Category Archives: Worship

Praise ye the LORD.

Save us, O LORD our God, and gather us from among the heathen, to give thanks unto Thy holy name, and to triumph in Thy praise. Blessed be the LORD God of Israel from everlasting to everlasting: and let all the people say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.   Psalm 106.47-48

Words of praise and thankfulness unto God have always typified His people. He is our Maker, the Source of our existence, the Benefactor of our blessings, the Savior of our souls. It is deserving that He should be remembered with reverence and thanksgiving.

Paul told the Colossian brethren that one of the characteristics of walking in Christ is to be abundant in thanksgiving (2.6-7). Likewise, to the Ephesians he said, “Giving thanks always for all things to God…” (5.20).

The Bible tells us the crowning achievement of God’s creation was mankind. Everything that was made was made for us. With our unique and divinely-ordained intellect, the earth and all that is in it was given into our care and subjection (Genesis 1.28).

For the Christian there are just no words quite adequate to describe the thrilling experience of life. Yea, even those moments fraught with pain, disappointment, sorrow, and tears are beneficial and necessary for us. They make us complete, enabling us to be happy and joyful through all the uncertainties attendant to this life. So with the psalmist we may say, Amen. Praise ye the LORD.

– grace to you all and peace, Bill

 

The Secret Place

There is a place where thou canst say, “Arise”
To dying captives, bound in chains of night;
There is a place – upon some distant shore –
Where thou canst send the worker and the Word.
Where is that secret place – dost thou ask, “Where?”
O soul, it is the secret place of prayer!
   ~ Alfred Lord Tennyson

Prayer grants us entrance into the Holy of Holies. Prayer is a privilege that lifts us above the clamoring noise of the world and transports us into the very presence of the Majesty on High. The amazing thing about prayer is that God requires no prescribed style or form, no mantras to be repeated over and over by rote. He simply calls us to bring ourselves before Him just as we are!

There is no pretentiousness with God. We can’t fool Him. He knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our hearts and the intentions of our hearts. Prayer is the secret place where we can go and unburden our souls before the One who knows all our burdens and invites us to cast them upon Him (1 Peter 5.7).

In his book on prayer, Richard Foster says prayer is ordinary people bringing ordinary concerns to a loving and compassionate Father…no pretense to be more holy, more pure or saintly than we are… To believe that God can reach us and bless us in the ordinary junctures of daily life is the stuff of prayer…the only place God can bless us is right where we are, because that is the only place we are!

 – grace to you all and peace, Bill

 

The Innumerable Stars

Our Sun is an UY_Scuti_zoomed_in,_Rutherford_Observatory,_07_September_2014.jpeg“average” star, so it provides a good example for descriptive purposes. It’s an immense ball of seething gasses, 864,000 miles in diameter, nearly four times the earth-to-the-moon distance. If it could be hollowed out like a pumpkin, a million planet earths could easily fit inside. But the sun isn’t hollow. Instead, an internal temperature of millions of degrees results from its furnace of nuclear reactions.

This incredible energy production goes on day and night, summer and winter. Only one billionth of the sun’s energy output actually hits the earth. The rest streams off into all directions of space. In just one second, the sun releases more energy than mankind has produced since the creation. The dramatic energy output of the sun illustrates what’s going on at this very moment throughout the entire universe. There is no shortage of energy on the part of these beautiful lights in the night sky, “the work of [God’s] fingers” (Psalm 8.3).

On a clear moonless night about 3,000 stars (suns) are visible to the unaided eye; a pair of binoculars will increase that number to around 100,000. But that’s just the beginning. The stars we see are all in our corner of the Milky Way galaxy, a galaxy of 100 billion stars, in a universe of 100 billion galaxies!

Taking the Milky Way as an average galaxy, the total number of stars is thus (100 billion)² = (10ˡˡ)² = 10²². The estimated number of stars is 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, when the number is written out.

If these stars were divided up among the world’s 7 billion inhabitants, each person would receive 1,425 trillion stars! Yet all these stars may be only one page in God’s catalog of the heavens. New instruments continue to probe deeper and deeper into space, with no end in sight. It’s beginning to appear that there are actually an infinite number of stars.

What an excellent way for the Creator to display His glory! Whatever the number He’s created, God calls the stars by name and keeps count of them.

 – Donald B. DeYoung, Astronomy and the Bible

 

“To whom then will you liken Me
That I would be his equal?” says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes on high
And see who has created these stars,
The One who leads forth their host by number,
He calls them all by name;
Because of the greatness of His might and the strength of His power,
Not one of them is missing.

Isaiah 40.25-26

 

 

A Thanksgiving Prayer

I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses all knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever. Amen.

 – Paul (Ephesians 3.14-21)

 

Making Worship More Enjoyable

For many Christians, the worship assembly feels like a “duty,” in the worst sense of the word. Coming to the worship assembly is something they feel they must do, but not something they enjoy doing. This has left many saying, “It shouldn’t be this way; worship should be enjoyable!”

I wholeheartedly agree! But I’m afraid the way many are trying to make worship more enjoyable is resulting in making worship shallow, meaningless, and not even worship at all.

Why Worship Should Be Enjoyable

Praising God with our Christian family should be the thing we find more enjoyable than any other. It should be something we look forward to all week long. It should be our joy and delight.

This is true for the same reason that the night a football team wins a big game, the fans can’t wait to talk to one another about the big win. They call each other on the phone, they post about it on social media, and when they see each other in person, they excitedly say, “Can you believe it?! Wasn’t that incredible?!” They enjoy talking about it almost as much as they enjoyed watching the game in the first place.

Everyone who has ever enjoyed something knows this feeling. When we’re on a great vacation, we almost can’t wait for it to be over so we can get home, tell people about it, and show them the pictures. When we have a great meal, we can’t wait to share with someone how great it was.

In fact, we could say, half the enjoyment is found in expressing our enjoyment. Isn’t it frustrating and disappointing to experience something great, but yet be unable to share it with someone? C.S. Lewis wrote about this, saying, “We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment.”

When we truly enjoy God for who He is then we will be longing, aching, dying to sing out to someone, “Isn’t God awesome?!” And when they answer back, “Yes! Yes, He is awesome!” we experience the greatest pleasure available in this life.

What We Don’t Need to Change

But when people don’t experience the pleasure we intuitively know worship should bring, they often try to manufacture it through artificial means. They adjust the lighting, update the music style, incorporate drama and skits, use video and other technology, all in an effort to manipulate people’s emotions and “help them enjoy worship.”

But is this even worship? Are those who are enjoying this experience really enjoying God or are they simply enjoying an entertaining show? If it takes a change in lighting – or a change in music style – for you to enjoy sharing with your church family how great God is, maybe you need to stop and ask yourself if what you’re doing can even be called “worship.”

Worship comes from a heart that has been stirred by the goodness of God – as revealed through the Gospel – and NOT by a heart that has been manipulated by dimmed lights and talented performers.

What We DO Need to Change

If we want to make worship more enjoyable, here is what we do need to change…our hearts! We need to fill our hearts with the “word of Christ” so it dwells within us “richly” and then we’ll be able to, “[sing] psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God” (Colossians 3:16).

When we daily allow God to reveal Himself to us through the “word of Christ,” then our enjoyment grows and grows throughout the week, finally being completed when we assemble to, “[address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [our] hearts to God” (Ephesians 5:19). And this weekly assembly is just the foretaste of the great assembly that will gather around God’s throne in heaven to enjoy Him forever!

Sadly, many of us don’t think of the worship assembly in this way. We don’t look forward to it. We’re not longing, aching, and dying to come together with our church family and sing to another, “Our God is an awesome God.” Some are content to simply show up and say, “I’ve done my duty.”

But God is not honored by the praise of people who do not enjoy Him. If we don’t enjoy worship, we don’t need to change the music or the lights, we need to change our hearts. We need to start enjoying God every moment of every day, and then we will desperately long for our enjoyment to be completed by praising Him with our church family.

 – Wes McAdams, Radically Christian

 

What Is the Lord’s Supper?

One of the most distinctive traits of our fellowship is the weekly observance of the Lord’s Supper. The name is derived from Scripture itself, “When you meet together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat” (1 Corinthians 11.20).

There is no specific time given in the New Testament for observing the Lord’s Supper. Our practice of having the Lord’s Supper each week follows the example of the church in Troas when the brethrenon the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread” (Acts 20.7).

During the Middle Ages, the Catholic Church declared the doctrine of transubstantiation, that is when the priest blesses the bread, by a miracle the bread is transferred into the actual body of the Lord and the cup into His literal blood, despite the fact that it still looks and tastes like bread and wine.

Both Luther and Zwingli rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation but differed over the meaning of the phrase “this is My body.” Luther insisted it be taken literally. Just as heat is in the iron, so in the same way Jesus is present in the emblems of the Lord’s Supper, a view known as consubstantiation.

Zwingli taught that the sentence is a metaphor which should be understood as “this signifies My body.” Jesus was present in person when He said to His disciples, “this is My body”; the disciples would not have understood that statement to be literal. The verb “is” can mean “represents” as in the application of the parable in Matthew 13.38, The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one.” We view the bread and the fruit of the vine as emblems representing the body and blood of Jesus.

These issues of detail are significant, but not as significant as what the ceremony actually means. The Lord’s Supper is a memorial of the death of Jesus – “Do this in remembrance of Me” (Luke 22.19; 1 Corinthians 11.24-25).

We also refer to Lord’s Supper as communion because it is observed communally as a symbol of unity of the Lord’s people, because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10.17). As we eat the Lord’s Supper together we are professing our common belief that Jesus of Nazareth is God’s only begotten Son and the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Communion is a proclamation. We show forth the Lord’s death and suffering, proclaiming to the world each week what happened twenty-one centuries ago. Jesus, the Son of God, was sacrificed on a Roman cross to redeem us from our sins.

Communion is an act of anticipation. We show forth the Lord’s death until He comes. When we eat the Lord’s Supper together we are affirming our belief that this world is only a temporary habitation and that He is coming again to take us to an eternal dwelling He has prepared for us (John 14.1-3).

Maranatha!Our Lord, come!” (1 Corinthians 16.22).

– Bill

(Jack P. Lewis, Basic Beliefs, 167-174)