Tag Archives: God

Holy

by Matt Redman, Jason Ingram, Jonas Myrin

Verse 1
What heart could hold the weight of Your love
And know the heights of Your great worth
What eyes could look on Your glorious face
Shining like the sun
(REPEAT)

Chorus 1
You are holy holy holy
God most high and God most worthy
You are holy holy holy
Jesus You are Jesus You are
(Jesus You are Jesus You are)

Verse 2
Your name alone has pow’r to raise us
Your light will shine when all else fades
Our eyes will look on Your glorious face
Shining like the sun
Who is like You God

Misc 1
(BRIDGE)
Who shall we say You are
You’re the living God
Who shall we say You are
You’re the Great I Am
The highest name of all
You’re all You say You are

Verse 3
And You will come again in glory
To judge the living and the dead
All eyes will look on Your glorious face
Shining like the sun
Who is like You God

In scripture we are instructed by the psalmist.

Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength! Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring and offering, and come into His courts. Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness, tremble before him, all the earth. Psalm 96:7-9

This instruction means for us to acknowledge out-loud the attributes of our creator God – to give him the credit, respect and honor he deserves because of his character.  So in this song we attribute or ascribe several things to God and we do this as one body, a family.  Here is what we are ascribing to the Lord in this song;

  • Holiness (You are Holy)
  • Power (your name has power to raise us)
  • Glory (all eyes will look on your glorious face)
  • Great love (what heart could hold the weight)
  • Great worth (or know the heights)
  • And in case we miss anything we declare (You’re ALL you say you are)

As we ascribe to the Lord the glory due him, we also declare that this is true of his Son, Jesus.  Jesus demonstrated these things to be true in his life, death and resurrection.  He showed to us the character of the Father.  So we are indeed singing of Jesus, the God-man when we sing to the Lord.  After asking his disciples “Who do people say that I am?” he asked a more personal question.  “Who do you say that I am?”  Matt Redman’s song Holy gives us the opportunity to answer that question in unity singing, “You’re the living God,” “You’re the great I AM.”

As you worship the living God this Sunday may your worship be a sweet sweet sound to his ear, and may your singing be an extension of your obedient life.  This is our reasonable offering.

Advertisements

Don’t Tell Me How to Love God

To many, the term worship has become a smorgasbord-word and the definition varies with each individual according to how they fill their plate.  Successful worship then is judged according to how the song arrangements makes them feel.  To allow more people to “feel” like successful worshipers, we ask pastors and worship leaders to become short-order cooks and prepare only the favorite dishes week after week.  We might be extremely disciplined in our physical diets because of our desire to live healthy lives, but when it comes to the spiritual we only want what tastes good.  Caught in the trap of this mindset we reject any disagreeable exhortation from fellow worshipers.  We think it a comfortable compromise to say “You love God in your way and let me love Him in my way.”

Matthew 22:37-39 is referenced a lot as a foundation for building a healthy worship philosophy.  I’ve used it many times when leading worship.  Most worship leaders, if asked for a two word definition for worship would very likely answer “Loving God.”

“Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important; ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” Matt 22:37-39 NLT

This is an important statement by Christ and because we acknowledge that Christ is the Son of God, we know that this greatest commandment is God revealing what He expects of us, His people.  But what does it mean to love God with all our heart, soul and mind? Is He talking about feeling love toward God? If I have a happy feeling about God does that mean I am worshiping? Though our God is Righteous, I can’t see Him warning us that we’ve “Lost that lovin’ feelin’.” Would we dare to define true worship with the words of Blue Swede -“Hooked on  a Feeling?”

There’s more to it than just feeling love for God.  Worship isn’t meant to be passive.  It’s active.  Over and over again Christ reminded His disciples that they should obey.   John 14:5 relay’s Jesus’ instruction most clearly “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” How do we love God? WE OBEY.  This is successful worship.

Obedience is a worship dish that is best served hot!  We don’t go at this obedience half-hearted.  And we don’t with grumbling in our spirit.  We serve God with a glad heart and with our whole heart.  It is our desire to demonstrate our love to God that should motivate our obedience.  It’s easy to obey when there is a reward, but what if our obedience was simply obedience.  My kids are much more obedient when they know they are earning a special privileged or if they know that Christmas is getting close.  This obedience demonstrates a love of self.  We are all guilty of this when it comes to our worship.

I have had occasions in the middle of leading worship when I sing a lyric such as “all of you is more than enough for me” and I know that I haven’t lived as if that were true. While I keep singing, I begin to pray in my heart and repent from the times I’ve lived for myself rather than for God.  If all of Jesus is more than enough for us then we demonstrate this by pursuing him with relentless obedience motivated in love.


A Bit About Blogging

After took a break from blogging during the month of July, I heard from many of you who read my blog.  Thank you for asking me when the next blog would come and for encouraging me with your kind comments.  I would love to hear from you in the comment section and benefit from your voice in the conversation.

Blogging is not easy.  I enjoy writing and fleshing out my thoughts, but believe me when I tell you that it takes constant discipline on my part to sit down at the computer, take the ideas spinning around in my head and organize them into, what I hope to be, a clear and useful blog post.  With my six week blogging hiatus behind me, I need to remind myself again what it is that I hope to accomplish with the Schoeneblog and why I started the blog in the first place.

My hopes and dreams for the Schoeneblog:

  1. As I post weekly about Christian worship, I hope that the process of meditating on and articulating scriptural truths about worship will make me a better worshiper and a better worship leader.
  2. I would like the Schoeneblog to be a place for conversations about worship, both personal and corporate.
  3. I hope that the ideas shared here will aid readers in their personal growth and help shape the way they think about worshiping God.
  4. As readers add their comments to the blog, I hope to discover from them resources and ideas I would otherwise miss.
 
 
Do you read other blogs about worship?
What other blogs to you read?
What do you seek to gain when you read the Schoeneblog and other blogs like it?
If you are a blogger, why do you blog?

Happy Dependence Day

 

Wednesday we will celebrate the anniversary of when the United States first declared its independence from the oppressive empire of Britain.  (This is history, not politics.)  In contrast, every Sunday, as believers we celebrate our dependence on Jesus Christ.  The United States, at its very foundation, gained its freedom by declaring itself sovereign then fighting and winning a war for liberty. As believers, we recognize Christ as our sovereign.  We trust in the battle that Christ won on our behalf; His death on the cross a substitute for our sin, His resurrection from the dead that we might have life.

The slave does not remain in the house forever, the son remains forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:35-36

In this word picture, Jesus explains why He, the Son of God, had to be the One to pay the debt of sin owed by humanity.  We are all slaves to sin because of our sin nature.  We owe a debt that we cannot pay.  As slaves, we do not have authority over sin.  We cannot break its power over us by our mere, limited words.  But Jesus could pay our debt and He did.  And after paying our debt, Jesus as God’s Son, has the authority to declare us free!  And He does, to all who believe in Him and call upon His name!

Christ is the One who has made us free!  Let us celebrate our dependence on Him.

This post originally appeared in “The Connection.”  The Sunday morning publication of First Southern Baptist Church Lawrence.

 


From The Inside Out

From The Inside Out

by Joel Houston

Verse 1
A thousand times I’ve failed
Still Your mercy remains
And should I stumble again
Still I’m caught in Your grace
Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never-ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

Verse 2
Your will above all else
My purpose remains
The art of losing myself
In bringing You praise
Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never-ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame

Pre-Chorus
In my heart in my soul
Lord I give You control
Consume me from the inside out Lord
Let justice and praise
Become my embrace
To love You from the inside out

Chorus 1
Everlasting
Your light will shine when all else fades
Never-ending
Your glory goes beyond all fame
And the cry of my heart
Is to bring You praise
From the inside out
Lord my soul cries out

This song by Joel Houston and Hillsong has gotten a lot of play on christian radio lately.  And I hope congregations are singing these words as a “healthy part of a balanced worship.”  At FSBC Lawrence, this song is our theme song for our “What Is God Searching for?” summer sermon series.

In this summer series we have taken on the challenge of living out the christian life so that the world sees Christ as he truly is and not the “stereotype” of christian the world has gotten to know in recent years.  We will look at several attributes demonstrated by Christ, but our underlying theme is that Christ is the one who changes us “from the inside out.”

Moralism would have us believe that we please God but simply living good, moral lives.  But moralism is a false Gospel.  The picture we are given in the gospel is one of surrender.  According to the gospel it is not possible for us to live good lives.  In fact even our very best effort, which Isaiah calls “our righteous deeds,” are no cleaner than “filthy rags.”

“We are all infected and impure with sin.  When we display our righteous deeds, they are nothing but filthy rags. Like autumn leaves, we wither and fall, and our sins sweep us away like the wind.” Isaiah 64:6

It is important to recognize first that we can not change our behavior by simply “pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps.” We can only be changed by the person of Christ.  When we fully surrender, He comes in and begins a new work in us that changes us “from the inside out.”  In the words of Paul…

“My old self has been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  So I live in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20

The church has a responsibility to instruct and encourage the body to live rightly before God and to live our lives as a testimony to a rebellious world.  But as we offer such instruction, we must always be clear that changing our moral behavior is not the means or the end. Rather it is the follow through, and obedience, of a heart that has already surrendered to the Savior.

Only Jesus Christ can save and redeem us.  Logic follows that only Jesus Christ can than transform our lives, “From the Inside Out.”


Do I Care What Others Think?

When it comes to corporate worship we can’t escape the fact that we are in the presence of others.  Wherever we sit or stand, we are surrounded by other worshipers. (And non-worshipers) In a world where image is everything, do we concern ourselves too much with what others think, when we should be focusing on God?

“What if they see me crying?”

“If I raise my hands, they will judge me.”

“Remember to turn the offering envelope upside down, so no one sees what I give.”

“Nobody complimented my shoes!”

“If I put the envelope in slowly, everyone can see how much I give.”

With the popularity of social media formats such as facebook, twitter and pintrest, etc… we are more concerned than ever before about maintaining an acceptable image.  Haven’t we taken this image conscious mindset to an unhealthy level?  Social media can be a great place to interact with friends, but in our humanness, we tend to only put forth the image we want others to see and we hide our real selves. I’m sure this isn’t true all of the time, but it’s true enough of the time.

Does this same tendency toward image influence our corporate worship?  Scripture teaches that God is the audience of our worship, not others.  When we make God alone our audience, we will care less about maintaining our image in front of others.  The next time you participate in corporate worship set aside the image you want others to see and lay your life open before God.

When we drop the image facade, our worship can be a testimony.  Let us be Spirit and Truth worshipers who enter His presence without our masks and worship the Savior without pretense.


Nostrum – Chapter One – Up The River

nos·trum  [nos-truhm]

noun

1.a medicine sold with false or exaggerated claims and with no demonstrable value; quack medicine.
2.a scheme, theory, device, etc., especially one to remedy social or political ills; panacea.
3.a medicine made by the person who recommends it.
4.a patent medicine.
Origin:
1595–1605;  < Latin nostrum  our, ours (neuter singular of noster ); referring to the seller’s calling the drug “our” drug

 

1.

Up The River

Two years ago…

Reuben stood on the pontoon of his seaplane and shouted across the water toward the shore, where his brother, Parker was loading one of the canoes.

“Parker! If you’re going to take so long loading that canoe, throw me a piece of fruit or something.  I’m starving!” Reuben issued the challenge.

He saw Parker smirk and pull an aguaje from a sack in the canoe.  Parker stood up straight on the bank of the Amazon and slowly lifted his head until he could see Reuben just under the bill of his camouflage San Diego Padres baseball cap.

Reuben reached behind and grabbed his catcher’s mitt from under the passenger’s seat of the airplane.  “Come on Parker, just like old times.” He whispered.

Reuben held his mitt up and waited as Parker nodded and pulled the fruit up to his chest. “1… 2… 3” Reuben whispered then suddenly flinched as Parker spun through his wind up in a flash.  Reuben barely saw the aguaje before it splattered into his mitt.

You still got it, Parker. Reuben thought to himself, but said out loud. “You still tip your pitches!”

“You flinched!” Parker shot back.

Reuben stood, tossed the catcher’s mitt back into plane and took a bite of the bruised aquaja. As He waited for Parker to bring the loaded canoe out to the plane, he watched Parker and his family say goodbye to the Amazonians they served and loved.

 

“Daddy, I don’t want to go.  I feel fine now.” Lydia pleaded.

“Lydia, it will only be for a week.  We can’t take any chances.” Parker replied.

 

“I’ll be so glad when this trip is over.  What if the cancer has come back, Parker? What then?”  Jeane said to her husband doing little to conceal her emotions.

“We’ll pray it hasn’t, but even if it has, God brought her through it once and He can do it again.  Our God is good.”  Parker said to Jeane.  It was the health of their only daughter, nine year old Lydia, that weighed heavy on their heart.  It was also the reason they had to make this emergency trip and leave their remote mission field.

“Don’t worry, mommy, I’m fine.  I know it.” Lydia tried to comfort her mother, still trying to convince her parents to cancel the trip to the Pelo.

Lydia’s cancer had gone into remission almost eighteen months ago. This was a miracle and had allowed them to return to their missionary work in the Amazon Rainforest after less than a year hiatus.

“Alright ladies, let’s say goodbye.”  Parker prompted.

As they spoke, they were joined on the bank by several villagers, whom they now acknowledged with handshakes and hugs.  A short man, the tribe’s leader, leaned in and said something to Parker.

“Thank you, Ake.  You are a good friend.  We will pray for you as well.  If the news is good, we will return in ten days.  If the news is bad, we will send word back with Reuben.” Parker replied.

God had answered the prayers of Parker and Jeane Long once before and spared the life of their nine year old daughter. Now, standing on the banks of the river, they loaded their belongings into a couple canoes and rowed out to the seaplane.

“Bro, help Lydia up to me, then start with the big suitcase first.” Reuben instructed.

“Here we go, Lydia.” Parker helped Lydia up to the door of the seaplane.

“I’m so glad you’re here Reuben, you truly are a God send.” Parker said as he grabbed Reuben’s hand and shook it.

“Where else would I be?” Reuben quipped, then lifted a much bruised fruit to his mouth, took a bite and smiled.  “Now hand me the rest of the bags and let’s get this plane off the water and in the air.”

The village of these native people, whom Parker and Jeane served, sat on the edge of the Amazon river, two to three days deep into the heart of the rainforest.  The trip out would be much quicker by plane.  By the end of the day tomorrow Lydia would be to a hospital where doctors could scan her abdomen and confirm whether or not the tumor had returned.

In the six months since their return, they had left the rainforest once every four to five weeks as a break for Lydia and to see Rueben.  This time it had been longer because they worried the long trip would take a toll on Lydia.  Instead they sent a message for Reuben with a fishing boat headed down stream, with instructions for Rueben to come for them in his seaplane.  But, Reuben wasn’t there to receive the note.  He was already on his way. He knew, somehow he knew to fly to the remote village and bring his family out.  He always seemed to know when family needed him.

Parker, Jeane and little Lydia were the only family he had left.  Their widowed mother had passed away only 5 years ago.  Cancer. Reuben hated the disease. He was the only one left to care for their mother and he watched as she turned from a vibrant, fully alive saint, into a sickly and humiliated shadow of herself.  After her death, he traveled back to the Amazon to be close to the only family he had left.

After the last bag was loaded, Reuben reached his hand down to Parker and helped him up into the plane.  Then he pulled up the anchor and closed the door.

“Everybody strap in” Reuben checked the map one more time. He had flown into Pelo before, but only from his base which was on the edge of the Amazon.  From there it was as simple as following the coast, but flying over the rainforest would be more complicated, especially during this season, when insect swarms could force him to change his route.  He closed the map and set it beside his pilot seat, started the engine and the propeller began to whir.

“What’s the deal? Nobody wants to sit up front with Uncle Reuben?” Reuben directed his glance backward toward Lydia.

“If it’s alright Uncle Reuben, I’d like to sit back here with mom and dad this time.”  Lydia said, placing her left arm around Jeane’s shoulders and her right arm around Parker’s.

“Well I’m sure you have your reasons, I’ll try not to feel too hurt.” Reuben wiped a fake tear from his cheek.  “If you change your mind, you’ll have to wait until we are in the air.”  Rueben said as he flipped a few more switches and checked the gauges.  Then he pulled back on the throttle and the engines began to roar. The seaplane crept forward with the current.

“Hang on” Reuben instructed.

The plane sped down the river, then slowly pulled away from the water and lifted into the air. Reuben turned the plane and rose across the trees as they gained elevation.  Minutes into the flight, Reuben saw something unusual rise up from the trees below.  First it looked like a simple column of smoke from a village fire pit, or some explores’ campsite, but thicker.  Then it changed shape and no longer appeared as a column but more like a black cloud.  It twisted and rolled as it grew closer to them.

“It’s a swarm!” Reuben gasped.

“Hold on!”  Reuben shouted and then pulled back drastically to gain altitude over the swarm, but they were too close.

The plane sped directly at the center of the swarm.  The aircraft ripped a whole in the middle of the buzzing sphere as the propeller sawed through the insects, spraying bug juice onto the window in front of Reuben.

He switched on the wipers, but they did little to help as more insects splattered onto the glass. Reuben held the plane on a steady course until they passed through the cloud of insects. Then he rolled down his side window, grabbed a handkerchief from his back pocket and reached around to the outside of the window.  With his handkerchief, Reuben smeared around on the glass until he had cleared a small circle directly in front of his vision.

“What was that uncle?” Lydia asked with panic in her little voice.

“A swarm of bugs.  Wasps, I think.  I’ve never seen them swarm like that.  I’m going to have to land the plane and clean off this windshield before we can go any further.”

Reuben stuck his head out the side window and spotted the river to his left, then he turned the plane and began the descent downward toward the ancient river.   Normally he would have flown above the river to line up the plane but his vision was too obscured by the bug residue.   He would attempt to descend the plane and at the same time angle it toward the river.  His only visibility was through his side window and that small smudge of a circle he’d smeared in front of him.

The plane dropped lower and lower and closer to the tree line.  At the last minute they cleared the trees and the plane swung level out over the river, Reuben straightened the plane, to begin his water landing, but he entered the river at a critical bend where it turned sharply back to the south.

He banked the plane to the right as quick as he could maneuver.  But as it spun, the tail of the plane slammed into a tree above the bank of the river and the branches of the trees caused the light plane to jerk back the other direction.  They lost altitude quickly and headed nose first toward the water.

Reuben pulled back hard to straighten out for another run, but it was too late.  The plane hit the water and lunged forward. Reuben’s head hit the ceiling of the cockpit and he rebounded back down into his seat.  The back end of the plane swung out above him and the motion threw him forward again, face first into the control panel.  All sound and sight faded into blackness.  The tail, weakened by its collision with the tree tops broke apart from the rest of the plane, spilling Lydia and her parents out into the water.

Lydia and Jeane screamed and Parker reached for them both.  He grabbed the unconscious body of little Lydia first.  She was closer.  A few strokes and he lunged for Jeane but missed.    He instructed her to swim toward the front half of the plane which now floated on its nose, but the current was pushing them away faster than they could swim.

While he struggled to keep Lydia’s head above water, he had the rest of his attention on Jeane.  She tried to swim, but he could see she was only using one arm.  Her other arm was injured.  She struggled frantically but the current was carrying her farther downstream.  Parker saw Lydia’s face in the water and he held her up again, which caused his face to go under.  He swallowed a huge gulp of river water and choked.

Parker shouted for Reuben as the distance between the plane and the desperate threesome grew farther.  But Reuben, still unconscious, could not hear him.  And he would not hear the Parkers voice again.

 

Reuben awoke to the sound of a motor.  He looked up, where the tail of his plane had once been, and saw nothing but the sky above him.  The plane was face down in the water, balanced on its nose and wings, bobbing up and down as if it were a bobber and a perch were toying with the bait beneath.  He struggled to climb out but his legs were weak beneath him.  He grabbed his throbbing head with both hands.  The cockpit seemed to be spinning around him.  His eyes stung with the blood from his head wound and his hands were now slick with the blood from his face.  He knew he had to get out and help Parker and the girls.

He tried again to climb out, but he failed in his second attempt, and only succeeded in the rocking the plane back and forth.  On his third try he steadied his feet beneath him and stood to see the fishing boat, named the Marianela, coming toward him.  He could not, however find the tail of his plane nor any sign of Parker or the girls.  A wave of desperation surged over him.

To look backward, up the river, he stepped up and stood on the back of his captain seat.  As he did, he shifted the balance of the craft and the plane tipped over and fell back down onto its pontoons.  The momentum sent Reuben sliding out of the plane and into the water just before the fishing boat reached him.

A hand reached out over the starboard and pulled Reuben’s head back above water.

Reuben choked on the water in his lungs and pleaded with his rescuer.

“Parker! Jeane! Lydiaaaaaa!  Help me find them!  You… have to help me find them.”

“Sorry friend.  I see nobody.”

“No,”   Rueben gasped.  “You have to help me find them.” Reuben choked again.

“The tail section of your plane is downstream. Nobody there.  It is a miracle you are alive.”

“We have to look.  They’re out there!”  Reuben wouldn’t give up.

Reuben shouted. “Help me find them.  You have to help me find them”

Reuben stumbled forward. His legs still unsteady beneath him.

“If you had passengers in that plane, there is no way they could have survived.  I came from downstream when I saw your plane go down and I tell you I didn’t’ see anyone until you.”

“NO, NO!” Reuben could not accept this. This time he stood up to his rescuer and began shouting.

“I will not lose my family! Now you can either help me or get out of my way!”

“Listen to me, friend! It has been too long.  I saw you go down a hour ago.  You are the only survivor.  There is no way any passenger is alive.” His rescuer reached out his hand in an attempt to calm Reuben down.

“I’M FINE!” Reuben screamed “My injuries can wait!” After shouting this, Reuben tried to stand but his legs gave way and he went down to one knee.

“Okay. We’ll look together.”  The captain turned his vessel around and went back toward the area, he’d seen the tail debris.

“No, no, no.  God, NO!”  Reuben murmured as the Marienela sped downstream.  Its captain and Reuben scanned the banks of the Amazon for Parker and Jeane and little Lydia.  They examined a few fallen trees in the river to see if someone was holding on.

The captain shouted to Reuben.  Reuben turned to see the short man laying on stomach and reaching over the edge of the boat.  Reuben rushed over to see the captain pull an object out of the water. The captain turned and handed wet camouflage San Diego Padres baseball cap to Reuben.

Reuben clutched the cap and started choking. “Parker, NO! This can’t happen.  This can’t HAPPEN!”  Reuben dropped to the ground and heaved the remaining mud and water from his lungs.  Shaky, he rose up to his feet.  “We have to keep looking.”

They continued the search until Reuben blacked out.  The captain of the Marianela patched Reuben’s head wound and turned upstream to a small village he knew.  He was met at the bank by a curious villager and her short chief, Ake.

Ake called out for others to come to the bank and help Reuben.  Soon, Reuben was being carried up the bank by five Amazonian villagers.

 

 


Here and Now

Here And Now (song)

written by Brenton Brown and Paul Baloche

Chorus 1

Here and now here in this moment
Here and now I turn to You
All that my searching heart has longed for
Can be found
‘Cause You’re in this moment here and now

Verse 1

What majesty what mystery the God of all eternity
Stepped into time and gave His life for me
Your hand is seen in galaxies
Yet Your Spirit dwells in me
So vast and yet You’re still within our reach

Bridge

There is nowhere You can’t be found
Nothing on earth could ever keep Your presence out

When we worship it is important that we worship God according to what is true about God – found in his word.  The best way I know to assure that we do this, in both our private and corporate worship, is to sing scripture – especially when we declare the attributes of God.

The lyrics for the bridge in Here and Now stand out to me.  They communicate the samethought we find in Psalm 139 – There is nowhere that we can escape from God’s presence and nothing can keep us from his hand.

    Where shall I go from your Spirit?
        Or where shall I flee from your presence?
    If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
        If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
    If I take the wings of the morning
        and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
    even there your hand shall lead me,
        and your right hand shall hold me.
    If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
        and the light about me be night,”
    even the darkness is not dark to you;
        the night is bright as the day,
        for darkness is as light with you.
(Psalm 139:7-12 ESV)

The theology of God’s omnipresence is made clear throughout scripture.  And it is an easy one to understand, though mysterious to fathom.  God’s presence is everywhere.  Now, just name any place you can think of and ask “Is God’s presence here – on the moon, in the ocean, cave, polar caps, unmapped jungle, Epsilon Eridani?” and the answer will always be yes!

“Canon W. G. H. Holmes of India told of seeing Hindu worshipers tapping on trees and stones and whispering “Are you there? Are you there?” to the god they hoped might reside within.  In complete humility the instructed Christian brings the answer to that question.  God is indeed there.  He is there as He is here and everywhere, not confined to tree or stone, but free in the universe, near to everything, next to everyone, and through Jesus Christ immediately accessible to every loving heart.  the doctrine of divine omnipresence decides this forever.” – from Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer

We sing this song and recognize that it is appropriate to worship every time we find ourselves in the presence of God. And then, just before we end the song, we confess that we are always in His presence.  Therefore, we should always choose to turn hearts to God, everywhere we are and in every situation.  As Pastor Joe Stiles said Sunday – “Worship is ongoing.”


Evaluating Our Personal Worship

Pastors and Worship leaders evaluate the Sunday morning worship hour each week.  Many times that evaluation is intentional and facilitated by a list of evaluation questions.  Other times the pastor enters his office on Monday, sits behind his desk, buries his face in his hands and mutters, “Well that didn’t go well!”  Clearly, intentional evaluation, done well, can be used to guide leaders to make necessary adjustments and improvements.  Reactionary evaluation, however, offers little or no building blocks for the leader to improve the plan.  There is no opportunity for the evaluated one to discover “a better way.”

I have been a part of many conversations on how to evaluate worship.  All of these discussions have been from the perspective of the ones who plan or lead worship services.  But I have not aware of many conversations which our own personal worship.

Worship leaders can attend conferences, enjoy conversations with fellow worship leaders, participate in webinars on worship leading, all in an effort to be better worship leaders.  But what process is there for disciplining all believers to become better worshipers – the kind of worshipers the Father seeks?  Sometimes I wonder if we just expect that developing and training better worship leaders will automatically translate into having churches full of better worshipers – the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

If Pastors and worship leaders don’t intentionally guide their evaluations process, the default will takes us to the ABC’s of Sunday morning evaluation.  Attendance, Baptisms, and Cash – though these are important to the church’s ability to continue to grow and function, they are not very good indicators that Spirit and Truth worship has taken place.  So what is?

In our modern church cultural, we tend to ask questions like:

  • “Was there and attitude of excitement?”
  • “Did we enjoy ourselves?”
  • “Did I sing all the notes correctly?”
  • “Did I sing harmony?”
  • “Did the sermon move me?”
  • “Did the prayers motivate me?”
  • “Did the leadership inspire me?”
  • “Was twenty dollars enough? Should I have given more? The usher kinda glared at me.”

I won’t say that I’m a divinity expert, but I don’t think that there is a biblical standard for these kind of questions.  In fact, when I read through them a second time, they seem rather self serving.  These questions, however represent the unwritten worship rules in most church worship services.  Perhaps there’s a good reason they are unwritten.  If we were to examine ourselves using the gift God has given us – His Word – then we would commit to a completely different standard for evaluating our own personal worship.

  • Did I present myself with HUMILITY  -Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.(James 4:10 ESV)
  • What about my worship offering communicated to God that I am COMPLETELY HIS?    -I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.(Romans 12:1 ESV)
  • Did I offer HONEST CONFESSION or try to deny and justify my sin to God?     -Who shall ascend the hill of the LORD? And who shall stand in his holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully. (Psalm 24:1-4 ESV)
  • Does the LOVE I claim to have for God in this moment overflow to the other areas in my life?     –Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV)
  • Are others encouraged and uplifted in Christ, because of my TESTIMONY?       – And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, (Ephesians 5:18-19 ESV)
  • Did I express my THANKFULNESS to God or merely complain about all my misfortunes?     –Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, (Ephesians 5:20 ESV)
  • Do I SUBMIT myself to everyone else within the family of faith?         –Submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:21 ESV)

What if we began evaluating worship using the second list of questions? What it that became our new normal?  Would it reform the way we think about worship?  Would it bring revival to our own walk with God?


Before the Throne of God Above

Before The Throne of God Above

by Charitie Lees Bancroft


Before the throne of God above

I have a strong and perfect plea.
A great high priest whose name is Love
Who ever lives and pleads for me.
My name is graven on His hands,
My name is written on His heart.Image result for Charitie Lees Bancroft
I know that while in Heaven He stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look and see Him there
Who made an end of all my sin.
Because the sinless Savior died
My sinful soul is counted free.
For God the just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.

Behold Him there the risen Lamb,
My perfect spotless righteousness,
The great unchangeable I AM,
The King of glory and of grace,
One in Himself I cannot die.
My soul is purchased by His blood,
My life is hid with Christ on high,
With Christ my Savior and my God!

As worshipers under the new covenant established by Jesus, we approach the Father, in and through the Son.  In the old testament, God set up a model by which an earthly high priest would enter the Holy place to offer sacrifices first for himself and then for all the people under his priesthood.  This sacrifice was temporary and did not last.  The high priest would need to return and offer sacrifice again and again.

The writer of Hebrews explains how Jesus is King AND Great High Priest forever – “in the order of Melchizedek.” Melchizedek was King of Salem and was also priest of God Most High.  Abraham came upon Melchizedek in the Valley of Shaveh.  To learn more about Melchizedek, here is a message on him from D.A. Carson. 

I would encourage you to read Hebrews.  Try to do it in one sitting, or in as few sittings as you can.  We are so used to memorizing the chapter and verse of a piece of scripture that too often we miss the panoramic view of what is really being presented. (Ok, this was a side note.)

The writer of Hebrews presents Christ’s worthiness as the One who presents the sacrifice on our behalf.  Add to that, the sacrifice which Jesus presents is Himself.  The only One worthy to present the sacrifice also presents the only Sacrifice worthy of being presented!

“But he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever.  Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”  Hebrews 7:24-25.

Recognizing Jesus incredible worthiness in his priesthood is appropriate when we worship.  I’ll even go as far as saying that it is crucial to Spirit and Truth worship for it is by his act that we are made worthy to come before the Father.  And only in and through Jesus can we offer worship worthy of our Lord.  And that’s why we sing it.

Father, thank You for the worthiness of Your Son, Jesus!  Because of Jesus, the plea for our pardon is perfect.  Because Jesus is the worthy offering AND the worthy presenter, ALL accusations against us will fail.  How blessed we are to own the privilege of entering into Your presence.  How privileged we are to sing Your praises and the praises of Your Son!  May the name of Jesus be blessed forever! Amen

 

Do you sing Before the Throne of God Above in your church?  What other songs do you know that present the utter worthiness of Christ as great high priest?