Category Archives: Worship

Directed Toward God

“In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 17:6). This passage has long been used to describe a society in which there is no absolute standard of right and wrong—a society in which the individual has become the ultimate authority and choice has become a god. I imagine there is not a single reader of this article who cannot identify the similarities between the nation of Israel as described in the book of Judges and the modern world in which we live. There are also none who can deny that this philosophy has long influenced the religious world of today.

As an infant, I was “baptized” (sprinkled) in the Methodist Church. As I grew older, I attended the services of an “Evangelical Free” Church. A few years later I became a Baptist. Finally, I was taught the Gospel and became a Christian. When I was finally exposed to the Lord’s church, I noticed a remarkable difference between the churches of men and the church of God. Instead of doing whatever the members wanted, the emphasis was placed on doing what God wanted. Instead of focusing the services on the parishioners, they were directed toward God. It was refreshing to find individuals who were more concerned about God’s instructions than their own enjoyment. But as I have aged, it seems this longing to serve rather than be served has grown far too rare.

Today, even among those who claim to be New Testament Christians, there appears to be a growing desire to “get more” out of worship. There are calls by preachers and authors to make worship more relevant, to revitalize it, to modernize it, and to make it more effective. But what often gets overlooked in these pursuits is the fact that worship is not designed for the worshiper. By definition, worship is a way for the worshiper to show reverence or pay homage to the one being worshiped. It is not about getting something out of it! Can you imagine any Old Testament Jew returning home from offering worship to God and commenting on how much they got out of their sacrifice? Or how encouraging it was when they burned an animal carcass on the altar? Their service was directed toward God, not man.

However, those who want to get a little more out of their worship have turned their attention toward anything that can generate more emotion. They have become disappointed with the “traditional” worship and seek to spice it up a little. They are not unlike those in Malachi’s day who complained, “How tiresome it is!” (Mal. 1:13). But the real problem with their worship back then was not that it had lost its energy or appeal, but had lost its meaning. They no longer cared about serving God. And I’m afraid we are closer to that situation than many would like to admit.

In Romans 1:25, Paul warns about those who “exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator.” When we attempt to design everything we do in such a way that it will be enjoyable for ourselves, how are we different? It seems to me that some are worshiping worship instead of God. They are more concerned about how they feel at the end of the assembly than they are about whether or not God has been glorified. In fact, the assumption is made that the better they feel, the more God is pleased.

In truth, there is a relationship between emotion (feelings) and worship. However, this relationship is the opposite of what many think. Instead of worship causing us to have certain feelings or emotions, worship is an activity in which we engage ourselves because of our emotions. In other words, emotion is the motivation behind worship, not the result of our worship. We worship God because of what He has done for us. There are similarities between this relationship and our love for God. We love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). As a result of this love, we want to worship and serve Him. Whether we enjoy particular acts of service or worship is irrelevant. Because I love my family, I try to provide a nice home for them to live in. As a result, I end up doing chores which I do not particularly enjoy. However, they are not a burden to me because of my love. Remember Jacob’s service for Rachel (Gen. 29:20)? That’s the attitude we must have.

Thankfully, the commandments God has given are not burdensome and the worship He has described is not tiresome. I enjoy singing songs of praise to my Creator. I am encouraged and strengthened by the time we spend together remembering our Lord, praying to the Father and studying His word. I appreciate the opportunity to show my thankfulness to God for all He has given me by giving back a small portion of those blessings. But, having said all this, I do not engage in these activities because I enjoy them. If that were the case, I would only be serving myself. True worship is directed toward God and is directed by God.

Jason Longstreth, The Forest Hills Messenger, 1/24/16, via The Knollwood Reminder 2/7/16

An All-Around Good Attitude

The Israelites were warned not to take a casual attitude toward God (Exo 19:16-20).  At Mt. Sinai Moses said, “I AM FULL OF FEAR and trembling” (Heb 12:21).  Do we have occasion to be in such fear of God?  Yes!  In periods of worship and at all times (cf. Psalms 5:4-7; 89:6-8).
 
I. FEAR / REVERERENCE

A. Definitions:
Hebrew: Fear – to awe or to dread
Hebrew: Reverence – to be afraid, stand in awe, fear
Greek: Fear/Reverence – to fear (not well-being, but to respect the duty and position of one, cf. Eph 5:33)

B. Noah’s reverence for God (Heb 11:7)
1. To act cautiously; to be apprehensive

C. Our reverence for God (Luke 12:4-7)
1. Fear of punishment, reverence for power

D. Israel’s reverence for God (Exo 19:10-17).
1. Purify outwardly and inwardly.

E. Felix’s reverence for God (Acts 24:25).
1. Frightened of righteousness, self-control, and judgment
 
II. WHEN ARE WE TO BE REVERENT?

A. In our WORK together (Acts 9:31)

B. In our WORSHIP together (Eph 5:18-21; Hab 2:19-20; Ecc 5:1)

C. At ALL TIMES in our lives (Heb 12:28-29; 1 Pet 3:15-16)

Learning to be reverent toward God will prepare us for the Day of Judgment.
(Ecc 12:13-14; 1 Peter 1:17)

“Is Any Merry? Let Him Sing”

God, in His infinite wisdom and foresight, provided a natural response for every mood and condition that man faces. For times of affliction, there is prayer. For times of sickness and guilt, there is the summoning of good men (elders) who can assist. For times of cheerfulness and joy, there is singing. “Is any merry? let him sing” (James 5:13).

The natural response for the godly man, however, will not be just to sing “any old song,” but to sing psalms and praise. The godly man lives with an awareness of God. In his cheerful moments he sees God as the source of his joy and happiness. Where could he find a better avenue for expressing his joy and gratitude than in the words and melody of: “My Jesus I love Thee, I know thou art mine; For Thee all the follies of sin I resign; My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou: If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.” — W. R. Featherston…or in the words: “He leadeth me! O blessed thought! O words with heavenly comfort fraught! What-e’er I do, where-e’er I be, Still ‘tis God’s hand that leadeth me.” —Joseph H. Gillmore

Indeed, one indication of the depth of a man’s spirituality and godliness is the songs which he naturally sings when he is merry.

A happy church is a singing church. The happy church does not view the singing portion of its worship as a dull, emotionless requirement, but as a powerful expression of its love and praise and joy. The happy church does not allow its singing time to be cut short so the preacher can have more time. Rather, in its singing it builds enthusiasm and emotion that enhances every other part of its worship.

Happy homes often express their happiness through singing psalms. This can be done in a more formal way while sitting around a table with song books in hand, or in less formal ways, while riding in the car or working around the house. We once heard a teenage girl where we were visiting request that we sing their “family’s theme song” —no, not ‘Tennessee Waltz” or “Mares Eat Oats,” but L. O. Sanderson’s lovely hymn, ‘The Lord Has Been Mindful of Me.”  Her request resulted in joyful praise from a joyful family.

Happy Christians find singing as a natural way of expressing their joy when they get together. We are not suggesting that every social should be built around singing, but having a group in for singing can make for a good evening. It is an activity in which Christians of varied backgrounds   and   interests   can all participate, leaving no misfits.

But some are hesitant to have a group in to sing. They are fearful that the jovial surroundings are not sufficiently conducive to true worship. In some cases, their fears are well founded. Spiritual songs containing God’s name and divine truth should be sung with reverence and respect. We have been in groups where the challenge of the music — getting the parts to come in at just the right moment and timing the half-beats — was obviously the predominant concern, and where every song ended with hilarious laughter. Such casual use of that which is spiritual cannot be right. At the same time, a cheerful atmosphere that makes it easy to laugh does not automatically render worship and praise impossible; in fact, it is under these very conditions that the Holy Spirit says, “Let him sing psalms.” Somewhere, then, between that thoughtless joviality that makes “praise” irreverent and that somber, death-like atmosphere that makes “praise” virtually impossible is a happy, merry environment that makes true praise so easy and natural. It is this environment that we try to establish when we invite a group in to sing.

Some of the songs of the world have aesthetic and even moral value, but many of them are pure filth. The Christian must be cautious. He can no more please God in singing filth than he can in speaking filth. “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:37).

We see no wrong in a person’s singing the songs of the world that are morally pure, but better still: as Moses and the children of Israel sang praises after their deliverance from Egypt (Exodus 15); and as David would “give thanks unto the Lord, and sing praises unto Thy name, O most High” (Psalm 92:1); and as the “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” around God’s throne sing “Worthy is the Lamb” (Revelation 5:11-12); so today, “Is any merry? let him sing psalms.”

— By Bill Hall

“Idols in their hearts, …right before their faces”

It’s hard to believe but even the CAPTIVE Jews continued to be idolatrous (Ezek 14:1-8).

What is Idolatry?  (Exo 20:2-6; Acts 15:20; 1 John 5:21; 1 Cor 10:14; Gal 5:19-21; Col 3:5-7; Rev 9:20)

  • Anything to which we give the praise & service that belongs solely to God.
  • Bowing down to show honor & or actively serving a man-made image.
  • Anything given preeminence in our hearts (Ezek 14:3; Col 3:5).

WHEN DOES SOMETHING BECOME IDOLATRY?

A.    When it becomes a focus of the mind (1 Cor 11:27-32; Heb 10:28-29).

B.    When it becomes a reason for missing church assemblies (1 Cor 16:13-14; Heb 10:24-25).

C.    When it becomes a cause for changing worship assemblies (Acts 20:1ff).

D.    When it becomes a fascination for its lustful appeal (Jas 1:12-13; Psalm 101:1-8; Heb 9:24-27).

“Love does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth.” (1 Cor 13:6)

Jesus, Meek & Gentle

“Pardon our offenses, loose our captive chains, break down every idol, which our soul detains.”

The Basis of Worship

Worship, for the Christian, begins with our being in awe of what we know about God.  That’s what Paul did in Romans 11:33-36.

I.    WORSHIP IS BEING IN AWE OF GOD

A.    His depth (Job 5:8-9; 11:7)

B.    His riches  (Rom 2:4; 10:12; Eph 1:7; 2:4; 3:8)

C.    His wisdom (Eph 3:10; 3:6-7, 11)

D.    His knowledge (Jer 23:24; Col 2:3)

Romans 11:34-35 – For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? (Isa 40:13) 35 Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? (Job 35:7; 41:11).

E.    His unsearchable judgments (1 Chron 16:14; Psa 36:6; 19:9; John 5:22-23)

F.    His unfathomable ways (Isa 55:8-9; Psa 10:5)

G.    His complete control:

1.    He is the source: “all things are…of Him.” (Great Designer)

2.    He is the means: “all things are…by Him.”  (Great Implementer)

3.    He is the goal: “all things are…for Him.” (Great Possessor)

a.    Christ Jesus is “the exact representation of [God’s] nature” (Heb 1:3; Col 1:16).

 

“To whom be glory forever. Amen.”