“It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High, proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night, to the music of the ten-stringed lyre and the melody of the harp.” (Psalm 92:1–3, NIV)
I have loved music as far back as I can remember. It’s in my DNA, part of how God created me to be me. It is commonly said that music is the “universal language” that transcends culture, history, and linguistic barriers, and unites humankind in a common expression. There’s just something about music that moves the heart and the mind in ways that words alone cannot.
Music has the power to engage us at the heart-level. It can stir emotions in us that well up from deep within. Music gives form to the expression of our souls; we create, listen, and engage with music in every area, in every season of life. Music can be an instrument (pun intended) to express our joy, our sorrow, our anger, our pain, and our love. And I think that’s exactly why God gave us the gift of music: to give a language to our souls for creating beauty, moving emotion, venting stress, and most importantly, for expressing worship.
I have had friends over the years who believed that emotion in worship was dangerous and best avoided. The music that characterized their churches was robotic and expressionless. And sad. If I can’t bring my feelings to God, where can I take them? Reading through the Psalms, I don’t get the impression that David suppressed his emotions, rather, at times he seems like an emotional hot mess! And he expressed his soul to God through music.
My prayer this week is that we will open our hearts to God through the gift of music, whether it’s something we play or sing ourselves or something we listen to. When we come next Sunday to worship together, allow your soul to speak the language of music in praise to the Risen Lord.
Yesterday in worship, I was moved deeply by the song Death Was Arrested. I hope you enjoy this song this week!
“Be exalted, O God, above the heavens; let Your glory be over all the earth.” (Psalm 57:11, NIV)
David wrote these words while hiding in a cave from King Saul, who was trying to find and kill him. Even when being pursued by an enemy who most certainly would’ve murdered him, David took refuge in the worship of God! It’s easy to praise God when things are going well, but how often do we exalt Him when things are not going well? When life is hard, God is our refuge, and worship is our solace.
For that to be true of us, we must be enamored by God. When was the last time I experienced the awesome glory of God? Do I seek His glory? Moses said to the Lord, “Show me Your glory,” and God answered his prayer. We sing songs about God’s glory filling all the earth, but are those songs really the anthem of our hearts? Do we look for God, seeking to be transformed by encountering His glory? Do we hunger for His name to be exalted above the heavens and His glory to fill the earth?
Or have we grown so familiar with phrases from songs and words like “glory” that they’ve lost their sparkle? Are we so busy with our own lives, our own jobs, our own pursuits, and our own glory that we forget we live not for ourselves, but for the Glorious One who alone deserves to be worshiped? When we put things in perspective and live outside of ourselves for the glory of God, we will find that worship becomes our refuge from the storms of life, and God’s Spirit sustains us as we commune with Him.
There’s a song by Chris Tomlin that has a line in it that makes my heart leap every time I hear it. The song is All to Us, and the line is “Let the glory of Your name be the passion of the church.” Amen! That is my prayer for this week.
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Psalm 22:1a, NIV)
Hanging on the cross, dying, Jesus quoted the opening line of Psalm 22. This was no coincidence! Going back to read Psalm 22 is like reading a description of Jesus’s crucifixion, written before crucifixion had even been invented, and written hundreds of years before Jesus walked this earth. The Psalm mentions such details as Jesus being scorned and mocked (vv. 6-7), even foretelling what the religious leaders of the day would say as Jesus hung on the cross (v. 8)! It describes how His hands and feet would be pierced (v. 16), and how they would cast lots for his garment (v. 18).
I can’t begin to imagine the suffering Jesus experienced as He hung on the cross. As I read Psalm 22, lyrics from an older worship song come to mind: I’ll never know how much it cost to see my sin upon that cross. Jesus suffered for me, and as Psalm 22 promises, His suffering was not in vain. The Psalm goes on to say:
“For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help. From you comes the theme of my praise in the great assembly…” (Psalm 22:24–25, NIV)
My prayer for us this week is that we will remember the suffering of the Afflicted One, our Savior, and lift His praise in our lives each day. Thank You, God, for saving me.
“Through the praise of children and infants you have established a stronghold against your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger” (Psalm 8:2, NIV).
Psalm 8 declares the majesty of the Lord’s name throughout all the earth. God has done marvelous things in Creation. Look at a sunset, gaze at a starry night, and tell me you aren’t moved by the glory of God! Not only that but when we see the immensity of God’s Universe and consider the vast power that is His, we realize our humble estate. What a great honor and privilege that the Creator would be mindful of us! He is worthy of our worship.
When I read verse 2, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus’s words in Matthew 18:3. “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Kids are so amazed by simple things we take for granted. They find wonder in little things we don’t even notice anymore. My son, Elliot, is fascinated by bugs. He loves to go outside and dig for worms and catch ladybugs. Watching them flit around in a jar brings him so much delight. When was the last time I was delighted by the things God has made for us to enjoy, even the simple things?
We get so busy with work and family obligations, so burdened by the cares and anxieties of life, that we sometimes forget that the praise of God is our stronghold in a chaotic world. The Lord is our Rock who doesn’t move among the shifting sands of society. Worship is the bedrock of our lives, and when we have the attitude of a child–amazed and delighted and filled with wonder by the beauty and majesty of our God–then we will find our footing sure and our hearts light.
My prayer for us this week is that we will be delighted by God and respond with praise.
One of my goals this Advent is to spend more time praying through God’s Word. And, I thought perhaps you’d like to join me in that this Christmas season! Below are a Scripture and prayer. Read the passage, pray the prayer, and then write or speak your own prayer from this Scripture. Send me your prayer this week (firstname.lastname@example.org) and I’ll pray it, too! We can pray through Scripture together. 🙂
Psalm 63:1-5 (NIV)
1 You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
2 I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory. 3 Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you. 4 I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands. 5 I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
Oh, God, may it be true of me that You are my God. You are the source and the foundation of my life. My hope and trust are in You alone. Without You I am nothing; I have nothing apart from You. There is no satisfaction in life unless You are there. You are my joy and my strength. You are my light and my salvation. You are the One who really matters. I have seen Your glory and experienced the supernatural presence and power of Your Holy Spirit. Your majesty commands my praise and Your love has captivated my heart. I will praise You as long as I live and will exalt Your holy name. To worship in Your presence is the highest purpose and the greatest experience in life. Fill me with Your Spirit, I ask in Your name. Amen.
This is the first sermon in a series called Christmas Songs, where we study the original music of Christmas. The first Christmas songs were composed a couple thousand years ago and written in Scripture. These songs from the Bible will help us make this Christmas season a time of worship, with family, friends, food, and shopping filling their appropriate roles under the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sermon delivered at LakeView Church on Dec 3, 2017.
And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “ ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’ ”
~ Luke 4:8
“The church service is the most important, momentous and majestic thing which can possibly take place on earth…”
~ Karl Barth
There is no higher calling, no greater pursuit in life than worship. Yet, according to a recent study by the Barna Group, the average “active” church member attends church 1.7 times a month… that’s not even half the time! And those are the “active” members! There are some legitimately good reasons for a person to occasionally miss church, but the reality is many Christians simply fail to make worship a priority–we’re just too busy to be bothered with going to church (thankfully, Jesus wasn’t too busy to be bothered with going to the cross!). So, as a little incentive at the start of a new year, here are six reasons why it’s important to worship together, in church, as the church.
1. It’s important to worship together because we’re commanded to.
Many times the Scriptures call us to come together to worship the Lord. Consider Psalm 95, which begins, “Come, let us sing for joy…” Everything in the entire Psalm is written in the plural. In fact, it’s impossible to practice Psalm 95 by yourself, because Psalm 95 calls God’s people to gather together and worship Him. So, we have a simple choice. Either we will choose to be obedient to God’s Word, and make worshiping together a priority; or we will choose to be disobedient to God’s Word and skip church. Which way will you choose?
2. It’s important to worship together because it drives our beliefs down deep into our souls.
I’ve had many conversations with people who tell me they don’t think Christianity has any real impact in their lives. They don’t sense God’s presence with them ever, and they don’t have any connection to the power of God in their daily lives. I wonder if this might be because their beliefs are little more than ideas in their heads? See, beliefs don’t really change your life until they drop from your head to your heart. It’s not enough to simply think things, you need to hold those beliefs in the depths of your soul. And, corporate worship is designed to engage your entire being–heart, soul, mind, and strength. When we sing our beliefs, pray our beliefs, study our beliefs, discuss our beliefs, and interact with other Christians who share our beliefs, those beliefs become more than just ideas in our heads. They become life-transforming truths driven deeply into our souls and expressed daily in how we live.
3. It’s important to worship together because you can’t truly know God as He is by yourself.
I’ve talked with many, many people who say, “I don’t have to go to church to know God.” The fact is, they’re wrong. God is not just your God or my God–He is our God. Through my study, and my experience, and my relationship with God, I have a different knowledge of Him than you do. And you have experienced God in ways I haven’t. If I want to truly know God as He is, I need to be with other Christians and learn from their stories, their worship, and their experiences. When I hear sermons from other pastors, I learn more about God than I would just by studying those verses by myself. When I hear other Christians pray, I see what God means to them and how He’s worked in their lives, and I get a bigger picture of God than I ever would have just praying by myself. On my own, I have one tiny perspective on God–a drop in the ocean. If I truly desire to know more of God, I must be together with other Christians in worship.
“You will never know God as He is unless you are in a worshiping community.”
~ Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City
4. It’s important to worship together because it’s where life together begins.
There’s no such thing as a Lone Ranger Christian. The Christian faith is personal, but it is neverprivate. We do not have a private faith! Everywhere the gospel went, it formed Christian congregations, churches, where Christians would gather. The Christian life is a life together, and that life together begins with worship.
“The whole common life of the Christian fellowship oscillates between Word and Sacrament, it begins and ends in worship.”
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer
5. It’s important to worship together because it reminds us what’s really important in life.
Guess what? Your kids’ sports are not really what’s important in life. How much money you make isn’t really the ultimate value of life. Sleeping in doesn’t rank super high on the list of what matters most in this world. What is really important in life is knowing God, hearing His voice and responding to it in worship. We were created to “glorify God and to enjoy Him forever,” as the Westminster Shorter Catechism says. When we make going to church to worship together a priority, we proclaim to ourselves, our kids, our friends, and the world around us that we are not the center of the Universe–God is.
When I was a kid, we were not allowed to play sports that caused us to miss church. If there was a game Sunday afternoon and we could play after church, that was fine. But we didn’t miss church to play ball because how many points you score on the field isn’t really what’s important in life. And let’s be honest, I wasn’t going to be a professional athlete (and neither will your kids). I can’t remember a single Sunday when we woke up, sat around in our PJ’s and asked, “Do you think we should go to church this morning?” Was it Sunday? Were we breathing? Then we were going to worship God. When I was old enough to have a job, my dad told me I wasn’t allowed to work on Sunday mornings and skip church. My high school job wasn’t important enough to take me away from the worship of God!
Parents, when you allow your kids to skip church because of sports, working at McDonald’s, and just being too tired to get up, you are teaching them that God is only worthy of our worship when it’s convenient for us. If you allow your kids to be the center of your family’s Universe, they will grow up thinking the world revolves around them. But, your kids are not awesome… God is awesome. They are not the center of the Universe–God is. Making church a priority reminds us and teaches others around us of what’s really important in life, namely, God.
6. It’s important to worship together because we need to “rest” in Christ.
In the Old Testament, the people of Israel observed the Sabbath Day. Every Saturday, they stopped what they normally did the rest of the week and physically rested. They stopped their work and worshiped God. They acknowledged that God was truly the One who provided for them, cared for them, and worked for them. As Christians, we are not bound by the Sabbath law, like the Israelites were. However, through Jesus Christ’s work on the cross, He offers us a spiritual Sabbath. We don’t celebrate our “Sabbath” on Saturday, but we “rest” in Christ on Sunday, the Lord’s Day, the day when Jesus rose again. And, we need that spiritual rest.
An aircraft carrier carries planes across the ocean. Those planes fly out on their mission, but they can’t stay out forever. If they don’t come back to land on the carrier, they will run out of fuel and crash. They need to come back, be refueled, refitted, repaired, and relaunched to accomplish their mission. That’s exactly what worship does for us. You are out there Monday through Saturday, trying to live a godly life in a godless society. If you stay out too long, you’ll run out of fuel and crash. You need to stop, come back and rest in God’s sanctuary, and be refreshed. You need to be reminded of what’s most important in life. You need to be refocused on God’s Word, and you need to be encouraged by other Christians. Then you need to be relaunched back into the world, full of the Spirit and ready to accomplish God’s mission for you.
Going to church on a Sunday morning is important. It’s not just some meaningless activity Christians do, but it’s a vital part of your life as a believer. We need to worship together, and God is worthy of our worship. He gave His one and only Son to die on the cross in our place. He forgives all our sin. He provides for all our needs. The least we can do is give Him a couple hours one day a week!