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Archive for the Worship Category


Oct 31

Reformation Day

2017 | by Ryan Kelly | Category: The Church,Worship

It was 500 years ago.

In the year, 1517, in Wittenberg, Germany, a Catholic monk named Martin Luther had been studying and lecturing on Paul’s letter to the Romans. He became fearfully captivated by one word near the beginning of Romans: “in [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed” (1:17). Luther later explained that he hated that phrase “righteousness of God,” for God’s righteousness, he thought, surely meant God’s righteous punishment of all unrighteous sinners. Knowing himself to be a sinner, he wrestled with “a fierce and troubled conscience” and “beat upon” the text to know what Paul meant.

At the same time Luther had another concern, but this one with increasing clarity. The Catholic Church had for many years sold indulgences. For a fee, one could pay-off the guilt and payment of sins. A new salesman of indulgences, Johann Tetzel, was creatively and aggressively making a bad practice worse. Luther had written against Tetzel’s tactics before, but now Tetzel was coming to Luther’s town of Wittenberg. So on October 31, 1517, Luther nailed to the church door Ninety-Five Theses meant to engender academic debate about such indulgences. At the time, no one could have anticipated—not even Luther himself—the reverberating effects of this moment. While many events, documents, and people were used of the Lord to bring about the Protestant Reformation, for 500 years the church has looked back to the nailing of Ninety-Five Theses upon the church door as a pivotal moment towards the recovery of the gospel.

While Luther’s concerns for indulgences grew in conviction and clarity, he continued to struggle with his own guilty conscience and how God’s righteousness could be good news (a gospel) for sinners. The “righteousness of God” in Romans 1:17 was of no comfort to him until the context made it clear: “the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” Like a lightning bolt, it hit him: God’s just-righteousness was a gift from God to those who believe; God’s just mercy is revealed in the gospel of Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice. “Immediately I saw the whole of Scripture in a different light,” he wrote. “I felt that I was altogether born again and had entered paradise through its open doors.” That word which Luther once hated—righteousness—had now come to be the source of all his hope and joy. In Romans, he later attested, there is the “very purest gospel; …every Christian should know it…[and] occupy himself with it every day, as the daily bread of the soul. It can never be read or pondered too much, and the more it is dealt with, the more precious it becomes and the better it tastes.”

This is the essence of the Reformation. It’s what we celebrate today.

Mar 10

Saturday Seminar Follow-Up: “Come, Let Us Sing!”

2015 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Worship

On February 21, Ryan Kelly and Drew Hodge hosted a Saturday Seminar, “Come, Let Us Sing!.” We considered the place of singing in God’s plan for his people as well as its practical expression in local church life.

Here’s a round up of resources from the seminar:

Books on Worship and Singing

Links for Singing

Audio and Video from the Seminar

Session 1 – The Theology of Worship, Ryan Kelly (audio, video)

Session 2 – The Reason for Worship, Drew Hodge (audio, video)

Session 3 – The Practice of Worship, Drew Hodge (audio, video)

Feb 7

We Become How We Worship

2014 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Worship

Heading into the weekend and about a day away from Sunday, here’s some excellent counsel from David Murray for how we should worship God:

Worship is so powerful that we not only take on the image of what worship, but we also take on the image of the manner and style of our worship. So it’s not enough that we worship the right God, the God of the Bible, we must also worship the right God in the right way, the biblical way. And if we do so, we will become what He wants us to be – remade in His image.

Truthful
For example, the truth of God’s Word should be at the center of all worship. We read the Word, sing the Word, pray in accordance with the Word, and hear the Word preached. True Worship is truthFULL. And if our worship is truthful, we also will be truthful in our daily lives. Truthful worship on a Sunday makes for a truthful Monday to Saturday.

Spiritual
Much worship today aims primarily at stimulating and exciting our physical senses. If we can provide a colorful spectacle for the eyes, spectacular musical sounds for the ears, a pounding beat to impact the body and get the adrenaline running, then the emotions are stirred, and there’s a sense of elation and excitement. But if we become how we worship, such sensual, emotion-driven, thrill-seeking worship will produce sensual, feeling-focused, thrill-seeking Christians.

Spiritual worship does not aim primarily at the physical senses and the emotions (although it should have a secondary impact on them) but it primarily addresses the mind and seeks to impress the soul with divine truth about eternal facts. It demands thought and interaction with the Word of God and lifts people out of this world of sense and time, into the spiritual and eternal dimension.

And if our worship focuses on the spiritual, on spiritual truths, that’s the kind of people we will become Monday to Saturday. We will live in the spiritual realm, we will sustain and guide our souls with the abiding truths of God’s Word, we will be aware of eternity and the presence of God.

Reverent
If our worship is full of humor, frivolity, jokes, and casualness, we shouldn’t be surprised if that’s the kind of character that will be produced in the worshipers.

But if our worship is reverent, respectful, and careful, that will be reflected in our characters through the week.

Now this can go way too far, of course. If worship is morose, fearful, joyless, hopeless, and miserable then worshipers will become like that too. Any church that specializes in putting people in fear, in limiting hope, in minimizing assurance, is going to produce people that are like that in their daily lives – fearful, suspicious, cold, unfriendly, hopeless, and unhappy.

Christ-Centered
God has set forth His image perfectly in His Son. He is “the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person” (Heb. 1:3). Therefore, if we are to become like Jesus, and we become what we worship, we must make Christ the focus of our worship. We hear Christ’s Word, we preach Christ, we pray in Christ’s name, and we sing of, to, and with Christ in our songs.

Believing
If we become how we worship, the more we exercise faith in Sunday worship the more faith we will have Monday to Saturday. The more we trust in the Lord in church, the more we will trust in him in the world. Faithless and life-less Sunday worship produces faithless and lifeless Christians at home, at work, and in the community.

All this underlines that if worshiping the true God in the true way is the biggest formative influence in our lives, then let’s prioritize worship, especially the corporate gatherings of God’s people on the Lord’s Day.

And let’s also ensure that we and our children are in churches that not only worship the one living and true God, but also where God is worshipped in a truthful and lively way.

David writes posts like this day in and day out at his blog, Head, Heart, Hands. Bookmark it and swing by from time to time.

Feb 22

Getting Ready for (After) Church

2013 | by Trent Hunter | Category: Worship

Colin Marshall published an article this week with a title that sounds strangely familiar, “Church Was Great! Let’s Not Talk About It.”

Here’s how Colin’s article begins:

We’ve just heard the Word read and proclaimed, sung the praises of our great God, and petitioned him for mercy in our time of need. And then we spend our time afterward talking about last night’s movie, the game, the hobby, the state of the nation, or whatever.Anything but the great truths of the gospel we’ve just heard and by which we’re saved. Why do we do this?

Then, he suggests a number of familiar reasons:

“Drive-thru church” doesn’t help. We have six other commitments on Sunday, so we aim to get through church as efficiently as possible on the way to the next thing. Some of us have just never thought about having conversations about the sermon (apart from pestering the preacher about something). Others know it’s crazy to talk about everything but God, yet they still feel uncomfortable striking up “spiritual” conversations. We’ve never been in a context where this is normal. Sometimes, perhaps too often, we leave the service with no sense of engaging with God by Word and Spirit, and so we have nothing to say to anyone.

For still more, the underlying problem is our consumer view of church—an unsurprising consequences of “what’s in it for me” contemporary Western culture. “Church is put on for me by the professionals and their teams,” we assume. With this mindset, engaging in spiritually encouraging conversations certainly won’t be on the agenda.

Ironically, those with a serving mindset—the antithesis of consumerism—can also find it difficult to get into “God talk” at church. The busyness of serving can keep us from stopping to encourage others and can let us feel we’ve done enough by helping to organize things.

At least one or two of these dynamics will ring true for any of us. Click here for some of Colin’s suggestions for how to think and talk about Sunday.

Then, looking forward to Sunday morning, read and talk about 1 Peter 1:13, the text for this Sunday’s sermon: “Therefore, preparing your minds for action, and being sober-minded, set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”