Monthly Archives: July 2015

Continually Offer a Sacrifice of Praise

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“Worship was great this morning!” Do you ever hear these words Sunday afternoon at the lunch table or see them on Facebook? As a former worship pastor, our church parishioners would enthusiastically share with me a steady stream of accolades surrounding our church’s “worship.” However, I have never been too comfortable with our modern perception of this understanding of worship. Too many times people associate worship with the first twenty minutes of a church service. During this part of the “program” musicians take the stage, the lights are lowered, and the congregation sings three or four songs. If the band played well, the people sang passionately, and we feel goose bumps, we respond by saying, “Worship was awesome!” However, if there is no band, and the singers are below average, we intuitively conclude, “the worship of this church needs help.” This limited view of worship I have just described is more about satisfying ourselves and our desires for what we want in “worship” rather than pleasing God. In this situation, everything has to be just right for us to make our worship “experience” good.

I contend that the word “worship” has been hijacked to mean something far less than what the Scripture intended it to mean. Although lifting our collective voices as a church congregation certainly constitutes one element of worship, “Sunday worship” represents only one small piece of a life that should embody glorifying God in everything it does. Biblical worship was never intended to be exclusively connected with the music programs in our churches. Consequently, many have the wrong impression of what worship should entail.

The word “worship” comes from the old English term “worth-ship”, which meant, “to attribute great worth and value to someone who merits it.” However, even this definition is incomplete based upon the Biblical examples of how God wants us to respond to Him. When we apply the above definition to God, we simply affirm that He is of worth. It doesn’t inherently suggest actions, only a state of mind – the belief that “God is of great worth.” Unfortunately, in this limited definition there is no interaction with God or a personal response to Him. However, upon examination of the Scriptures there are a myriad of examples used to describe the act of ascribing value to God:

  • Building an altar (Gen. 33:20, Gen 26:25)
  • Sacrificing (Leviticus 1-7)
  • Singing (Psalm 104: 33)
  • Praying (Psalm 5:3)
  • Vows and oath taking (Psalm 66:13-19)
  • Reading/Teaching God’s Law (Duet. 31:9-17)
  • Observing the Sabbath (Exodus 20:8-11)
  • Seasonal festivals (Lev. 23)
  • Penitential rites (Leviticus 16:2)
  • Pilgrimage festivals (Exodus 23:14-17)
  • Incense offerings/libations (Exodus 30:7-9)
  • Purification rites (Leviticus 12:1-8)
  • Tithing (Leviticus 27:30-32)
  • Playing music (2 Chronicles 5:11-14)
  • Dance (2 Samuel 6:14, Psalm 149:3)
  • Clap your hands (Psalm 41:7)
  • Shouting (Psalm 98:4)
  • Doing Good (Hebrews 13:5-6)

Worship had a physical, very active meaning that encompassed every category of life. In order to fulfill our responsibility to worship God, the Scripture didn’t just call us to metaphysical thoughts of, “God is of great worth” – we are told to worship in the ebb and flow of life, through our labor, our relationships with others, the use of our bodies, our finances, our time. Worship should fill and motivate our actions and pursuits. When God’s people forgot this principle, He reprimanded them saying, “I don’t just want your religious sacrifices – you need worship me by ‘acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with your God!’” (see Micah 6:7-8)

Adequate worship represents a way of life, not just a singular event. That is why Paul reminds us in Romans 12:1 that only through giving our entire bodies back to God will we achieve proper worship of Him. The Book of Hebrews tells us that we are to “continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise” as evidenced through the fruit of our lips, our obedience, and concern for others (Hebrews 13:15-16). God created us to be creatures of continual worship. When you see a guitar you naturally assume it was formed by its maker to make music. Likewise, when you see a human body, you need to remember that it was created for the purpose of worshipping God. We often forget that our mouths, eyes, hands, feet, torso, head, and every fiber of our created flesh were formed as part of a great instrument of worship to be played continually.

The well-regarded Puritan pastor, George Swinnock once penned, “…Worship comprehends all that respect which man oweth and giveth to his Maker… is the tribute which we pay to the King of Kings, whereby we acknowledge his sovereignty over us, and our dependence on him……All that inward reverence and respect, all that outward obedience and service to God… is included in this one word worship.” If we truly desire to worship God our lives will reflect “all the inward reverence” and “all the outward obedience” that Swinnock describes, not just by describing our “worship” to God with a twenty-minute time-slot on Sunday mornings. Worship is not an event – it is our chief purpose for which we were created. Worship is a way of life and should be exhibited in everything we do.


I’m a Recovering Glutton

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Last Sunday, Pastor Chad had an interesting quote toward the end of his sermon. He said, “The next time you go to write about someone’s problems online, write about your own; it’ll be a greater testimony anyway.” So, with that in mind, I figured I’d share my problem. I’m a glutton.

I find it hypocritical when we bash murderers, rapists, drug addicts – even liars – but never talk about how gluttony is ruining the lives of so many people. Since it happens to be my problem, I think it’s appropriate to speak out about it. People wonder if the Bible talks about gluttony, and it does. In the Old Testament, gluttony is mostly contained in the Proverbs, as in, “drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags.” (Proverbs 23) But, when you fastforward to the New Testament, you will mostly read lists that talk about self-control. Take, for instance, 2 Peter 1:5-7. We are encouraged to grow our faith with such elements as virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, godliness, brotherly affection, and love. So, when we think about the way in which we live our lives, we are told that self-control should be a primary part of our spiritual development.

Now, I’m a recovering glutton, which means that one sniff of cheddar cheese nachos, one pass by a BBQ joint, or even one look at a bag of Doritos and my heart starts racing. I get excited and then remember that I no longer have to be possessed by a problem that hurt me for quite some time. Am I perfect? Absolutely not! During certain holidays, it is extremely difficult to not fly off the band wagon. However, I have been encouraged to think about gluttony in a new light. People who indulge in overeating are people who are not exercising self-control. In fact, they will probably spend more time acting out in laziness and not being productive for the kingdom of God.

Rather than focusing on these negative aspects of the issue, I’d rather encourage people to think about their witness for Jesus Christ in this world. When people see you, do they see someone who is lazy, without self-control, who cannot seem to practice what they preach? Or, do they see someone who is loving, compassionate, full of the Spirit, who knows what it means to live life in moderation and bless those who are less fortunate? On the one hand, I see people playing right into the hand of our critics who say, “Those Christians aren’t any better than the rest of us.” On the other hand, I see an opportunity to show the world that we are actively striving to work out our faith under the guidance of God’s Spirit.

So I encourage you to think through your daily diet. Maybe you have struggled like I have. Maybe you just think it’s not a problem. But, maybe you have an opportunity to show Christ to those closest to you. How will your eating habits affect that testimony?

Beauty in the Desert

This week, I was talking to a man about his family’s trip to Joshua Tree National Park in the Mojave Desert. I, too, have made some trips out there recently, although not for a vacation. We both made comments about how there is a beauty to the desolate landscape. There is a peace there. Beautiful colors abound, especially as the sun rises and when it sets. Despite the barrenness, there is a section I have traveled through that has a hint of green from the thousands of Joshua trees that dot the landscape, adding to the allure of the desert landscape.

Most people don’t look forward to a trip to the desert like they would a trip to the beach or even the mountains, although some people do prefer Palm Springs over Pismo Beach. The high temperatures and remote locations aren’t that appealing. And when it comes to our spiritual lives, we prefer to be ministered to, preached at, and praised for our good works, like a nice comfortable trip to the beach or a high end resort.

But we shouldn’t avoid those trips to the spiritual desert. Christians need to spend some time developing self-discipline in their spiritual lives. Over the last few weeks, I have personally been studying and digesting some lofty Christian ideas, such as holiness, discipline and obedience. However, these thoughts come at a price. I find myself realizing that I have become lazy and comfortable in so many areas. I have compromised my own spiritual walk in order to be comfortable and entertained. Where I should be getting up earlier to spend time in the Word and prayer, I hit the snooze button and waste more of my time in bed. Where I should be calling people who need encouragement and prayer, I procrastinate so I don’t have to hear other’s problems.

I know I am not the only one who struggles with these things. We all battle against the flesh every day. Let us stop our pursuit of luxury, but let each of us resolve to pursue Christ with more intensity. As Paul reminds us in Romans 6:19, “Just as you used to offer yourselves as slaves to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness” (NIV). We have made a commitment to Christ and vowed to serve Him and others. Let’s honor that commitment through our actions in obedience to the Word of God. Let us enjoy a little time in the desert.