Archive | November, 2005

Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 2

I tried to come up with a shocking title for these posts to alert us to the difference between a “professed” God and “functional” god. That is, the God we say we believe in, and the god that actually governs our desires and actions. As I mentioned in my post yesterday, idolatry can be active in my heart even as I’m outwardly worshipping God. That’s a sobering thought. Whenever I think I can’t worship God unless “X” is present, I’m making a profound statement. If “X” is anything other than Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, I’ve moved into idolatrous territory. Idolatry is always evil, but the idols we pursue aren’t …

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Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 1

So these nations feared the LORD and also served their carved images. (2 Kings 17:41a ESV) What is our greatest hindrance in worshipping God? We could come up with a number of potential answers. “Our worship leader isn’t very experienced.” “The services are too planned/spontaneous.” “The songs are too complex/simple.” “The band/orchestra/organist/guitarist sounds bad.” “There are too many new/old songs.” “Our church is too big/small.” Ignoring for a moment that all these statements refer to a meeting context, they reveal a profound misconception about the hindrances to true worship. Contrary to what we might …

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Monday Devotions – Spiritual Dementia

Oh give thanks to the LORD; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice! Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually! Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles, and the judgments he uttered, O offspring of Abraham, his servant, children of Jacob, his chosen ones! (Ps. 105:1-6 ESV) Recently, we’ve been experiencing something of a mini-crisis in our home. My 85 year old mother-in-law, is suffering from dementia. Although she’s been with us for over …

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What Kind of Emotion?

I attempted to post this yesterday, which was Friday, but we passed the day playing games, cutting down and decorating our Christmas tree, and enjoying Thanksgiving leftovers. Definitely time well spent. Travis Seitler asked a great question on a previous post. I’d sum up his question like this: “Should the fact that God describes his relationship with His people as husband and wife (Is. 54:5; 62:5; Rev. 21:2) ever be reflected in the words we sing to Him?” This is a challenging question to answer briefly, much less definitively, but here are a few thoughts. God is infinite, so we shouldn’t be surprised that the boundaries of language …

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So Much to Thank God For

When asked how he’s doing, my friend C.J. Mahaney often answers, “Better than I deserve.” He’s been responding that way for years, and it always reminds me that my sins far outweigh my trials. Yet God has dealt with my sins by punishing his own Son in my place. I will never know His righteous wrath. I will forever know the joy of His presence. So why don’t I have a more thankful attitude? I think my perspective is comprehensive, accurate, and authoritative. I think my complaining moves God. I think I’m ultimately responsible for my destiny. I think I’m immediately responsible for my justification before God. I think I rule everything …

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Avoiding Nonsense in Worship Songs

I don’t even know how I came across a book I read recently called, “And Now Let’s Move Into a Time of Nonsense: Why Worship Songs are Failing the Church.” It’s by Nick Page, a prolific UK author. What I do know is that I’m not aware of another book on congregational song that is as insightful, humorous, helpful, and brief (a real plus from my perspective). In only 121 pages, Nick covers a brief history of worship music, why the words we sing matter, how modern culture has influenced us, the importance of technique, the problem of language, and helpful suggestions for what we can do. Letters from a fictitious worship leader named Kevin Molecule …

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Expressing Love to God

Someone coined the phrase “God is my girlfriend songs” to describe contemporary lyrics that express love to God with words that are romantic in nature. They include phrases like “embrace me,” “let me feel your touch,” etc. While this isn’t the first time in history congregational songs have been labeled as sensual (John Wesley had some problems with Charles Wesley’s lyrics at times), it’s an issue that still needs clarification. Why does someone write songs that can be sung either to God or a human lover? The reasons vary. Perhaps the writer is simply a poor lyricist and doesn’t know any better. It might be an attempt to stretch the …

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Monday Devotions – Cultivating Thankfulness

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” (Ps. 100:4 ESV) What does God value as we enter His presence? Gratefulness. Our culture puts a high value on being “real” as we come before God. Genuine. Vulnerable. Authentic. The Psalmists don’t hesitate to tell God when life is a mess and they’re struggling. (Check out Psalm 13, 42, and 88). But in a society where self-expression is often hailed as the ultimate virtue, I’m not sure that “being real” before God is my problem. Being thankful is. Why is God so concerned that we be grateful? There are a number of reasons. …

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To Worship or To Lead – Is That the Question?

I’m hoping to follow a similar format each week for this blog. On Mondays I’ll be sharing a devotional, from Scripture or some other source, that will focus on our hearts. If you lead a music team these might be great to share with your group. Tuesday through Thursday I’ll be typically focusing on some theme, although I also plan to do book/article/CD/song/website reviews as well. Of course, since it’s my blog, I might do something totally different. (I’m sure this is helping you.) On Fridays, I’ll take time to respond to a question I’ve received either through e-mail on on the blog comments. This first question is from Phil. “I attended an …

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Songs for the Hard Times, Pt. 3

Wisely written worship songs give us words that express faith in God in the midst of tragedy, loss, and crisis. Job expressed it like this: The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” (Job 1:21 ESV) When we lose all we have, God still deserves our worship. Matt and Beth Redman have put that truth to music in their well-known song “Blessed Be Your Name.” Blessed Be Your name In the land that is plentiful Where Your streams of abundance flow Blessed be Your name Blessed Be Your name When I’m found in the desert place Though I walk through the wilderness Blessed Be Your name Every blessing You …

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Songs for the Hard Times, Pt. 2

What do we sing when evil seems to be rampant and ongoing? This past Sunday Christians across the world observed a Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Over 200 million Christians daily face oppression, discrimination, torture, or worse, simply because they own the name of Jesus. In addition to taking time to pray for persecuted Christians, oppressive rulers, and the rest of the church, we expressed our prayers using Stuart Townend’s song, “How Long.” Those words echo the Psalmist’s struggle with God’s seeming unresponsiveness to the present prosperity and triumph of the wicked. How long, O God, is the foe to scoff? Is the enemy to revile …

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Songs for the Hard Times, Pt. 1

I recently heard someone comment that modern worship songs only cover about 3% of the topics found in Scripture. I don’t think that’s entirely accurate, but we surely lack contemporary songs that help the church respond appropriately to disasters and tragedies such as 9/11, the tsunami, or the recent hurricanes. Fortunately, that’s changing. Over the next few days I’m going to highlight some of the songs we’ve used in my home church to give voice to the confusion, sorrow, and hope we experience during these times. I first heard the hymn God Moves in a Mysterious Way (William Cowper 1731-1800) at a conference sponsored by John Piper’s church, …

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Monday Devotions – Am I Astonished?

I’ve spent a good amount of time in the past few years using the book, The Valley of Vision, as I meet with God in the morning. It’s a collection of prayers from various Puritans, put together by Arthur Bennett. Apart from God’s Word, it is the most helpful tool I’ve encountered for exposing the depth of my sin and the greater power and glories of the Gospel. Here’s one section from the prayer called “The Mover” that has affected me deeply: O Lord, I am astonished at the difference Between my receivings and my deservings, Between the state I am now in and my past gracelessness, Between the heaven I am bound for and the hell I merit. Who made …

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Expanding Our Worship Vocabulary

Having looked at a few definitions of worship (although I realize I’m barely scratching the surface), I wanted to offer some practical ideas for changing the way we talk about worship. Some of these are so ingrained in our vocabulary, I feel radical even suggesting them. 1. When using “worship” as a verb, include the direct object. (My apologies to those of you who thought you’d never have to think about grammar again.) We aren’t simply gathering to worship – we’re worshipping the Father, our merciful God, our great Redeemer, etc. So, “I love to worship!” becomes, “I love to worship the Savior!” “Let’s worship!” …

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Why Define Worship?

I was talking with Josh Harris, my senior pastor, yesterday about this blog , and he didn’t think I was being very creative with my titles. So, to serve my friend, I broke the pattern and went with something more creative. Kind of. Why spend time defining worship? Is it really that big a deal? Isn’t it more important that we simply do it? It’s hard for us to know whether or not we’re doing something if we’re not sure what that “something” is. If I define “eating” as simply looking at food, you wouldn’t enjoy coming over to my house to “eat.” If “breathing” is something I only do when I get with a group of people …

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