Christianity 201

November 18, 2012

Worship in the Psalms

The blog Fresh Read is working through a study of The Psalms and provides some excellent online devotional commentary. Here are two recent posts, one dealing with Psalm 146 and the other with the first verse of Psalm 147. Click the title for each to link directly and locate other entries.

Together & Alone – Psalm 146

Praise the Lord.

Praise the Lord, O my soul.
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God as long as I live

Psalm 146:1-2 (NIV_84)

Hallelujah is a Hebrew word.  It is a verb that calls us to Praise the Lord.  It is possible in Hebrew to have verbs for an individual or for a group.  This word is for a group.  It means, “Let us, together, praise the Lord.”

While Israel lived in tents, before they entered the Promised Land.  They would put the Tent of God in the middle of all their tents.  Each tribe was arranged around the tent of worship.  God was at the center of their community.  (Numbers 2)

When they enter the Promised Land they put the tent of worship in one place.  Later Solomon built a temple in Jerusalem.  The people would come from all over to worship God in this one place.  They worshiped together in Jerusalem.  (Psalm 48)

Worshiping God is something that we do together.  Hallelujah is a command. It calls us to get together, and to worship God together.  You could watch a church meeting on TV or on the Computer.  You could stay at home with a cup of tea and be part of a church service.  You could go to TV church in my pajamas.  It would be much easier when it snows here in Wisconsin?

“Hallelujah” is a call to meet together.  His people honor the Lord when they meet together.  They show that God loves many people and many kinds of people when we meet together.  They give each other encouragement when they meet together and say “Welcome.”  And when they say, “Praise the Lord.”

It is also important to praise the Lord alone.

In verse 1 the Psalmist speaks to his own soul.  He says, “Praise the Lord, O my soul.”

In verse 2 he says, “I will praise the Lord as long as I live.”

These verses are for the individual.  The bible has stories about how God looks on the heart, not on the outside.  David was chosen to be king, even though he was the youngest in his family, because his heart was strong for the Lord.  Isaiah spoke in warning of those whose lips offered praise, but their hearts were not in it. (Is 29:13)

It is important to Praise God together. It is also important to  praise God from the heart.

There is balance in the pronouns.

Why Worship? Psalm 147:1

Praise the Lord.

How good it is to sing praises to our God,

    how pleasant and fitting to praise him!

We gather to praise the Lord together.  Have you ever wondered why?  Maybe it is a tradition – your parents and their parents did this.  But there are better reasons than simple repetition and tradition.

This psalm says that praising the Lord is good, pleasant and fitting.

It is good in many ways.  Only the ungrateful do not give thanks for a gift.  We all think it good to thanks our parents, to thank a vet, to thank a neighbor who lends a hand.  It is good because there is not harm in it, not sin.  It is good because Praise realigns our hearts from despair or doubt – when we praise we remember what God has done.

It is pleasant. Isn’t it delightful to hear good music?  Don’t you enjoy singing a great old hymn, even if you have more enthusiasm than skill?  God desires that our walk with him is delightful and pleasant.  We are not called to be grim, sour legalists.  We are called to live in delight.

It is fitting.   Sooner or later you will run into someone who says that this is all a waste of time.  Why are we here praising God when we could be doing something useful?  During the Civil War the army wanted to close churches and turn them into hospitals.  Lincoln stopped this idea because he said that a nation has to have a place to pray, especially in times of distress and danger.

Mission Statement: Christianity 201 is a melting-pot of devotional and Bible study content from across the widest range of the Christian blogosphere. An individual article may be posted even if some or all readers might not agree with other things posted at the same blog, and two posts may follow on consecutive days by authors with very different doctrinal perspectives. The Kingdom of God is so much bigger than the small portion of it we can see from our personal vantage point, and one of the purposes of C201 is to allow readers a ‘macro’ view of the many ministries and individual voices available for reading.

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November 15, 2011

Devotional Meditation Time: A Morning Habit

Today’s post is from Duke Taber’s blog, Taber’s Truth, where it appeared under the title Devotional Ideas: A Fresh Look at Morning Devotions.

You get up in the morning, groggy and sleepy eyed. Maybe you take your shower and have a cup of coffee and then for many Christians it is off to do your “morning devotions“. You may find a quiet place in the house if that is possible, or go to your computer and look up a devotional like Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening or Oswald Chamber’s My utmost for His highest or if you are really hip then you go and read Greg Laurie’s devotional. Yet all of it seems to no longer speak to you or you seem like you are just going through the motions and it is not having an impact on your spiritual life. Well I hope to give you a fresh look at how to approach your morning devotions and may some new ideas about what really is the purpose of morning devotions.

The purpose of morning devotions.

If you are like me, when you gave your life to Jesus, you didn’t have a clue about what it was to live out the Christian life. You listened intently to every word your pastor said trying to gleam insight into how to put into practice your new found faith. One of those things was probably a message on having “quiet times” with the Lord in the morning and to “put God first before all of your other earthly activities”. This was called doing “morning devotions”. You were given a format about how to do a morning devotion like a time of prayer, reading the Bible, and a little book with spiritual thoughts concerning the Christian faith and living out that faith. Usually written by people well respected and admired in the Christian community especially from days gone by. If you did these things then that proved you were devoted to God and had your priorities in the right place. However what was the purpose of having a devotional in the first place. Why did these great men of God become so great? Was it not because of their “devotion” to God? So their purpose in having a morning devotion was not to “put Jesus first” since He was already first, nor was it to schedule a “quiet time” with the Lord but it was an outworking of a very intimate relationship that already existed. They were already devoted. They were already in love with the Lord. The purpose of their morning devotion was to spend time with someone that they adored.

Fresh Ideas for your morning devotional

  • Approach your morning devotion the same way you would approach your relationship with your spouse. Instead of having a list to accomplish or ingredients to place into your morning devotion, instead start building relationship with Jesus. Those things can include reading the bible, or using another man’s thoughts on Christianity, but they don’t have too. Think about it. If you took your wife on the same date every single night, wouldn’t that date become old and wouldn’t your wife start to complain quickly about your thoughtlessness and lack of care? Our Lord is a real person. I can imagine that He is just as bored with the same ole same ole as you are! How about spicing up your love relationship with Jesus by a change of scenery or agenda or even having no agenda at all except to spend time with Him?
  • Change the purpose of your morning devotional. Instead of trying to prove something or get something from God, like a good day with no troubles (which was one of the promises I heard that would happen if I did morning devotionals), to just learning something new in how to build your relationship with Jesus. Make the purpose of your morning devotional to learn the heart of our Lord. Don’t do it for what is in it for you, but do it because you truly care to know the real and living Christ.
  • Allow spontaneity in your relationship with Jesus. Give yourself the freedom that instead of sitting at your normal spot, take a walk, go for a drive, sit by a lake or at the beach. Play music that encourages you to worship the Lord. Just talk with Jesus and then take time to listen. You don’t need Spurgeon or Chambers or even Greg Laurie to tell you what God is saying. You are more than capable of hearing His voice yourself and it will mean much more to you and be much more personal than someone else’s. John 10:27  Make it a relationship and not a ritual. Relationships grow, build, change over time. Make your relationship one that becomes a full fledged love affair with your Savior.
I have found that my most treasured time in the morning now is the time I spend with the lover of my soul. Just as C. Austin Miles wrote in the beloved hymn from 1912

I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses.

And He walks with me, and He talks with me,
And He tells me I am His own;
And the joy we share as we tarry there,
None other has ever known.

He speaks, and the sound of His voice,
Is so sweet the birds hush their singing,
And the melody that He gave to me
Within my heart is ringing.

I’d stay in the garden with Him
Though the night around me be falling,
But He bids me go; through the voice of woe
His voice to me is calling.

So you can have the type of love relationship with Jesus that goes beyond just “doing” a morning devotional.
Duke Taber is the pastor of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship of Pine Haven Wyoming.

July 6, 2011

Inspiring Ideas on Worship from Matt Redman

Matt Redman is the author of over 200 worship songs including Heart of Worship, Once Again, I Will Offer Up My Life, Blessed Be The Name; and coauthored the song Our God which is being widely used in churches across North America.  (It’s the song that begins, “Water you turned into wine, opened the eyes of the blind, there’s no one like you…”)

His book Mirror Ball is releasing later this month from David C. Cook.  It’s 84 pages of text rich in depth and elements of Christian tradition that also includes a 52-page study guide.  While its target audience is adults, many teens and twenty-somethings know his music and I believe this book has a huge secondary audience awaiting in that demographic.  Here’s a sample:

The life of worship for Christians is … a life of wandering and wondering — journeying from scene to scene and taking time to explore the magnificence of God.  With the eyes of our hearts fixed upon Jesus we will always be amazed by the things we see. Literally, always.  We will find his splendor, power and love inexhaustibly captivating. 

Archbishop William Temple once described worship as

The quickening of conscience by His holiness
The nourishment of mind with His truth
The purifying of imagination by His beauty
The opening of the heart to His love
The surrender of the will to His purpose —
And all of this gathered up in adoration.

William Temple’s words here sum up so well the rhythm of revelation and response that we find in our worship of God.  He names three ways we receive revelation of God in worship: consciences quickened, minds nourished and imaginations purified, and then he names three ways in which we bring a response to all that God reveals: opening our hearts, surrendering our wills and engaging in the adoration permeating all.  We see, and we sing.  We explore the ways of God and we express our responses to Him.  We wander out into the vastness of His glory and we wonder how One so high and holy could involve himself with the likes of us.  Every step of the way we find another reason to declare his praise.  We have never met One nearly as loving and we have never encountered another remotely so glorious.  In Jesus Christ we find majesty fusing with mercy and kindness with flowing with Kingship.  We see generosity streaming with humility and grandeur infused with grace.  Time after time we find ourselves making a joyful surrender of our hearts and offering up serious-minded adoration in his honor. 

One of the qualities I most admire in a person or indeed in a church congregation is a readiness to worship.  The writer of Psalm 65 declares that, “Praise awaits You, O God;” (verse 1) and that is a fantastic posture of the heart for us to adopt when it comes to bringing devotion to the living God.  In our worship of Him, ideally, we should need warming up or any amount of coaxing.  We should be there, ready and waiting, mindful of the many, many reasons there are to praise Him.

~Matt Redman

August 28, 2010

Finding Your Worship Moment

I have written and spoken many times on the concept of finding a worship moment; that time when you are just overcome by the beauty of creation and you have to stop and thank God for what He has made, and worship Him for being able to make it.

But not all worship moments involve emotional intensity, there are some that equal the fervor of a Sunday morning worship time in a Charismatic church, but there are others where you don’t respond the same, but in your heart, there is no doubt about giving credit to Whom credit is due.

This little forest is nested in a town park not far from our business.   It’s been awhile since we grabbed a sandwich and took a half hour to enjoy some time together, but on Thursday we did just that.   Mrs. W. was quite excited about owning — for the first time in her life — a truly decent camera and was snapping picture after picture of leaves, and tree trunks, and tiny little spiders.

“Hurry up,” I kept saying; “No more micro pictures, you need to take more macro pictures.”   For me, the beauty in creation is always the big picture scenes;  I tend to choose Niagara Falls over the little drops of water running down the rock; although, when I was thirsty this summer at High Falls Gorge, the water from the rock proved much easier to access than the torrent racing down the gorge itself.

Each one of us has different things in creation which remind us of the  greatness of God.   The heavens do indeed tell the splendor of God’s glory (the macro) and the earth provides the details of His creative engineering (the micro).   Day after day, nature repeats this message to us like a flashing beacon; night after night nature provides the information.   What matters is that we need to formulate some response to all that we see.

But for me, the beauty of the forest, is the more appreciated.   This time around I wasn’t exactly overcome with worship, but again, you see it all differently when you know the Maker.

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Portions of today’s thoughts are taken from Psalm 19.

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