Entries Tagged 'Worship' ↓
May 17th, 2010 — Church, Ministry, Personal, Worship
Everyone’s had this experience. You set out to read your Bible for nourishment, yet finding yourself as cold and flat as a dead fish.
And you get nothing out of it: no light, no heat, no nothing.
What to do?
Talk to yourself.
Cajole your soul into a more attentive frame of mind.
Here’s Spurgeon’s advice on what to say to your soul before reading your Bible:
Come, soul, wake up; thou art not now about to read the newspaper; thou art not now perusing the pages of a human poet, to be dazzled by his flashing poetry; thou art coming very near to God, who sits in the Word like a crowned monarch in his halls. Wake up, my glory; wake up all that is within me. Though just now I may not be praising and glorifying God, I am about to consider that which should lead me so to do, and therefore it is an act of devotion. So be on the stir, my soul; be on the stir, and bow not sleepily before the awful throne of the Eternal.
November 20th, 2008 — Church, Ministry, Outreach, Personal, Postmodernism, Sermons, Theology, Worship
At Calvary Memorial Church, we’ve been reflecting for the past several weeks on Paul’s prayer that the Colossians live a “fully pleasing” life (Col. 1:9-14). Many of us were struck by the fact that for Paul the leading aspect of a fully pleasing life is . . . good works. Paul prays that the Colossians would be “bearing fruit in every good work” (1:10).
But what might this look like in concrete, doable terms for you and me? Well, you can read about one great example (involving some Calvary folks!) in this week’s Wednesday Journal, in a piece by Abigail Cramton’s entitled, “Pouring Love, Breaking Through: Tutoring on Chicago’s West Side Benefits Tutors and Students.” As the tag-line suggests, Ms. Cramton highlights the mutual blessing and benefit of serving others through tutoring.
Her encouraging and thoughtful piece, in turn, got me to thinking about not only what bearing fruit in every good work might look, but why bearing fruit in every good work is commanded and commended in the Bible. Here are some of my thoughts:
- Good words adorn doctrine. Doctrine, or truth, is a beautiful thing, even when naked. But what’s even more beautiful is doctrine, or truth, dressed-up, as it were, in a life of good works, conviction clothed in good deeds while tutoring somewhere on the West Side. That’s why obedience is commanded and commended: “so that in every way [we] will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” (Titus 2:10).
- Good works encourage others to think highly of who God is. Good works point – ultimately not to themselves or to the doer, but to the One who enables and receives them. So we are told by Jesus to “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Good works are beams of light that radiate out from a magnificent Source.
- Good works enliven one’s own life of faith. Ms. Cramton’s article contains a wonderful line in which she points out that the tutors she featured in her article “serve out of a conviction of faith and believe that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive.” This is an allusion to one of the only statements of Jesus outside the Gospels; it’s found in Acts 20:35, where a follower of Jesus, the Apostle Paul, says that when he was with a church in the ancient city of Ephesus, “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” More blessed to give than to receive? A truly stunning and even paradoxical thought: the one who gives actually receives more than the one who receives. And yet that’s precisely the mystery – almost, you might say, the magic – of obeying and serving in Jesus’ name: it enlivens one’s own life and faith. One finds that in the act of giving, one receive far more.
- Good works meet real needs. Of course, good works are designed not only to showcase the greatness of God or enliven the faith and life of the one who does them; they’re also designed to meet real, practical, concrete needs in our communities. Which is itself a good in itself.
- Good works will be met with a real reward. One of the more terrifying and yet terrific passages in all the Bible is Matthew 25. In that chapter in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus paints a rather sobering picture of when he will one day return to earth to judge humankind according to their good works – according to whether they have fed the hungry, given a drink to the thirsty, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked and needy, cared for the sick, visited the oppressed and suffering (25:34-40). And as that passage makes clear, as do innumerable other passages in both the Old and New Testaments, these good works will be met with a very real reward: the kingdom itself. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world” (25:34).
So may we continue to abounded in every good work, for the good of our communities, the good of our souls, and the glory of God.
November 17th, 2008 — Church, Ministry, Outreach, Postmodernism, Sermons, Theology, Worship
Have you ever heard of a Leyden jar? Originally invented in 1745 by Pieter van Musschenbroek at the University of Leiden, the Netherlands, it was a device used to build and store static electricity. You can find the following description (with pictures) at the Sparkmuseum website:
A Leyden jar consists of a glass jar with an outer and inner metal coating covering the bottom and sides nearly to the neck. A brass rod terminating in an external knob passes through a wooden stopper and is connected to the inner coating by a loose chain. When an electrical charge is applied to the external knob, positive and negative charges accumulate from the two metal coatings respectively, but they are unable to discharge due to the glass between them. The result is that the charges will hold each other in equilibrium until a discharge path is provided. Leyden jars were first used to store electricity in experiments, and later as a condenser in early wireless equipment.
Why do I bring this up? Because it provides greater color to an already wonderfully colorful quote from one of my favorites, Charles Spurgeon, who had this to say about churches serving as Leyden jars.
It should be our ambition, in the power of the Holy Ghost, to work the entire church into a fine missionary condition, to make it like a Leyden jar charged to the full with divine electricity, so that whatever comes into contact with it shall feel its power (Lectures, p. 191).
The challenge, of course, is to understand, first, how to build a charge within a congregation, that is, how to preach and lead and serve and pray so that the church does indeed become filled with divine electricity; and then, secondly, how to to provide appropriate discharge paths so that this divine electricity might flow out of our life together and into the surrounding neighborhoods and beyond.
October 29th, 2008 — Ministry, Theology, Worship
I’ve been reflecting lately on the issue of church architecture and the extent to which the space we inhabit as a church informs our understanding of God or the church’s mission in the world or the Christian life or Christian community. Of course, there is a sense in which the New Testament reflects a movement away from sacred space (temple) to sacred person (Christ, and those “saints” gathered in his name), from spiritual building to spiritual body – the body of Christ (see Ephesians 2:14-22; 2 Corinthians 316; 6:19). But does this mean, as one architectural historian has observed of certain forms of Protestantism, that “The temple of stone or wood is no more than an insignificant shell surrounding the living congregation of the faithful which assembles within its walls”?
October 28th, 2008 — Personal, Worship
I’ve been enjoying and profiting from reading Worship Matters by Bob Kauflin, Director of Worship Development, Sovereign Grace Ministries. Bob recently spoke at the Desiring God National Conference. His talk was entitled: “Words of Wonder: What Happens When We Sing.” Definitely worth checking out! You may also want to check out Bob’s website, Worship Matters.
October 16th, 2008 — Sermons, Worship
I was grateful to see the varied, vigorous and, I think, fruitful response to the posting on “Authentic Worship Leading is Like Authentic Preaching.” I was not altogether surprised to see discussion centered around my adaptation of Lloyd-Jones’ characteristic #5: “The worship leader must be serious, never light or superficial.” Being serious and yet “lively” (#6) and “warm” (#8) is indeed a delicate balance.
As it relates to preachers, as Lloyd-Jones points out, we must remember that the preacher is dealing with “the most serious matter that men and women can ever consider,” namely, God and the eternal state of their souls. So, too, again, I think the same could be said of the worship leader: he is dealing, so to speak, with the most serious matter that men and women can ever consider, namely, God and, in a very real sense, the eternal state of their worshipping souls.
On the seriousness-engendering nature of this stunning realization, I remember a wonderful quote I read a number of years ago from Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk:
On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return” (pp. 52-53).
While I whole-heartedly agree that we as worship leaders must always avoid putting on an air of somberness or austerity, posing for God-entranced earnestness, we must also remember with what – or, rather – with Whom we’re dealing. When it comes to worship, I suspect what our churches these days really need is less cheerfulness and more crash helmets.
October 15th, 2008 — Ministry, Theology, Worship
Recently, I’ve been reflecting on the parallels between what a preacher does on Sunday morning and what a music or worship leader does. What I’ve come to better appreciate is that authentic preaching is very much like authentic worship leading. Something I read in Preaching and Preachers, by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, helped me see the parallels more clearly. In his chapter on “The Act of Preaching,” he identifies twelve characteristics of authentic preaching. I think they provide an excellent description of true, authentic worship leading.
- The preacher involves his whole personality in preaching.
- The preacher exhibits a sense of authority over the congregation.
- The preacher is thoroughly prepared, yet thoroughly free.
- The preacher derives something from the congregation; there is exchange.
- The preacher must be serious, never light or superficial.
- The preacher must be lively, never dull or boring.
- The preacher must exude zeal, gripped by what he is saying.
- The preacher must be warm, never clinical or cold.
- The preacher must have a sense of urgency – something eternal is at stake!
- The preacher must be persuasive, pleading with souls.
- The preacher must have pathos, a deep love for those to whom he preaches.
- The preacher must have power, since true preaching is God-acting!
So, too, I think it is true that:
- The worship leader involves his whole personality in worship leading.
- The worship leader exhibits a sense of authority over the congregation.
- The worship leader is thoroughly prepared, yet thoroughly free.
- The worship leader derives something from the congregation; there is exchange.
- The worship leader must be serious, never light or superficial.
- The worship leader must be lively, never dull or boring.
- The worship leader must exude zeal, gripped by what he is singing or saying.
- The worship leader must be warm, never clinical or cold.
- The worship leader must have a sense of urgency – something eternal is at stake!
- The worship leader must be persuasive, pleading with souls.
- The worship leader must have pathos, a deep love for those whom he leads.
- The worship leader must have power, since true worship leading is God-acting!
As Lloyd-Jones says, “Preaching is something that one recognizes when one hears it” (Preaching and Preachers, p. 81). So, too, let me suggest that authentic worship leading is something one recognizes when one hears or, perhaps better, sees it. And these twelve characteristics go a long way to describing more exactly, not just what authentic preaching is, but also what authentic worship leading is.