1:51

Unto you O Lord do I lift up my soul.

I will seek Your face for you are continually before me.

How wonderful it is that I awake to find you calling me,

Extending to me Your steadfast love.

 

It is Your faithfulness my God that keeps me,

          Your strong right hand that upholds me.

And though I cannot see my way before me,

You, O Lord, know the path that I should walk.

 

I entrust to you my family, their perpetual care.

I know that you love them perfectly.

My wife, my children, my mother, brother, my in-loves,

All whom you have given to me I commit into Your hand.

 

 

As for me, I will dwell in the secret place of the Most High.

I will call upon the name of the God of my youth, the Faithful One

Who has sustained me even as I walked through the darkness.

I will trust in the God who hears my cry and delivers me.

 

I know that your intentions towards me are good.

Let me regard You in faithfulness.

May I not sin against You with an evil, unbelieving heart.

For I have seen you power and received Your tender care.

                                                   I know that You are with me.

 

I will sing praises to you upon my guitar.

I will magnify the name of my God before creation awakes.

In the stillness of the hour I will greatly rejoice.

Unto You alone will I sing.

For I know that you are with me.

 

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Rethinking Church Practice and Liturgy

Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you.  No more than two or three should speak in tongues. They must speak one at a time, and someone must interpret what they say.  But if no one is present who can interpret, they must be silent in your church meeting and speak in tongues to God privately.  Let two or three people prophesy, and let the others evaluate what is said. But if someone is prophesying and another person receives a revelation from the Lord, the one who is speaking must stop. In this way, all who prophesy will have a turn to speak, one after the other, so that everyone will learn and be encouraged. Remember that people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can take turns. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…

Among the prophets and teachers of the church at Antioch of Syria were Barnabas, Simeon (called “the black man”), Lucius (from Cyrene), Manaen (the childhood companion of King Herod Antipas), and Saul.  One day as these men were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said [ever wonder how he said it?], “Appoint Barnabas and Saul for the special work to which I have called them.” So after more fasting and prayer, the men laid their hands on them and sent them on their way.

There are so many things that are revealed to us within these various pericopes of the Bible; I must admit that I find my mind wanting to go in several different directions. But I ‘ll put forth a sincere effort to stay focused on what the title of the article indicates that the content found herein will be. I’ve thought about these things for a LONG TIME, studied them in Bible College/Seminary, but woke up this morning and as I worshipped, felt the desire to put some things down “on paper.”

Truthfully, I suppose that it was something I read yesterday that stoked these embers again. I was reading an About section a church had included on their website, and it read something to the effect of, “And we believe that worship [singing] puts us into the position to receive the preaching/teaching of the Word..” I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed, and I began to think again: Why do we do “church” the way we do it? Why do we hold to the practices/liturgies that we do? And ultimately, why do we call what we do worship?

If you’ve ever studied Church History, the obvious answer to the questions I’ve asked extend all the way back to what is known as the Reformation. For the uninitiated or perhaps I should refer to you as “the blessed,” simply stated, the Reformation was what caused the existence of what we call the Protestant church. A breaking away from the Catholic Church ultimately resulted in what we have today: Presbyterians, Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, and so on. The Reformers rejected many of the teachings that the Catholic Church maintained. And after much fighting and bloodshed (even amongst the Reformers themselves), the Protestant Church came to be. But the Reformers retained some of the liturgies and practices of the Catholic system, including the priest.  Only now he was called the Pastor. Insert spooky time travel music…, and we come to the year 2017.

Today, we have divided “church” into everything that comes before the Pastor preaches/teaches, i.e., worship and the “true reason” for our gathering together- The Word. Usually it looks something like this: 3 Songs (A good fast one to get ’em going, then some medium to slow ones to induce “worship”), the offering gets collected, the Pastor preaches/teaches (nowadays there may be a “team” that fulfills this position), prayers are scattered throughout at different points during the “service,” and then you go home. This paradigm has been “successful” for a long time. The trouble is: 1) According to statistics, it’s not working anymore. 2) You don’t find it anywhere in the New Testament.

Thankfully, the Holy Spirit is awakening the Body of Christ to the reality that we need to change. He is challenging us to prayerfully and humbly reconsider the practices and liturgies that we have made into idols. A mighty Wind of God is sweeping among his people: shifting, moving, changing, reviving, and stirring our hearts to surrender all. And asking those who lead, “Are you willing to relinquish control? Is it success or my heart that you truly seek?” Sometimes, the two are not synonymous.

Perhaps the reason for this “awakening” has come to remind us of what true worship is. Worship is relationship, namely, the perichoretical relationship of the Trinity. And our worship can only be “understood” within the context of this relationship, and our participation in it. It is not something we do apart from God, to get to him, or to get him to come to us. Worship is something we “do” in Him. Although worship may/will be expressed through our actions, it is not merely things that we do: singing, preaching, praying, Bible-study, service, etc… It is who we are, men and women living their lives in Jesus, participating in the very life of the Triune God. That which the Father, Son and Spirit have known from all of eternity has been given to us. Before there were angels, planets or people, there was worship. There is no Step 1, Step 2, Step 3…   Worship is not centered around any aspect of worship or liturgical practice, it is centered around the person of Jesus and his union with his people. And it can look different in every gathering as the Spirit provides the order.

As worship is relational, derived from the mysterious perichoretical union the Church has with the Triune God, our coming together is not designated to the control of any individual other than the Spirit of God. While there are leadership gifts,  the shepherds/pastors who feed, watch, care, and guard the souls of God’s people are but one expression. According to scripture, God has also placed within the Body Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, and Evangelists, who are also to equip the people of God for the work of ministry. And as we see in the passages above, when the Church comes together it is not only the “office gifts” that are used, but each member functions according to the grace that God has allotted. We do not have to fear that chaos will ensue, but can trust that as we humbly submit to one another, the Spirit will provide decency and order and correction if needed. To put it in today’s vernacular, “This ain’t no one man show.”

Before I am accused of denying that biblical instruction/teaching has no place in our gatherings, let me say that it should be obvious to anyone familiar with me or acquainted with my writings that I believe that “all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” As I have said so many times before, I’ve spent a lot of money and time acquiring my degree in Biblical Studies/Theology. I do however question the way we have limited the means by which the “impartation” of the Word is expressed. 

While authentic worship most definitely involves receiving the Word of God, I fear that we have failed in that we have come to see preaching and the “Bible-study” as the only means by which this is to be accomplished. It would seem that we have forgotten Paul’s exhortation to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” We must remember that the Bible itself declares that the gifts within the Body are also they that strengthen, encourage, and declare God’s Word. The Word of God, engrafted, alive, and expressed in and through the hearts of believers, holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

I suppose I could talk about buildings, home churches, small groups, etc…, but I think all of that will work itself out as we sincerely seek the Lord concerning these matters. After all, the “where” of worship is any place that two or three gather in his name. So, when it comes to rethinking church practices and liturgies, may we be willing to lay everything we think we know at his feet and trust him to mold us after the kind intentions of his heart.

 

 

 

 

 

Worship: A Cosmic Boomerang?

I’ve spent a lot of time talking with folks about worship, and I’ve heard it described and defined in just about every way imaginable. But something that seems to be common in my conversations and observations is the idea that worship is something we do “down here,” apart from God. He’s up there and we’re down here. We kind of throw it up to him, and then it comes back in the form of his presence, anointing, power, miracles….whatever. A cosmic boomerang. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Worship is relationship, namely, the perichoretical relationship of the Trinity. And our worship can only be “understood” within the context of this relationship, and our participation in it. It is not something we do apart from God, but rather in Him. Although worship may/will be expressed through our actions, it is not merely things that we do: singing, preaching, praying, Bible-study, service, etc… It is who we are, men and women living their lives in Jesus, participating in the very life of the Triune God. That which the Father, Son and Spirit has (Why has instead of have, hmm…?  ) known from all of eternity has been given to us. Before there were angels, planets or people, there was worship. Worship is that which has been expressed in the Trinity always. The Father says of the Son, “Your throne, O God, is forever.” The Son says to the Father, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.” The Spirit glorifies the Son as God’s love is poured out in our hearts, and we cry, “Abba!” Only when we begin to see worship as our lives lived (and laid down) in participation of the Triune life of God, in Jesus, can we even start to fathom the glory of that into which we have been called.

Jesus prayed in John 17:

“I pray also for those who will believe in me through their [the apostles] message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am, and to see my glory, the glory you have given me because you loved me before the creation of the world. Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. I have made you known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Can you see the adoration, the desire, the love- the worship?

No, worship is not a cosmic boomerang that we throw up to God, hoping to receive a piece of heaven as it comes back around. It is us, in Jesus, living and loving God, in the way God has always lived and loved.

No One But You

Lord, here I am down on my knees
and I lift my voice to you
Humbly I pray show me your glory

All I can imagine could not compare
to what I’ve found in you
Oh how I need your grace and your mercy

How I hunger for you Lord
How I thirst for you my Lord

There is no one but you, no one but you,
no one but you Jesus for me
There is no one but you, no one but you,
no one but you Jesus for me

What words can I bring that would describe
all you are to me
You are my light and my salvation

When I was dead and lost in my sin
your cross availed for me
You gave your love with no hesitation

How I hunger for you Lord
How I thirst for you my Lord

There is no one but you, no one but you,
no one but you Jesus for me
There is no one but you, no one but you,
no one but you Jesus for me

You are all my heart desires
Let me burn with your holy fire
Lord, I give myself to you
There is nobody, nobody, no one for me but you

There is no one but you, no one but you,
no one but you Jesus for me
There is no one but you, no one but you,
no one but you Jesus for me

The Trinity and You and Me

Why do you go to “church”? That building, that home group, the coffee shop fellowship, wherever you go; why do you go? Now let me ask you this. Do your reasons for going have anything at all to do with anyone  other than yourself? Sadly, one of the things we have done is make our relationship with God mostly a personal experience. No doubt, we have turned inward. Our songs, our “worship,” our whole life in Christ; you name it- it’s “me” centered. I think this has a lot to do with our concept of the doctrine of the Trinity.

For the most part, we give a mere head-nod to the Trinity. In our “belief statements” we acknowledge that God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and that’s about it for us Western Christians. I have recently begun to think that maybe we have been a bit deprived. Most of us have never heard of Gregory Palamas, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, John of Damascus, or Athanasius. Anyway, it’s interesting to look back through history and see where the Eastern and Western church fathers kind of went their separate ways, and how we came to be where we are today. The “brand of Christianity” we practice here in the West comes largely from the teachings of Augustine. (As this is not intended to be a lesson in Church History, I’ll leave it to you to study and see if what I’m saying is accurate.)   Put very simply, it goes kind of like this: Augustine was greatly influenced by Plato, and the Reformers were GREATLY influenced by Augustine; as a result, the Christianity that has been passed down to us has evolved into an inward, individualistic experience, having little to do with the way God has revealed himself in scripture as a Triune being. And, this has direct implications upon the way we understand salvation and the way we see each other.

Growing up here in the buckle of the bible-belt, I was taught that I needed to accept Jesus into my heart as my personal Savior. If I did that, I’d be spared hell, and would get a mansion somewhere on the streets of Gold. I was never told that I had been invited by God to participate in the very life, the very communion of the Trinity. My salvation was about me. “Me and Jesus got our own thing goin’.” We didn’t spend too much time on verses like:

“… that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” (John 17:21-23)

Or,

“For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body.” (I Corinthians 12:13)

Can you see the connection? If we have no concept of salvation as an invitation by the Father, in Jesus, through the Spirit, to be freed from sin and partake in the very life of the Triune God; it’s hard for us to understand how necessary we are to each other. When we reflect on the  Triune nature of God, it begins to make more sense as to how our salvation, our relationships together in the body of Christ ought to reflect the very communion of the Trinity.

So many go to “church” because: “I need to get fed.” or “I want to get my praise on.” We come, we sit, we “pick up the remote control,” and if the praise team doesn’t sing my favorite songs, or if my favorite preacher isn’t preaching, I simply press the “mute button,” or maybe even turn the channel. We forget that Paul tells us,

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you [ the “you” is plural in the Greek ] richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” (Colossians 3:16)

And again,

Ephesians 5, “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart.”

We are to be in communion with each other, and as Jesus speaks his words into our lives, we are to teach each other. As a result, we are continuously being filled with the Spirit. Can’t you see how this reflects the very Triune nature of God? Doesn’t it make sense for God who has enjoyed communion, love, and WORSHIP in himself for all eternity (in a way we can’t completely describe or understand) to design our salvation experience to be that which “mirrors” himself? It is as we are in relationship with each other, mutually submitting, clothed in humility, putting others before ourselves that we more closely resemble Him who is three in one.

We may come to Christ as individuals, but w e live in Christ as his body, members of one another.When we grasp the reality of how our salvation and life together in the body of Christ reflects the very Triune nature of God, we will stop being mere religious spectators. When we realize that through faith in Jesus we are made participants in the communion of the Trinity, we will begin to view each other as we should, and understand how we are indeed one body, each a living stone being built up as a dwelling place for God, in the Spirit.