The Why of Worship

Let me start with a couple of things…  First, I am talking to Christians here, believers in the Triune God who is revealed in Scripture. If you do not have Christ you do not worship God. You cannot have God the Father outside God the Son. Jesus said that, not me. (John 14:6)

 Second, we are to gather together for particular worship. I am not talking about the idea of sanctified living, where everything we do is before the face of God. While that is true it does not make everything worship, for if everything is worship then nothing is.

 This series hopes to get into the details of why Providence Church in Pensacola does what it does as a body of believers gathered for a particular purpose. It is true that we live before Him 24/7, but in that living God requires that we set aside a time for the weighty, glorious labor of worship.

 So, with that in mind let proceed:

 Worship is a heavenly duty.

 God calls us to assemble in His presence, and thus the task of worship is both a serious and joyful duty. In light of this, every effort should be made to prepare oneself and, if applicable, one‘s family for the worship service. What we experience with God‘s people on the Lord‘s Day should not be confused with our other, normal activities. This is aspecial time the Lord has set aside to meet with His people.

 The Apostles gathered with believers on the first day of the week to hear preaching and to break bread: Acts 20:7 “On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight.”

 They urged the Saints to gather regularly:  Hebrews 10:19-25 19 Therefore, brothers since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through she curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 As we worship we are brought, like John on Patmos, into God’s presence: Revelation 1 and 4. Joy is found in the presence of God. Come let us worship and bow down and kneel before the YAHWEH  our maker (Psalm 95:6). Heavenly duty indeed!

Back in Bid’ness

I was happier when I wrote stuff down… I was even happier when you read it and provided feedback. May both happen with some regularity again.

Here is what I have planned… To start this puppy up again I am going to write about the worship service at Providence Church in Pensacola, FL, the Church where Uri Brito and I pastor.  Why do we do the things we do and what does it mean for the life of the world.   You can find a copy of our Order of Worship here:  Order of Worship August 28th 2011. It is a tri-fold so start reading in the right hand column and then flip over to continue. 

I believe this series will last a bunch of weeks with a couple posts per week.  Give it a read and let me know what you think.

God Bless,

al sends

At The Right Hand Of God…

…  Jesus Christ ascended.

The Church remembered Jesus’ Ascension on Thursday and many worshiped around this theme on Sunday.  I want to think about why this is such a good thing for the Church and this is me doing that thinking  – – out loud, if you will…

Jesus sat down at the ‘right hand’ of God upon his ascension. This is a position of a priest before God; in this case our High Priest, who is anointed by God for the work of intercession.  The right side  of the body is where work gets done, biblically speaking.  In  Ex. 29 and Lev. 8 the priest was anointed for service by the placing of blood on the right-hand side of his body.

Leviticus 8:22 Then he presented the other ram, the ram of ordination, and Aaron and his sons laid their hands on the head of the ram. 23 And he killed it, and Moses took some of its blood and put it on the lobe of Aaron’s right ear and on the thumb of his right hand and on the big toe of his right foot.

So, Jesus is at God’s right hand making intercession for us (his head, hands and feet bloodied for service).   Always the right hand.  See the book Hebrews for Jesus’ place at the right hand of God as Priest.

In Leviticus chapter 14, God gives the priest direction for cleansing a leper for worship.

Lev 14:14-18

14 The priest shall take some of the blood of the trespass offering, and the priest shall put it on the tip of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot. 15 And the priest shall take some of the log of oil, and pour it into the palm of his own left hand. 16 Then the priest shall dip his right finger in the oil that is in his left hand, and shall sprinkle some of the oil with his finger seven times before the Lord. 17 And of the rest of the oil in his hand, the priest shall put some on the tip of the right ear of him who is to be cleansed, on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot, on the blood of the trespass offering. 18 The rest of the oil that is in the priest’s hand he shall put on the head of him who is to be cleansed. So the priest shall make atonement for him before the Lord.

Notice the importance of the right hand.  In that service the Priest puts blood and oil on the right ear, thumb and toe of one who is to be cleansed.  A mini-priestly ordination, fitting the man for service.  The cleansed one is then forgiven of his sins by God, he is new and is to go out clean.   The priest takes his right hand and anoints the right side of the penitent sinner/leper.

Why is that important for us?   Well, Jesus now holds  the Church in His right hand.  (Rev. 1 and 2) and He gives His message to the Church through His angels.  It appears that the Church, specifically her Angels (messengers, pastors), is in some way an intercessory body before the Triune God. 

Jesus is at the right hand of God, praying for the Church.  The Church is at Jesus’ right hand we pray for the world, her governments and people.  We are intercessors bringing the world before the Lord.   The Angels (messengers) of the Church apply the “blood of the Lamb” and the glad oil of the Word to those who are guilty and those members of the household of faith walk out clean…

What do you think?

al sends

On Certain Forms of Contemporary Worship…

Robert Rayburn writes:

There is a familiarity, an ease, almost a glibness toward God in this worship that communicates to no one that he is a consuming fire, or that he is angry with the wicked every day, or that his eyes are too pure to behold iniquity, or that he will by no means clear the guilty, or that he dwells in unapproachable light, surrounded by a glory that no man has seen or can see. In this man-centered worship, in this worship that partakes of the atmosphere of a sales convention, the divine grace and love inevitably become mere niceness, almost politeness, not the astonishing stoop down to the unworthy and hell-deserving sinners that the Bible reveals us to be. And in that worship the cross absolutely must become considerably less than the torture and terror and the humiliation and the disgrace and the abasement of the Son of God that was absolutely required to pay the price of our sin and guilt and so satisfy the demands of God’s holiness in order that we might be saved. The cross must be lightened up. You can’t have anything that grim in a meeting whose spirit and atmosphere are so blithe and cheerful, in many ways so secular.

The Psalm-less Church…

…  singing, “Jesus is my Boyfriend” since at least 1950.

Rev. James Jordan wondered aloud the other day about the marvel that is the Psalm-less 20th/21st century Church.  What has come about in the last century to make the singing of Psalms in worship a rarity?  I have a couple of thoughts…

First, I believe this is a leadership problem (myself included).  Where are the singing theologians?   Did they just fall off the planet?  I am sure they are out there, they have just been silenced.  How were they silenced?

Perhaps you can guess this, but let me ask you, how many music courses are required for an MDiv degree in our Reformed Seminaries?

In one of the most respected Seminaries (at least I respect it) Westminster Theological Seminary’s MDiv Pastoral Ministry Track has no specific “worship music” requirement.  There is a requirement in the third year for a class called “Worship.”  Here is part of the description for that one semester hour class:

Topics covered include biblical-theological foundations of worship,

the directive principle of worship as outlined in the Westminster

Standards, the role of the means of grace in worship, contextualization and worship, music and worship, and contemporary issues with regard to worship. (PT 372 – Worship)

Contrast that with the following:

Expository Skills – 2 hours, Hermeneutics – 4 hours, Gospel Communication – 2 hours, and Sermon Delivery – 2 hours.

Let me just say we make some fine preachers at our Seminaries and thank God for that, but you can clearly see why that is.  We assign time to what we value.  (As far as I can tell, Knox Theological Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary are not any different)

Next, music has become a symphonic-masturbatory exercise in our culture and this lazy pleasure has made it difficult to see the benefit of hard work in worship singing.  We use ear buds and our MP3 players to isolate ourselves from the community of singers.  All singing is perfectly complete without us.  Our voices are not required to complete the piece, it is just easy.

Third, the result of the above means that we (the congregation of the Lord) have forgotten how to sing together. The Psalms are not an easy genre to master and if we are lazy and lack leadership the “how-to” of singing the Psalms is going to be difficult.

But listen, it is doable and we should encourage our pastors in this direction.  If for no other reason than this…  The Bible declares that we are to ‘Psalm God’ in our singing.

1 Chron 16:8-9

8 Oh, give thanks to the LORD!

Call upon His name;

Make known His deeds among the peoples!

9 Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him;

Talk of all His wondrous works!

We can make known the deeds of God in our hymns, and we should, but He put songs into the mouths of His people long ago and to strive for mastery over our own creation, while leaving His alone seems a bit off.

Here are a couple of helpful sites for recapturing the Psalms for worship:

The Genevan Psalter online! Michael Owens has done a wonderful job putting all 150 Psalms online.  You can even listen to them sung in harmony.

An interview with Michael Owens. Our own Uri Brito brings Michael Owens onto the radio-blog to discuss the history of Psalm singing and Michael’s efforts at reformation in this area.

For the pastors our there… how about picking one Psalm and practicing it with your congregation before or after worship.  Then sing it for one month.  Next month pick a different Psalm and repeat.  Soon your Church will have several of them in their repertoire and they will be placing the word of the Lord in their hearts and minds.

May it be for the Glory of God even as He blesses to a thousand generations

al sends