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: A Bi-dimentional Experience

A few years ago I was leading worship one Saturday evening with a friend of mine at his church. We were well into the service when I began to hear voices coming from our monitor speakers. The only person singing through the sound system besides my friend and I was my wife. When the service was over we compared notes and realized that all of us had heard the voices. The only conclusion we could draw was that angels had decided to join us for the service. The worship of heaven had invaded the worship on earth.

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The Center of Worship

It was in October of 1975 when I was 16 years old that I first remember kneeling at the altar to ask Jesus Christ to be my Lord and Savior. I didn’t feel particularly convicted or remorseful of my sin. Our family had attended church all my life so up until this point I was a pretty good kid morally. It could be that at some point earlier in my life I had asked Jesus to save me, but I remember at 16 thinking I should really make sure that this is a done deal. Besides, there were some other kids in our youth group who were making that decision and if they were going to heaven I wanted to go with them.

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Worship: An Overflow of Revelation

In 1992 some friends and I attended a Regional Worship Leaders Institute Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. The first evening of the conference worship leader/song writer Steve Fry shared a conversation that took place between him and God. I can’t remember every detail of the story, but the main points had an impact on my view of worship.

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Thanksgiving in Worship

For many years now, like most Christian families, in our home we have made it a tradition to give thanks before meals. When our children were younger and all still lived at home, I would choose one of them to say the blessing. Usually it was a short prayer, very short, and most of the time the blessing was the same prayer each time. I also noticed that the younger children would often pray the same prayer as the older children. The substance and the length of the prayer was never really an issue with me, but I did want my children to understand that God provided for our meals and to learn to have a grateful heart for his provision. My hope was that the gratefulness for food would also spill over to every part of their lives.

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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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