Archive for Worship

Extravagant Love

Then Mary took a twelve-ounce jar of expensive perfume made from essence of nard, and she anointed Jesus’ feet with it, wiping his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance.

John 12:3

Christian devotion is the spontaneous act of extravagant love which ignores all social conventions and practical logic in order to pour out on Jesus all adoration, praise, and honor.

In our attitude . . .

Extravagant love is unreserved: no cultural norms or personal inhibitions will stop us from adoring our Lord.

Extravagant love is unashamed: no fear of embarrassment will prevent us from displaying our love for Christ.

Extravagant love is unexpected: we love Christ passionately because he loved us graciously.

Extravagant love is unrehearsed: our gratitude to him flows spontaneously out of thankful hearts.

Extravagant love is unreal: our love is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

 

In our actions . . . extravagant love is a passionate burning heart on fire for Christ.

Passionate love is expressive: our love for Christ involves our whole being.

Passionate love is excessive: we are over-the-top in our adoration of Christ.

Passionate love is external: no hiding our devotion to the one who died and rose again.

Passionate love is extensive: our love for Christ involves every area of our lives.

Passionate love is extraordinary: the world cannot understand our convictions, loyalty, and love for Christ.

Maintaining a passionate, extravagant love for Christ fulfills the command to love the Lord, your God, with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt. 22:37).

“And the house was filled with the odor of the ointment” (John 12:3).By the breaking of that flask and the anointing of the Lord Jesus, the house was pervaded with the sweetest fragrance. Everyone could smell it and none could be unaware of it. What is the significance of this?

Whenever you meet someone who has really suffered — someone who has gone through experiences with the Lord that have brought limitation, and who, instead of trying to break free in order to be ‘used’, has been willing to be imprisoned by Him and has thus learned to find satisfaction in the Lord and nowhere else — then immediately you become aware of something.

Immediately your spiritual senses detect a sweet savour of Christ. Something has been crushed, something has been broken in that life, and so you smell the odor. The odor that filled the house that day in Bethany still fills the Church today; Mary’s fragrance never passes. It needed but one stroke to break the flask for the Lord, but that breaking and the fragrance of that anointing abides.

We are speaking here of what we are; not of what we do or what we preach. Perhaps you may have been asking the Lord for a long time that He will be pleased to use you in such a way as to impart impressions of Himself to others. That prayer is not exactly for the gift of preaching or teaching.

It is rather that you might be able, in your touch with others, to impart God, the presence of God, the sense of God. Dear friends, you cannot produce such impressions of God upon others without the breaking of everything, even your most precious possessions, at the feet of the Lord Jesus.

Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life (Fort Washington , PA: CLC, 1985), 281.

 

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Whether You Eat or Drink

Do All to the Glory of God 

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Cor. 10: 31 ESV

“Glorify,” means to clothe God in splendor by those who recognize their victory in the Cross, their triumph in the resurrection, and their restoration in the ascension. To glorify is to give the reverence, awe and honor in worship to God for his excellencies and praiseworthiness. We glorify God when we find the Lord beautiful for what he is in himself.

In the difficulties of life, the righteous choices we make and the Christ-like attitude that we maintain gives praise to the holy God we serve. This manifested presence is the person and work of the Holy Spirit magnifying Jesus. To glorify God is to recognize God’s presence in our lives while yielding to his Lordship in utter dependence on his grace.

The chief end of man is to glorify God. And it is truer in suffering than anywhere else that God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.

John Piper, Desiring God: Meditations of Christian Hedonist (Sisters, OR: Multnomah, 2003), 288.

 

 

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Worship That Causes God’s Heart to Beat Faster

Heavenly Worship

You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.

Song of Songs 4:9

We have been discussing “Heavenly Worship” (Part One, Part Two). Heavenly worship is the Holy Spirit lifting up the church with the ascended Christ into the throne of God for the worship and praise of God. Holy Eucharist unites heaven and earth by elevating the church into an experience of worship with the people of God, past and present, around the throne of God in the presence of God.

Heavenly worship is praising and worshiping the Godhead with the angels, archangels, seraphim, cherubim, twenty-four elders, and all the company of heaven. Heavenly worship is Revelation four and five in action: all of heaven and earth proclaiming the greatness, wonder, and holiness of the Father and the Lamb.

We join with the eternal throng in rejoicing over God’s holiness (Rev. 5:8), praising God in creation (Rev. 4:11), glorifying the finished work of the Cross (Rev. 5:9-10), honoring the person and work of the Lamb (Rev. 5:12) and singing gratitude for the unity of the Godhead (Rev. 5:13). Around the altar of God, the church is given a grand invitation to be lifted up into the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) and experience now the joy of God ‘s presence in eternal worship.

Heavenly worship begins with each individual’s heart filled with an attitude of praise and thanksgiving (Heb. 13:15). This praise starts with a desire to minister to the heart of God moment-by-moment through trust and obedience. Ministry to God does not mean that he is deficient or needy in some manner, but ministry for the sake of bringing God’s heart joy in a world that rejects his love and grace. The Song of Songs 4:9 describes allegorically this heart of worship:

“You have stolen my heart.” The Lord says to the believer, “Your love for me ravishes my heart. You cause my heart to beat faster in delight over our love relationship. “With one glance of your eyes.” You minister to me when you trust me with your life. “With one jewel of your necklace.” With one act of your will to obey and believe God’s Word, my heart is blessed.

Song of Songs 4:9 (NIV)

The translations of 4:9: “captivate” (ESV), “ravish” (NKJV) or “steal” (CEV) or “cause his heart to beat faster” (NASB) are all attempts to define the one Hebrew word which means to bring God great joy and delight because of our love for him.

Jesus’ heart is filled with extravagant passion for His people. It is fantastic that God is filled with emotion. God describes His own heart as overcome with emotions of delight with people He finds unusually attractive. He feels these emotions even toward immature believers. People find it difficult to grasp this truth of the passionate grace of God. The Holy Spirit will reveal this divine romance (Romans 5:5).

Mike Bickle, “The Ravished Heart of the Heavenly Bridegroom”(Kansas City, MO: IHOP), 2.

In faith and obedience, we bless God’s heart through our worship. Day-by-day we bless him by our attitude and actions as we trust him (Heb. 11:6). God’s heart is blessed, when we live lives that worship the Lord by honoring him throughout the week in faith and obedience.

When individuals worship the Lord throughout the week, and then these same individuals gather corporately, the congregation is lifted into the heavenlies by the Spirit of God. Worship is “good” when God’s people are gathered for the one goal of blessing God’s heart in gratitude for his greatness and his grace, then and only then, we are lifted up in the heavenlies with Him. Remember, a trusting heart and a yielded will are the essence of worship–the essence of heavenly worship.

If the sinner gives one look at the uplifted Son of God, he receives love and life more abundant. When the Jews in the wilderness looked at the brazen serpent, they were healed and lived; and the sin-sick soul, in order to be saved, needs to look but once to the Lamb of God that has borne away his sins. As the Holy Spirit points to Christ dying upon the Cross of Calvary, His voice comes to ever soul, beseeching him to “look and live.”

Not only does one look secure the love of Christ, but the glance of one of the virgins of the bride is precious to Him. By one glance of our eyes, by turning our eyes and hearts. Heavenward in prayer and praise, we can hold our dear Lord until He envelops us with His love and presence. When we come to Him in obedience and submission, in love, adoration, and humility, we can hold Him and draw down answers to prayer.

Cora Harris MacIlravy, Christ and His Bride: Commentary on Song of Songs (Asheville, NC: Elbethel, 1916), 253.

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What Worship Does to Us

The Presence of God Changes Us

When I tried to understand all this, it was oppressive to me till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.

Psalm 73:16-17 NIV

Worship takes place when we acknowledge that we are not the Creator, we bow our hearts, and adore the eternal Lord. In worship, we recognize the infinite beauty of God, his unsurpassing love, and his omnipotent power as the God of the universe. In true worship, we submit our lives to his will, embrace his all-encompassing love, and trust his great goodness. Worship changes us: we are renewed by the Holy Spirit, our thinking is transformed by the truth, and our hearts are warmed by his love.

One of the greatest discoveries of my Christian pilgrimage has come with the realization that the primary importance in worship is not what I do but what God is doing. In worship, God is present, speaking to me, and acting upon me. It is in worship that God feeds, nourishes, and cares for me. And it is in worship that he gives me his grace, surrounds me with his love, lifts me up into his arms, affirms me as a member of his community, and sends me forth into the world with a fresh vision of his work and a new concern to live for him.

Robert Webber, Worship Is a Verb: Celebrating God’s Mighty Deeds of Salvation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishing, 1992), 66.

HT: Webber Quote of the Week

 

 

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Joy that Springs Forth

 

Joy: A Heart Fulfilled in Christ

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

Col. 3:16  NKJV

Joy is that deep, supernatural fulfillment that comes in knowing that we are experiencing and expressing the one who is true satisfaction, Jesus Christ. Joy is knows that we are unconditionally loved, graciously forgiven, and eternally kept. Joy is released in our lives when we cultivate Christ’s conscious, constant presence.  Joy is not produced by celebration or emotional highs: supernatural fulfillment is imparted by obedience to God’s commands (1 Thess. 5:16-18).

The loss of joy does not make the world better — and, conversely, refusing joy for the sake of suffering does not help those who suffer. The contrary is true. The world needs people who discover the good, who rejoice in it and thereby derive the courage and impetus to do good. We have a new need for that primordial trust which ultimately faith can give. That the world is basically good, that God is there and is good. That it is good to live and be a human being. This results, then, in the courage to rejoice, which in turn becomes commitment to making sure that other people, too, can rejoice and receive good news.

Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Salt of the Earth (San Francisco: Ignatius Press,), 36-37.

All our life is like a day of celebration for us; we are convinced, in fact, that God is always everywhere. We work while singing, we sail while reciting hymns, we accomplish all other occupations of life while praying.

Clement of Alexandria (c. 150-215 A.D.)

HT: Christian History Blog

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Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat: Worship As Warfare

Praise to Our Lord and Creator

After consulting the people, the king [Jehoshaphat] appointed singers to walk ahead of the army, singing to the Lord and praising him for his holy splendor. This is what they sang: “Give thanks to the Lord; his faithful love endures forever!”

2 Chron 20:21 NLT

King Jehoshaphat faced a great dilemma: three people groups from the other side of the Dead Sea have decided to target Jerusalem for capture. Jehoshaphat could call upon his troops, but he knows that they would be greatly outnumbered. Beyond all human logic Jehoshaphat rejects foreign alliances and the mobilization of the army. Instead, he calls on the tribe of Judah to pray, fast, and believe God.

Before all the people, Jehoshaphat prays and recalls God’s sovereign purposes, his covenant promises, and their current situation. As if on cue, a prophet declares God’s Word: “The battles is not yours, but God’s.” The command: “Do not fight, but worship. I will win your battle for you.” In short, worship me and I will win your warfare. The Lord calls Judah to trust by a faith that stands firm, stable, and firmly established in God. Judah believes God that he will bring the promised victory.

Indeed, God causes the three foreign armies to ambush themselves. Israel’s spoils are so numerous, it takes three days to gather all the stuff. God did not call Judah to win the battle, he called Judah to be available. God does not call us to be adequate, he has called us to be available instruments of his glory. God never calls us to something we can do, God only calls us to ministry that he can do in and through us.

Like Israel of old when we worship, we enter afresh into the victory of the Cross. Worship makes us available to God’s purposes. Worship acknowledges God’s greatness and exposes our neediness. Worship wins the warfare.

Worship takes place when we acknowledge that we are not the Creator, we bow our wills, and adore the eternal Lord. In worship, we recognize the infinite beauty of God, his unsurpassing love, and his omnipotent power as the God of the universe. In true worship, we submit our lives to his will, embrace his all-encompassing love, and trust his great goodness.

Worship is the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness, the nourishment of the mind with His truth, the purifying of the imagination of His beauty, the opening of the heart to His love, the surrender of the will to His purpose.

William Temple

Worship is the love offering of our keen sense of the worth-ship of God. True worship springs from the same source as the missionary himself. To worship God truly is to become a missionary, because our worship is a testimony to Him. It is presenting back to God the best He has given to us, publicly not privately. Every act of worship is a public testimony, and is at once the most personally sacred and the most public act that God demands of His faithful ones.

Oswald Chambers, So Send I You: The Secret of the Burning Heart, electronic ed. (Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1930), 149.

Worship is giving the best we have unreservedly to God. 

Oswald Chambers, If Thou Wilt Be Perfect: Talks on Spiritual Philosophy (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1941), 79.

A basic outline of my sermon,“Jumpin’ Jehoshaphat,” is available in Google documents.

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Heavenly Worship (Part Two)

Every Creature in Heaven and Earth is Worshipping Now

And every creature which is in the heaven and upon the earth and under the earth, and those that are upon the sea, and all things in them, heard I saying, To him that sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb, blessing, and honour, and glory, and might, to the ages of ages.

Rev. 5:13

Often when we think of the Book of Revelation, we think future: second coming, final judgment, and the new heavens and new earth. However, the events in the Book of Revelation have happened, are happening, and will happen (Rev. 1: 8). These unusual and spectacular events happened in the first century to the original recipients of this book, prophecy, letter of John. Revelation speaks today to churches oppressed and persecuted by mighty governments who claim absolute, almost religious, authority over every citizen in their realm. Of course, the Book of Revelation contains insights into eternity which speak of Christ’s visible return in glory and the experience of eternal life in God’s presence.

Revelation chapters four and five reveal to us the the great throne of God. The throne is a symbol of the sovereign majesty of the King. The world may be in turmoil, but God reigns: he is defeating his foes, expanding his kingdom, and overcoming Satan’s wiles. Around the throne, all manner of heavenly creatures, elders, angels, and humans worship and declare their praises of the Holy One and the Lamb.

The door to heavenly worship (Rev. 4:1) is open as we “join our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven” (1979 Book of Common Prayer, 362) to praise and worship the Holy One and the Lamb for their holiness (5:8), for creation (4:11), for New Covenant blessing (5:9-10), for Calvary’s victory (5:12), and for their Unity (5:13). Around the Table of the Lord, the church is given a grand invitation to be lifted up into the heavenly places (Eph. 1:3) and experience now the joy of eternal worship.

In the earthly liturgy we take part in a foretaste of that heavenly liturgy which is celebrated in the holy city of Jerusalem toward which we journey as pilgrims, where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, a minister of the holies and of the true tabernacle; we sing a hymn to the Lord’s glory with all the warriors of the heavenly army; venerating the memory of the saints, we hope for some part and fellowship with them; we eagerly await the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, until He, our life, shall appear and we too will appear with Him in glory.

Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy 8, The Council of Vatican II.

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Heavenly Worship (Part One)

Lifted Up With the Ascended Christ

At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne.

Rev. 4:2

Heavenly worship occurs during the celebration of the ancient liturgy as the people of God are lifted up to heaven with the ascended Christ as they partake of Holy Eucharist. The Holy Eucharist unites heaven and earth by elevating the church into an experience of worship with the people of God, past and present, around the throne of God in the presence of God.

Heavenly worship recognizes that the line between the physical reality of earth and its three dimensions and the spiritual reality of heaven and its angelic worship will become blurred as we enter the presence of the Lamb of God , slain yet standing, on the altar of God.

The worship that we experience on earth should be an experience of the worship that is presently occurring in heaven. Not only should heavenly worship be our experience, but our models of worship should reflect those elements of worship used in heaven.

Biblical instruction directs the people of God to worship following the model and practices of heaven. Earthly worship is to mirror heavenly worship in “spirit and in truth” (Ex. 24:9-11; Isa. 6:1-5; Ezek. 1:4-28; Dan. 7:9-14; Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 4:1-5:14).

In order that pious souls may duly apprehend Christ in the supper, they may be raised up to heaven . . . and for the same reason it was established of old that before the consecration the people should be told in a loud voice to lift up their hearts.

John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, 4.17.36.

We knew not whether we were in heaven or on earth.” Worship, for the Orthodox Church, is nothing less than “heaven on earth.” The Holy Liturgy is something that embraces two worlds at once, for both in heaven and on earth the liturgy is one and the same—one altar, one sacrifice, one presence. In every place of worship, however humble its outward appearance, as the faithful gather to perform the Eucharist, they are taken up into the “heavenly places”; in every place of worship when the holy sacrifice is offered, not merely the local congregation is present, but the church universal—the saints, the angels, the Mother of God, and Christ himself.

Timothy (Kallistos) Ware, “The Earthly Heaven,” Eastern Orthodox Theology: A Contemporary Reader, ed., Daniel Clendenin (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1995), 12.

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Silence Before God

gfx_worship

The Pregnant Pause in Worship

A time to keep silence, And a time to speak.

Ecclesiastes 3:7

Why does silence and quiet make us so afraid? Why do we drown out the stillness with all our electronic gadgets? Why do we feel so awkward during a still moment during a Sunday morning service of worship? Could it be that we are afraid that God might actually speak? (Ps. 42:10) Are we nervous about what he might say to us? What issues he might correct in our hearts? What commands he might give? Are we concerned that he might embarrass us with an outpouring of his love? Silence often reveals the anxieties, worries, and fears buried deep within the recesses of our hearts.

Silence has long been a characteristic of the Church’s worship. Leaving room in a service of worship for God to speak personally and corporately should be the goal of every worship leader. The pregnant pause in a worship service could be the very moment the Holy Spirit comes in power (Rev. 8:1).

Mark Dever explains:

There’s silence between various aspects of the service. I encourage service leaders to NOT do the “no-dead-airspace” TV standard of busy-ness. We LIKE “dead air space.” “Dead air space” gives us time to reflect. To collect our thoughts. To consider what we’ve just heard or read or sung. The silence amplifies the words or music we’ve just heard. It allows us time to take it all in, and to pray. We have silence to prepare ourselves. We have silence between the announcements and the scriptural call to worship. We even have a moment of silence AFTER the service! I pronounce the benediction from the end of II Corinthians, invite the congregation to be seated. And then, after about a minute of silence, the pianist begins quietly playing the last hymn that we had just sung. During those few moments, we reflect and prepare to speak to others and depart. We do business with God. We prepare ourselves for the week ahead.

Why do we need this silence?

We silence ourselves exactly because God has not kept silent. We silence ourselves in order to hear God speak in His Word (Deut. 27:9) We silence ourselves to show our assent to God’s charges against us (Ps. 39:9). We silence ourselves to show respect and obedience and humility and restraint (Zeph. 1:7). We silence ourselves to search our hearts (cf. Ps. 4:4).

Not only are we to make a joyful noise unto the Lord (Psa. 66:1-2), but we are also called to wait in his presence (Psa. 37:7). We quiet ourselves because the one who is worthy of all worship speaks and there is no sweeter voice that that of our Lord (John 10: 1-5). In the hustle and bustle of life, we must make silence an important part of our individual and corporate worship.

Read Mark Dever’s entire essay at the IX Marks website.


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Noise vs. Silence

dove

The Still Small Voice

Be still, and know that I am God.

Ps 46:10 (ESV)

Why does silence and quiet make us so afraid? Why do we drown out the stillness with all our electronic gadgets? Why do we feel so awkward during a still moment during a Sunday morning service of worship? Could it be that we are afraid that God might actually speak? Are we nervous about what he might say to us? What issues he might correct in our hearts? What commands he might give? Are we concerned that he might embarrass us with an outpouring of his love?

Silence has long been a characteristic of the Church’s worship. Leaving room in a service of worship for God to speak personally and corporately should be the goal of every worship leader. The pregnant pause in a worship service could be the very moment the Holy Spirit comes in power.

Some of our services are far too formal, respectable and dull. At the same time, in some modern meetings the almost total loss of the dimension of reverence disturbs me. It seems to be assumed by some that the chief evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit is noise. Have we forgotten that a dove is as much an emblem of the Holy Spirit as are wind and fire? When he visits his people in power, he sometimes brings quietness, silence, reverence and awe. His still small voice is heard. Men bow down in wonder before the majesty of the living God and worship. ‘The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him’ (Hab. 2:20).

John Stott, Balanced Christianity (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1975), 39.

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