On Worship

God is Sprouting Praise

When I was a boy growing up I spent a few summers helping my dad plant his crops. I watched him plow the fields then cut them to prepare for planting. Once the fields were ready to plant, we would load the seed and fertilizer in the planter hoppers then bury them in the soil in neat rows. At that point nature took its course and the seed became a sprout that later became a crop which helped to feed many people. 

Isaiah wrote, For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. (Isaiah 61:11 ESV) God will have a righteous people in all nations that will praise him before all nations. He will cause it to be so. He is sovereign over all things and that is certainly the case when it comes to his righteous people and his praise. 

In 1 Kings 19 after Elijah had killed the prophets of Baal, he fled the wrath of King Ahab’s wife Jezebel. After traveling forty days and nights he came to Mount Horeb and lodged in a cave. The Lord came and spoke to Elijah in a low whisper and asked “What are you doing here, Elijah?” Elijah replied, “I have been very jealous for the Lord, the God of hosts. For the people of Israel have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword, and I, even I only, am left, and they seek my life, to take it away.” God later replied, “Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.” God reserved a righteous remnant for himself. 

Near the end of his ministry as Jesus, mounted of a dinkey, rode into Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives. Luke records that as Jesus entered the city a multitude of his disciples began shouting praises in honor of him. A group of Pharisees admonished Jesus to rebuke his disciples to which he responded, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:36-40 ESV). Knowing the scriptures, Jesus attested to the fact that one way or another God would sprout praise from the earth. 

The writer of Hebrews wrote, Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. (Hebrews 13:15 ESV) God said through Isaiah that it is he who creates the fruit of the lips (Isaiah 57:19). God creates the very praise he has called and predestined his righteous people to offer in acknowledgement of his name. 

Twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb and sang, Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe andlanguage and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth. (Revelation 5:9-10 ESV) God sent the Lamb, his son Jesus Christ, to ransom a people for him. 

God said that he formed a people for himself that they would declare his praise (Isaiah 41:21). In other words; God didn’t just create a people knowing that one day they would declare his praise, he created and predestined them for the express purpose of declaring his praise. Peter reflected that sentiment by writing, But you are a chosen (select, elected, favorite) race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV) God’s people were purchased for a purpose; to make much of him before all nations. 

God is sprouting praise. He will see to it that his purchased people fulfill their purpose, for it is he that works in them both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13). 

Worship is Transforming

I can remember when my wife and I were dating. Many times when we would go out to eat, we hardly talked. We spent much of our time just looking at each other. The unspoken words said a lot about our feelings for each other. Of course the words came in time, but it was during those times of gazing that our hearts and souls began to knit together. Those times of gazing have grown into a wonderful intimate relationship.

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Chosen to Proclaim

Have you ever felt the excitement of being chosen for something? I can vividly remember the process of choosing softball or football team for physical education class at school. The two best athletes were chosen as team captains. They would flip a coin to see who chose first. The rest of us would wait anxiously hoping to be chosen in the first round by the better of two athletes. Though sometimes a captain might choose his best friend first, most of the time he would choose the “best of the rest” first in order to obtain the superior team.

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Brokenness in Worship

Most of us are familiar with the life of King David. God called him a man after His own heart yet, we know David made some big time mistakes that cost him and others a great deal of pain. One of those grave mistakes was his adultery with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband Uriah.

We don’t know exactly how much time elapsed from the time David committed those sins until the prophet Nathan paid him a visit. I read in one commentary that it could have been as much as one year. Can you image the guilt David must have lived with for that year? After Nathan rebuked David and brought his sin into the open David penned the words to Psalm 51.

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Run, Don’t Walk!

When I played football in high school, my dad and I would frequently talk about my games. To my knowledge he never missed a game and usually had an observation or two to share with me. Occasionally he would share with me some of the highlights of his football playing days in high school. My dad played tackle on his high school football team. Though he was strong, he wasn’t a large man like the tackles you see playing high school football today. They didn’t grow’em as big in the 1950s.

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Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs

I recently received an e-mail from a young man who lives in Paraguay, South America. There seemed to be desperation in his words as he wrote, “I believe that God wants his church to worship him. I also believe that worship songs are a good tool to do that. Unfortunately the majority, including the elders of the church, don’t think so. They say that there is too much based on feelings (lifting hand’s, clapping, closing eyes while singing etc.). Now we have started a praise and worship program that goes on once a month. Many people say that we are charismatic and lost. Pastors have gone as far as to preach against it. Some of our friends have lost their jobs because they participate with us. The pressure is enormous at times.”

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Open Heart What!?

I recently underwent open heart surgery to replace an aortic valve which had been defective since birth. The entire ordeal took our family quite by surprise as I was not initially aware of any symptoms of a heart problem. Here is how the events unfolded.

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Worship and Reverence

A few years ago I attended a worship conference with some friends. As we entered for the initial service I noticed above the sanctuary entrance a sign that read “Enter to Worship.” That simple sign spoke volumes to me about the attitude and seriousness in which the church approached worship. First, it said that beyond those doors worship would be taking place. Secondly, it projected the idea that you were expected to worship if you came inside. Third, and maybe the most important, it conveyed to me that what was happening in that place of worship was holy and should be approached with reverence.

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To the Least of These

Often in our quest to define certain types of worship we will use terms such as Mosaic Worship, Davidic Worship, Lifestyle Worship, Evangelistic Worship, Messianic Worship and others. We often associate worship with music, singing, dancing, shouting, banners and preaching. Certainly these terms and expressions of worship are valid as we attempt to put into words how we should respond to the God we love, however there may be yet another aspect of worship that is easily overlooked.

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Is God Hungry?

I have thought for some time that no one but me can cook a steak exactly the way I like them. I know how long I want to tenderize the meat and what ingredients I want to put on the steak while it cooks. I know just how long to leave them on the grill to achieve my desired taste; medium rare. There is also the pleasure of smelling the aroma of that steak while it cooks. The anticipation of eating that steak heightens as the aroma of the smoke causes my stomach to rumble. Finally, it’s ready! The hunger pains begin to subside as I enjoy a meal prepared just the way I like it.

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