Worship

CHURCH SERVICES SHOULD REFLECT GOD’S SENSIBILITIES

One of my concerns with the church in America over the past generation is that the focus in the main worship service is often on reaching unbelievers.

Certainly we want to be as committed to reaching people as Jesus!

But we should not lose sight of the purpose for the gathering of God’s people, which is the ministry of the means of grace God has given to the church. This involves the ministry of the Word, prayer and the ordinances of communion and baptism.

None of this excludes reaching out to unbelievers; in fact a healthy church will be drenched with gospel clarity. My concern is when the church shapes itself according to the sensibilities of those who don’t actually care about God. The result can be churches that are shallow.

A worship service is meant to exalt God; we are not doing a good job of that if we have to minimize biblical priorities so unbelievers will not be offended.

This can easily lead to confusing people about gospel-living rather than leading them into it.

Jared Wilson lays this out in a much more coherent way that I do in this article, “Is Your Worship Service Upside Down?”  

The purpose is not to attack churches, but to have us become more thoughtful of what the church is meant to be. At the same time we will be able to think more clearly about our own role in the church and our expectations for it.

SERMON LEFTOVERS 3.14.16

“Nothing compares to Christ”

 

Philippians 3:1-11

Paul makes three comparisons between true religion and the world

 

#1  Human Religion vs. True Worshipers (vs 2-3)

Paul comes in swinging against human religion; he has the Judiazers in mind, who taught you had to keep the Law to be saved

Paul uses a series of rapid-fire accusations (v2)

(1) They are “dogs” – i.e. feral dogs, which were dangerous and unclean predators

(2) They are “evildoers” – in contrast to the godliness they claim

(3) They are ‘mutilators’ – they emphasized outward appearances that had no spiritual benefit

True religion is then described in 3 contrasting statements (v3)

(1) It is Spirit-led

(2) It is Christ-exalting

(3) It takes no confidence in ourselves

Why, does Paul warn believers to “look out” for false religion?

Even trace amounts of human religion distort our thinking

Legalism affects how we think God looks at us: since we regularly fail, it leads to regularly feeling God is angry at us 

Human religion promotes self-determination: God becomes someone we go to when we think we need him, rather than recognizing we need him in everything!

To guard against distortion, we need to actively pursue true worship

v3 implies that true worshipers are seeking the Holy Spirit, exalting Christ and exposing self-centeredness

 

#2  What We Accomplish vs. What Christ Has Done (vs 4-8)

Paul approaches this comparison from a personal perspective

Human accomplishment impresses us and Paul boldly places himself as a prime example of this fact (vs 4-5)

There is nothing wrong with human achievement or being inspired by it

The problem is when we fail to see our accomplishments from a God-centered perspective

Human accomplishment encourages and inspires, but it cannot save or sustain us

All Paul accomplished became empty before the “surpassing worth” of Christ

Jesus is not impressive, he is transcendent!

In the light of Jesus’ glory, Paul counted his accomplishments as “loss” – i.e. as a liabilities

They had distracted Paul from his spiritual poverty

They were pride-inducing

They were false comforts of righteousness

 

#3  Christ vs. Everything Else (vs 8-11)

Paul takes the comparisons already made even further

To “gain” Christ, he will gladly lose “all things” and view them as “rubbish”

These are not empty words – Paul endured loss, persecution and much suffering

His point is not that we have to do without to become or be a good Christian

It is a serious question about Christ’s place against everything else

Unless we believe Christ’s “worth” is more than everything, we will hesitate to leave everything in his hands

If you have Christ, Paul tells what comes with that relationship

(1) We are “found in” Christ

We have a union with Christ that connects us with all that is glorious about him

There is no pursuit in life that can match a single gleam of his glories

(2) We can “know” Christ

This is more than know about – it’s relational depth

We can be like giddy school girls to meet a celebrity; then yawn about the open door to spend time with Jesus

(3) We are “becoming like” Christ

We are being transformed completely into his character

Does this inspire your heart?

PREPARE HIM ROOM

 

I know that I recommended this book and CD last year, but it is Christmas time and these are terrific Christmas resources!

The Prepare Him Room family devotional was written to accompany a wonderful Christmas music CD.

Or was the Prepare Him Room CD produced to go along with the book?

Either way, both are on my highly recommend list!

And there is also a curriculum package available for classroom use

Marty Machowski, who has written some terrific devotional books for families, has collaborated with Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace Music for the PREPARE HIM ROOM project.

The Prepare Him Room Christmas CD (my new favorite) was produced in collaboration with the Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus Family Devotional.

Marty and Bob are well known for bringing sound theology and high quality writing to their books and music.

Get both of these family strengthening resources. They will enrich your home for many Christmases to come!

AND, if you are a big fan of the Prepare Him Room album, that music will be performed in concert at Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills, PA on December 17!

TRUE WORSHIPPERS

 

Some time ago when I was having lunch with a pastor friend, we agreed that few people bring blessing to our lives as frequently as Bob Kauflin.

Bob is not only a friend; he is the Director of Sovereign Grace Music. I don’t pass through many days when God doesn’t use Bob to touch my heart through his music ministry.

Earlier this year Bob wrote “True Worshipers: Seeing What Matters to God”. It is a book I urge you to read. Worship is a subject dear to my heart and Bob once again has provided us with a healthy and satisfying meal.

Bob’s writing whether in song or prose, is full of theological depth and pastoral care. In True Worshipers, you will receive biblical rooting and wonderfully practical guidance.

Reading Bob’s latest book will encourage you to grow as a worshiper, whether it is how you walk through your day or participate in a church service.

This is not just my opinion; here are comments from music artists, theologians and pastors:

“Bob Kauflin is a good friend who is always quick to encourage all that is good about writing, singing, and living the gospel. We encourage you to read anything he writes!”
—Keith and Kristyn Getty

“Brilliant. Freeing. Needed. Worship is often limited to the walls of the church. In True Worshipers, Bob Kauflin reminds us that worship isn’t a Sunday morning routine but rather an everyday lifestyle.”
—Louie Giglio, Pastor, Passion City Church

“Bob Kauflin presents a balanced, mature, biblical understanding of worship. He is concerned above all for the heart—for the depth and authenticity of our relationship with God—which so often gets lost in the controversies over styles and traditions. I profited from this book, and in it Bob challenged the quality of my worship.”
—John M. Frame, Reformed Theological Seminary

SPEND MORE TIME DAYDREAMING

 

I enjoy planning and thinking about trips.

The anticipation and the preparation are part of the fun.

Time spent daydreaming about an upcoming vacation or a quick getaway, not only builds excitement – it brings some of the joy of this trip into life now

I think about . .

Places we will visit

Restaurants where we will eat

The company of friends we will enjoy

The churches where we will worship

The books I will read

Sleeping in – staying up

And the lack of deadlines to meet

Why not take a similar approach to our impending entrance into eternity?

As Christians, we believe we will be with Christ in heaven, but it does not seem real – so we give very little thought to this great reality.

There is much to think about and to be excited over:

Seeing Jesus!

The feel of his arms around us

Listening to the Heavenly host – and singing with them

Being perfected

Knowing that we actually do love God with ALL our heart, mind, soul and strength

Reuniting with loved ones

Conversation and a meal with Moses, David, Mary, Paul, Spurgeon, Jonathan Edwards or any other believer you admire

If anything is worth daydreaming over, it is eternal life with our Savior in the new heaven and the new earth.

Add some anticipation to your worship and to your life – the plans that God has made for you are worth it!

 

WHAT THOUGHTS DO YOU BRING TO CHURCH?

 

What are the thoughts that you bring to Church?

Or, what types of thoughts arise during the worship services you attend?

As a pastor, I have needed to face this question.

I might be distracted by how something is being handled, or disappointed in how a part of the service turned out (especially my preaching). At times I can find myself worrying about what the people around me are thinking about the service.

To be honest, it has helped me to have the pastors sitting in the congregation rather than on the platform as we used to do. We didn’t make the change for this reason, but it has helped me stay focused on my role as a worshipper in the service. This is also one of the reasons I always like to sit near the front in any church service.

We cannot stop thoughts from coming to us as we listen to and observe what is taking. And some of these thoughts will contain criticisms. How we handle these thoughts of criticism is important for a few reasons:

So we are not distracted from the worship God deserves from us

So we don’t quench what the Holy Spirit wants to do in us during and after the service

So we don’t develop the pattern of being critical, or to let a critical spirit gain a toehold in our heart

So our attention is not distracted from how the Holy Spirit would use us in the lives of others

So we don’t bring a negative mood into the service however unknowing or unintentional it may be

Jason Helopoulos gives us a couple practical steps in this article he wrote for the Together for the Gospel website entitled “The Sunday Worship Killer”. Jason writes:

“In all honesty, very few of us knowingly enter church with such a motivation. How silly it would be for us to rise early on Sundays to play the role of the critic. But as we take our seat in the church pew, our focus and motivation cowers to the voice crying out within, “they are not doing this right,” “they are not doing this well,” “they are not doing this as I would do it.” And in the midst of it all, we move from worshipper to critic.”

The gathering of the local church for worship, fellowship, ministry of the Word and the Lord’s Supper are wonderful gifts and purposes of God to us.

May we use each experience we have with these gifts well, for ourselves and for one another!

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF PAUSING TO REFLECT

I have found that giving time daily for worshipful reflection has been an immense benefit to my life.

At the same time I have noticed that reflection is neither highly valued nor often practiced in our culture.

Tim Challies who is one of the leading Christian bloggers in the world today has written this article entitled, “The Duty of Reflection”.

The article’s title immediately caught my attention – and the article’s content lived up my expectations.

Reflection and Meditation don’t seem like priorities to us. There are multiple reasons for this:

  • They don’t press upon us with urgency
  • We feel more accomplishment when we do something with visible results
  • Most of us have not been instructed in the value and practice of reflection

My hope is that this quick read by Tim Challies will have long lasting value by motivating you to work on reflection as a habit of life and worship. As Tim says in his article:

“How can we praise God if we do not praise him for the things he has done and is doing?”

A DAY AT THE BEACH

A day at the beach is not just time away from our routines
It involves a gratifying array of sensory experiences

The sound of waves rolling onto the beach,
And the cry of gulls

The warmth of the sun on your face,
And refreshing cool breezes

The tangy smell of salt air,
And the drifting smell of boardwalk fried foods or backyard grills

The satisfying pleasure of cold water in a parched mouth,
And the taste of potato chips with your packed sandwiches

The sight of an endless horizon with miniature sails in the distance,
And little shore birds scurrying after departing waves

Anyone can enjoy these sensations,
But for those who know God – it should be so much more

God is the person, whose mind thought up each of these experiences,
And He alone is the One who created us with the senses to enjoy them

God designed all these things along with “every good and perfect gift”

Next time you have a day at the beach,
Make it a time of wonder and worship, as well as rest and relaxation.

Consider the goodness of God, who brought all this wonder into existence,
And contemplate the love which did this for our joy

This is a Person worth Praising,
Worth following,
Worth trusting,
And worth getting to know better!

THE WATERS OF GOD

The river of God is full of water
Refreshing to all who come to it
Life giving to all who satisfy their thirst from it

Renewed are those who rest at its banks
And encamp along its shores
They never find its bed dry or its flow sluggish
Day or night abundance flows

Its origin is heavenly mountains
Its end a measureless ocean
Wisdom is in its pools
Strength surges in its current

Taste sweet waters, refreshing to the weary
Wash in clean waters, which restore the soul
Drink joyful waters, rejuvenating to the burdened
Dive in cool waters, which renew the spirit

Its song calms the agitated and soothes the accused
Its breezes invigorate the overwhelmed and cheer the distressed

Yet, the proud refuse to stop there
They spit out its life giving waters
It has no sweetness on their tongues

The foolish prefer waters they think they own
They favor stagnant pools and dive into muddier ponds
They swallow muddy draughts and say it is satisfying
They drink diseased waters and call them good

Their shores abound with the bones of earlier travelers
Still they pitch their tents and call it a fruit place
They drink their fill and yet wither from thirst

Come, drink living waters, calls the Lord of all good
Wander no more in desert places
Crawl no longer on dry beds

Plunge into the river of God
Be delighted in its clean waters
Live richly in its pleasant gardens

Stay, abide, be home
Live, rest, be fruitful
Drink, be filled, overflow

 

Kyle Huber July 2015

WHAT A SACRIFICE!

In the days leading up to Jesus crucifixion, Mary, the sister of Martha, anoints Jesus with a very expensive ointment. 

Six days before the Passover, Jesus therefore came to Bethany, where Lazarus was, whom Jesus had raised from the dead. So they gave a dinner for him there. Martha served, and Lazarus was one of those reclining with him at table. Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for 300 denarii and given to the poor?” He said this, not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it. Jesus said, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. For the poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me.” (John 12:1-8)

It was a lavish display and in financial terms, a significant sacrifice. The ointment was worth approximately 10 months’ salary.

Pause to do the math – that is $30,000 for the average American worker!

There was nothing casual or half-hearted in what Mary did for Jesus.

We don’t know if the decision to make this sacrifice, and to offer this public display involved inner struggle for Mary. The fact that the Bible is silent on the matter tells us it really isn’t important.

What is important is what Mary actually did:

We know she publically demonstrated that she loved Jesus.

We know Mary was thankful to Jesus who had given forgiveness to her and life to her brother.

We know she humbled herself, wiping Jesus feet with her hair.

We know she sacrificed what could have been used in countless other ways.

What Mary did not know:

She did not know that her actions held meaning far beyond what she could then understand.

She did not know that Jesus would soon be on a cross and in a tomb.

She did not know how deeply Jesus would appreciate her actions.

She did not know that her actions had just become part of the most astonishing of all God’s works – the atoning death of His Son!

She did not know that we would be impacted by her actions 2000 years later.

Every believer has as much reason to be thankful to Jesus as Mary did.

We have been raised from spiritual death and we have the promise that even our bodies will one day be raised to eternal glory.

Every believer also has choices and opportunities to show Jesus our love and gratitude.

We all cannot give something worth 10 months’ salary, but we all can be sacrificial with our possessions, and we all can demonstrate thankfulness with our actions.

Every believer who has the heart of Mary will also find that God uses our actions in ways that go far beyond what we anticipated and can currently see.

This is not because we are wise, gifted or wealthy. It is because God is loving, gracious and wonderful.

Every believer can bring the “fragrance” of devotion to Christ into the places that we live, work and worship.

This week, we remember what Jesus did for us.

It is an appropriate time to consider what we are doing for him.