Archive | —Worship and God

St. Patrick’s Bad Analogies

  For many, mentioning the Trinity can bring to mind words like abstract, unimportant, strange, illogical, and distant. To make God more relevant we’ve come up with analogies that try to explain him. Steam, water, ice. Father, husband, employee. Flame, light, heat. A clover. Etc. St. Patrick’s Day seemed to be the right time to post this video that shows how our attempts to explain God can inadvertently be rehashes of past heresies. To be clear, I’m not aware that Patrick actually used these analogies, but the video is hilarious. I remember learning and using many of these analogies as I grew up (and as an adult). I never …

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Songs that Reference God’s Judgments

In a recent post, I suggested that we generally shy away from singing songs about God’s judgments, but that judgment is a theme found in many Psalms and Scriptural songs. I promised that I’d follow up with a post that suggested some songs we can sing that reference God’s judgments and help us think about them in a way that honors God, encourages a passion for holiness, and strengthens our confidence in the gospel. So one month later, here we are. (If you didn’t read my previous post, please read it to get the context.) Before listing the songs, it’s important to mention a few things. First, God is the Judge, not us. We’re concerned about …

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Should We Sing Songs About God’s Judgments?

Some people had questions about my recent review of Doug O’Donnell’s book, God’s Lyrics, which I want to attempt to address in this post. The basic question has to do with the place of singing about God’s judgments. O’Donnell makes the point that many of the songs in the Old Testament rejoice over God’s just judgments (Ex. 15:1-18; 1Sam. 2:10; 2Sam. 22:44-51, etc.) A related theme has to do with God humbling the proud. Both themes are lacking in the song diet of many churches, yet they’re unquestionably present not only in OT songs, but in the New Testament as well (Lk. 1:51-55; Rev. 18:20; 19:1-5). Are You Kidding Me? We can struggle …

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When God Comes to Church

As 2008 turned over to 2009 I was in the midst of reading When God Comes to Church by Ray Ortlund, Jr. I didn’t want the year to get too far before I shared some great quotes from this book that came out in 2000. The first half of the book describes what God does to bring revival (comes down, reinvigorates, heals, pours out his Spirit, raises up, and restores).The second half describes what we can do to prepare the way (return, seek, humble ourselves). Each chapter is an expositional treatment of a specific Old Testament passage. Ortlund begins with, “Revival is a season in the life of the church when God causes the normal ministry of …

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Thoughts on the Desiring God National Conference

I had the privilege of speaking at the Desiring God National Conference last Saturday morning. It was a whirlwind trip that I made with my daughter (and assistant) Chelsea. We got there for dinner on Friday and caught a 7 PM flight out on Saturday. It came at the end of our two week beach vacation, and I decided not to try that again. Too distracting. Chuck Steddom, a good friend from John Piper’s church, led the singing along with a team from his church. It was encouraging to hear them introduce “Praise the Lord,” a song from our recent Psalms CD. Sinclair Ferguson gave a message the first night called “The Tongue, the Bridle, and the …

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Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 8

This is my final post in this series. It’s a little longer than the others, but it’s actually much shorter than it could be…The last idol I want to speak to is the idol of RELEVANCE. Churches can become irrelevant for any number of reasons. Spiritual pride can keep us from considering that non-Christian guests may not understand our highly developed “Christian-speak.” Administrative incompetence might make it difficult for people to find us, or to enjoy being with us once they do (possibly due to crowded conditions, erratic temperature control, musty smells, etc.). A faulty understanding of what it means to be “in the world but not of …

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Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 7

I’m in the middle of a discussion on idols that can tempt us when we gather to worship God on Sunday mornings. Today, I’d like to talk about the idol of REPUTATION, especially as it’s revealed in the lives of leaders. God commends a good reputation in Proverbs: A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold. Prov. 22:1 That means God wants our lives characterized by virtues such as godliness, integrity, and faithfulness. However, I’m never to seek my good name at the expense of God’s name. I must never be more concerned about my reputation than God’s. The idol of reputation is subtle. It’s masquerades …

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Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 6

I thought I’d finish this series before the year ends. With three days to go and three more topics to cover, it seems like a good fit. In case you missed the earlier entries, I’ve collected the other posts under the heading of Idolatry on Sunday Mornings. These last three areas are primarily directed to leaders, although they could apply to anyone. Today I want to focus on the idol of RESULTS. I’m referring to the mindset that views worshipping God as a means to attain a more desirable end, like increased attendance, evangelism, mutual ministry, or individual experiences. “Results-worship” might underlie comments like these: “We stay away …

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Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 5

We can’t help but notice the number of times God addresses idolatry in his Word. He hates it when we pursue, serve, or are emotionally drawn to other gods, which are not really gods at all. Idols enslave us (Ps. 106:36), put us to shame (Is. 45:16), and ultimately conform us to their image (Ps. 115:8). But God’s intention is that we be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:29). Like the Psalmist, we should hate them and those who pay regard to them. (Ps. 31:6). Too often, though, we find ourselves to be the idolaters. Today, I want to share another idol that looms large when we worship God corporately. It particularly applies to musicians. The …

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Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 4

I’d like to continue addressing a topic I began a couple weeks ago, that is, identifying the idols we may serve in our hearts even as we gather to worship God with His people. In previous posts we looked at music, tradition, creativity, experience, and liturgy. Here’s one more (well really, two). Biblical Knowledge I hesitate to include “biblical knowledge” as a potential idol. The reason I do is that we can wrongly pursue a knowledge of doctrine that is distinct from a knowledge of God Himself. We have to acknowledge this possibility or we easily fall into the error of the Pharisees, who took more pride in their “rightness” than …

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Idolatry on Sunday Mornings, Pt. 3

It’s helpful to remember that the world, the devil, and our flesh actively oppose our desire to give God the glory He alone deserves. The real worship wars aren’t about music styles, forms, and practices. They’re secretly waged in our hearts, as idols try to rob us of our passion to exalt God above everything. If we aren’t aware of those worship wars we’ll have a difficult time understanding or experiencing worship that honors God, no matter what we’re doing on the outside. Speaking of experience, here are a couple more idols that can tempt us on Sunday mornings. Experience – As I paged through a Christian magazine last year, …

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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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