Saturday, September 30, 2017

The Alternative to Worship...

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
    let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker!
For he is our God,
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
    do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,
    as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,
when your fathers put me to the test
    and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
10 For forty years I loathed that generation
    and said, “They are a people who go astray in their heart,
    and they have not known my ways.”
11 Therefore I swore in my wrath,
    “They shall not enter my rest.”

After the opening verses about coming to worship God fully loaded, the psalmist gets to the core call: Come humbly before God, submitting to Him as Shepherd, trusting in His heart and His hand.  The alternative is having a hardened heart, not trusting, not thanking, roaming aimlessly trying to do it on our own. It really is an irrational choice, but how often it is taken, even by those who call themselves His sheep, His people.  Come, let us worship and bow down.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Worship: Singing the Second Stanza

PSALM 66:8-13
There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,
    nor are there any works like yours.
All the nations you have made shall come
    and worship before you, O Lord,
    and shall glorify your name.
10 For you are great and do wondrous things;
    you alone are God.
11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart,
    and I will glorify your name forever.
13 For great is your steadfast love toward me;
    you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

I once had a man quit coming to Sunday evening services. Why? Because when we would have hymn-sings we would not sing every verse, chopping up the message of the song. He had a point. Often, we know the first verse only of a hymn or carol, and never get deep into the message. The opening verses of this psalm have some great stuff, some of which are repeated in this second stanza: worshiping by giving thanks, acknowledging that God is greater than all others, and seeing Him as our only salvation. But packed in the middle of it all is this request: Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
Real worship is responsive; it affects the way we live and what we live for. David puts it plainly: "LORD, help me to want what You want!" As we rush through our day today, may we take time to get to the second stanza - worshiping God not just as the Great Big One out there (Who does deserve to be praised!), but to come away with a heartfelt desire that our desires will be His.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Conversation of Worship...


Psalm 66: 

Shout for joy to God, all the earth;
    sing the glory of his name;
    give to him glorious praise!
Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!
    So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.
All the earth worships you
    and sings praises to you;
    they sing praises to your name.” Selah...

Many Psalms were written for public worship, but also carried with them a tune and a topic that could be carried out into daily, personal life.  Here the Psalmist calls on all people to stop and proclaim to God "How awesome are your deeds!" In the following verses he goes on to recite great national historical events like the crossing of the their deliverance from bondage in Egypt, their crossing through the Red Sea on dry land, their preservation as a nation, and His provision in the Promised Land.  But then he gets personal, telling how he will respond by bringing offerings to God, exhorting us to hear his own story of how awesome God is. The greatest thing to him is the last stanza: 
20 Blessed be God,
    because he has not rejected my prayer    or removed his steadfast love from me!
That is the most awesome thought, is it not? That God still loves me.  

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Worship and the Holy Hurricane

Ps.29 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.
The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
    and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
    and strips the forests bare,
    and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”
10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace.

That last word is so striking! Peace... After a powerful putting together of words describing a consuming flood, "May the LORD bless His people with  peace."  God in His powerful holiness does leave that behind. In the pictures we have seen after the hurricanes and the flooding associated with them, there is a peace: no traffic, no electrical devices, and overwhelming silence as we see what the power of wind and water can do.  Worship is like that: silently sitting back to see past all that has been laid bare, to see the Powerful One, Holy and True, above which there is no other.  If our hope is in Him, there is hope and peace after the hurricane.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Worship is like coming home...

Ps.22:27 All the ends of the earth shall remember
    and turn to the Lord,
and all the families of the nations
    shall worship before you.
28 For kingship belongs to the Lord,
    and he rules over the nations.
29 All the prosperous of the earth eat and worship;
    before him shall bow all who go down to the dust,
    even the one who could not keep himself alive.
30 Posterity shall serve him;
    it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation;
31 they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn,
    that he has done it.

This Psalm, very much a Messianic one, looks forward to a day when people will "come home" to worship God.  All kinds of people: those who rule and are rich, as well as those who cannot even afford to "keep themselves alive," those of the present, as well as those of future generations.  The bottom line is that all will recognize that "He has done it." God is the One who has initiated His redemptive, restorative work of bringing us back to Himself.  Therefore, the psalmist is able to sing in the verses preceding these: 
25 From you comes my praise in the great congregation;
    my vows I will perform before those who fear him.
26 The afflicted shall eat and be satisfied;
    those who seek him shall praise the Lord!
    May your hearts live forever!
May your heart rejoice and live forever, praising God for what He has done in Christ!

Monday, September 25, 2017

Worship: It's what to do when you've lost it all!

Job 1:20 Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.
After a long list of disasters that hit job one after another, we find his response: worship.  He was so accustomed to worshiping God in the Good times of life that his circumstances - no matter how dire - did not change his response to God. This is Job's claim to fame that makes him household name; it is this that draws us closer to examine our lives.  Whatever problems or struggles or trials we are facing today, do people see and hear us say: "Blessed be the name of the LORD!"  God is worthy of our thanks and praise no matter what; He is still God. May we listen to ourselves today. Am I worshipping Him no matter what? Or am I complaining and angry and grumpy and focusing on me instead of Him?

Sunday, September 24, 2017

A Snapshot of Revival Worship

Nehemiah 9:3 And they stood up in their place and read from the Book of the Law of the Lord their God for a quarter of the day; for another quarter of it they made confession and worshiped the Lordtheir God. On the stairs of the Levites stood Jeshua, Bani, Kadmiel, Shebaniah, Bunni, Sherebiah, Bani, and Chenani; and they cried with a loud voice to the Lord their God. Then the Levites, Jeshua, Kadmiel, Bani, Hashabneiah, Sherebiah, Hodiah, Shebaniah, and Pethahiah, said, “Stand up and bless the Lord your God from everlasting to everlasting. Blessed be your glorious name, which is exalted above all blessing and praise.
 “You are the Lord, you alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them; and you preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships you. You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram and brought him out of Ur of the Chaldeans and gave him the name Abraham. You found his heart faithful before you, and made with him the covenant to give to his offspring the land of the Canaanite, the Hittite, the Amorite, the Perizzite, the Jebusite, and the Girgashite. And you have kept your promise, for you are righteous.
After the return from the exile and rebuilding of the wall, the people stopped and confessed their sin. They gave renewed attention to hearing the Word of God and responding to it. When they gathered together they had some specific confessions to make: He is eternal, above all others, the Great Creator and Preserver of what He has made, and He is the One who makes promises to men and keeps them.  He is righteous: He always does right by men: whether it is to judge and punish, or save and restore; we can count on Him to do the righ thing.  Worship acknowledges all of that - not just verbally, but in how we go out and live.  May God revive us and restore our worship of HIM.