6, 23:25; Pss. 89:3, 20, 116:16). This is the more general or broad of the two words in the Hebrew Bible for worship which speaks to us as servants of the great King who come to offer Him the service He desires and deserves. In the New Testament we have the verb latreuo and its noun latria (“service, worship;” Acts 7:42, 24:14, 26:7; Rom. 1:9, 2:37, 9:4, 12:1, 15:16; Phil. 3:3; Heb. 8:5, 9:9, 10:2; Rev. 7:15, 22:3).

Most specific to “worship” are the Hebrew histahawa (“prostrate”) and the Greek proskunein (“to fall on the ground in adoration”). Whereas the Hebrew term ‘ebed is used for “serving” the LORD, histahawa is used of the cultus proper, the worship offered to the LORD in accordance with His Word (Gen. 24:52, 27:29, 49:23; 2 Chron. 7:3, 29:29); while proskunein is used to express the honor given to men, but in a peculiar manner, the honor given to God Himself (Matt. 4:9-10, 14:33; Mark 15:19; John 4:21-24; Acts 10:25).

The most specific word is the Greek verb leitourgein and its corresponding noun, leitourgia. This term is used generally in the ancient world for any “service to the community or state; yet it is the specific word used for the official liturgical acts of worship in the Septuagint (LXX) and New Testament (Ex. 28:35, 43; 1 Sam. 2:11, 18, 3:1; Luke 1:23; Acts 13:2; 2 Cor. 9:12; Phil. 2:30; Heb. 9:21, 10:11).

As the worshipping community, we come to serve the Lord by bowing and kneeling (Ps. 95:6). And it is in that posture that we are to “lift up” our eyes “to the LORD our God till he has mercy upon us” (Ps. 123:1-2); we are to “lift up” our hands “to the holy place” (Ps. 134:2). These postures are the outward way we show our inward attitude of utter dependence upon the LORD in worship. We bow down knowing that we deserve nothing; we lift our eyes because it is from heaven that we seek “grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16); we lift our hands because we embrace the LORD and His promises by faith alone.

We see this especially in the book of Hebrews, where we are to “with confidence draw near to the throne of grace” (Heb. 4:16). This confidence is not arrogance. It is a confidence in which we, with our weaknesses, temptations, and sins (Heb. 4:15), come boldly because “we have a great high priest” (Heb. 4:14). Our boldness is in Christ. Our boldness is that because Christ “was heard because of his reverence” (Heb. 5:7) we too will be heard by the Father. Our boldness is that because Christ “offered himself without blemish to God” (Heb. 9:15) we can now worship. Hebrews therefore says that our attitude is boldness in Christ, not flippancy. As well, our worship is to be done with an attitude of reverence. Our attitude is not to be flippant or the all-too-often “come as you are” casualness of modern worship. Instead, our attitude is to be one of “reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:28-29). What Hebrews says about the attitude of our worship is this: recognize that worship is a sacred meeting between you and the Living God.

http://www.oceansideurc.org/why-is-reformed-worship-so-ser/

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The Beauty of Reformed Worship II

The Essence of Reformed Worship

Reformed worship is covenantal. The Form for Baptism used in continental Reformed churches says, “In all covenants there are two parts.” We may also say, “In all covenants there are two parties.” That is not the same thing. The “parties” in the covenant are the Lord and his people. The “parts” are, on the one hand, what the Lord contributes to worship, and, on the other hand, what his people contribute.

This statement must, of course, be further qualified. In the first place, the parties in this covenant are not equals. Therefore, their mutual contributions are not of the same kind or category. The covenant is bestowed upon us as a “testament,” a free and sovereign gift. Love came from God’s side while we were yet enemies. The Lord took, and still takes, the initiative. Thus, in its origin the covenant is unilateral, and it always remains that way. We are always on the receiving end. Even when we give to our God, we give only what we have first received.

Still, in the blessed covenant relationship there is two-way traffic. As a result, the various “elements” of Reformed worship can be divided into two groups: first, those elements that come from the Lord, such as his blessing and his word; second, those that come from us, his people, such as praise and prayer and offerings, but most of all the sacrifice of a repentant and thankful heart.

Conscious partaking in this worship ought to mean for us all that we are fully aware of what is going on. First, we are to be fully aware that we are in the presence of the Lord our God, who is holy. Then, we really receive his blessing; we hear him speak to us and we respond in faith. Finally, we give our sacrifices of thanksgiving to him, and we sing, not just for our own pleasure, but to the glory of his name. This, then, is Reformed worship, and it has to become our worship more and more.

http://www.opc.org/new_horizons/NH02/04d.html

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The Lord is my strength and my Song He has become my salvation. Psalm 118:14

I sing because I’m happy
I sing because my Savior lives
I sing because I am a daughter of the King
I sing because I am love unconditionally
I sing because I am wonderfully made
I sing because in God’s eyes I am beautiful
I sing because I have a God who hears
I sing because I have a God who answers
I sing because I can go behind the veil
I sing because I can worship my Lord and Savior
I sing becasue my God delights in me
I sing because I have peace which surpasses all understanding
I sing because God is God is God!

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The Beauty of Reformed Worship

G. VanDooren


That we call our worship “Reformed” means that it has a specific character (and beauty) in distinction from other forms of worship. Our form of worship finds itself between two “extremes” in a specific respect.

On the one hand, there is Romanist worship, in which not only is the “accursed idolatry” of the Mass (Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 30) central, but for all practical purposes the congregation or laity is passive. It is not even necessary that there be a congregation present! Where the bishop or priest is, busy at the altar, there is the church—even if he is all by himself.

On the other hand, there is independentism in its various forms. This worship all boils down to a gathering of individual believers without special office-bearers. There is only the congregation. Each member may contribute his input. It is a free-for-all. Especially with the enormous growth of the charismatic movement in our time, this kind of “meeting together” is rampant. Many people are attracted to this form of worship, even people with a Reformed background. When you ask them why they turned their back on Reformed worship, the answer usually is, “Because ‘traditional worship’ is too ‘institutionalized.’ There is too little participation by the congregation. The church service is a ‘one-man business’ without any room for spontaneous expression of what lives in one’s heart.” And thus they seek a place where there is still something of the life of the early Christian church, as they see it. We must admit that at times there is some truth to allegations of a lack of vitality in our churches, but only because we so readily forget and fall short of the genius of Reformed worship.

Thus, Reformed worship is found between those two extremes—one where only the priest is active; the other where only the congregation is active. What then is the specific essence and form of Reformed worship?

http://www.opc.org/new_horizons/NH02/04d.html

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Elizabeth writes… Today I noticed a local church sign announcing their service times as “Traditional Service – 8:00 am; Contemporary Services – 9 and 10:30 am.” I chuckled inside as I contemplated the idea of a traditional service in a church tradition that has only existed since the early 1900s. I’m sure they are referring more to the style of music than anything else in their labeling of services as traditional or contemporary.  View article…

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