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worship lightsThe One Year Bible had me reading 2 Kings and the story of King Josiah’s cleansing of the Temple. Before he came into power his predecessor, Manasseh, began using the temple for Baal worship and cult prostitution as sacrifice to the fertility goddess Asherah. The temple had been desecrated by the sacrifice of infants and prostitution.

One verse that caught my attention was 2 Kings 23:7:

And he (Hilkiah the high priest) broke down the houses of the male cult prostitutes who were in the house of the Lord, where the women wove hangings for the Asherah.

Shocking isn’t it?  How is it possible that this desecration of God’s house was going on? This was the place of sacrifice,of the Holy of Holies, the place where God’s glory had appeared in spectacular display!  Think of it – a place that was designed primarily as a place for God’s pleasure had been turned on its head and made a place devoted to human pleasure at the basest level.

What happens when the wants and desires of man drive the act of worship?

Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name,” the psalmist declares. “Tremble before him! Come let us worship and bow down!”. Is this the experience in our modern worship? Are we in awe of the living God or are we looking for awe in things other than Him?  Is there a place for beauty and appealing to the senses? Of course! No one could look at the Temple and not conclude that beauty, even breath-taking beauty was on display. The music, garments, incense, architecture, great altar and basin we’re all a feast for the senses. However, that beauty was designed to point to God; to inspire the awe of God, not awe of the temple experience.

Could it be that people are looking to be “awed” by the worship experience they are presented with rather than the God we claim to be exalting?

Why do we hear a continued drumbeat of concern that congregations are becoming crowds of observers rather than worshiping disciples? Why do we hear people referred to as “shoppers” for the best music, lights, effects and band rather than committed members contributing to the health of a local church?*The fertility cults of Biblical history were built around the notion of pleasing oneself as a worship activity. Visits to male or female cultic priests in the shadows of the Asherah poles were for the express purpose of self gratification as a means of expressing some dedication to a god. No doubt the participant left with a deeper appreciation for the experience but no awe and devotion of the true Living God.

An article like this can go downhill pretty quick. I have no interest in soapbox crassness. Still, the question that grabbed me should be obvious. Do we not run the risk of prostituting ourselves for the pleasure of those who require entertainment in order to secure their commitment?  At some point I have to ask myself the question, is the worship I lead drawing people into a deeper love for Jesus and desire for His glory or am I skating two close to the shallow ice of spectacle parading as the beauty of holiness?

Worship leaders are some of my favorite people. They have a passionate love for God and zeal for His glory. Nevertheless, we need to never forget that our egos are hungry, our hearts are deceitful and too easily become what Calvin called “idol factories.” Prostitution is an ugly word that repels us but it can be found today in pulpits and behind guitars. God help us to love His glory more than the applause of the entertained.

Here’s a question. How do we evaluate what we do in order to detect prostitution creeping in? Checking motives is valuable but the truth is we can always have sincere motives but practices that undermine what we’re motivated to do. How do we think in a comprehensive way about what we do?

(*) I’m well aware that the “shopping” might be for children’s ministry, preaching, youth programs, etc… but without question the worship service itself, particularly the music and its presentation, is a clear shopping issue.

serving communion

“In communion, our entire covenant community is brought closer to our God and subsequently, to each other because our Christ is our commonality, and the sacrament is our common sign. As all believers possess God’s Spirit, we are personally fed, repaired, and strengthened. But that communion is not a privatized, one-dimensional experience.

All of Christ’s Church enjoys the presence of the Holy Spirit, so we cannot experience true communion in isolation. The sacrament that is experienced is always done in plurality with other brothers and sisters… We are brought out of isolation into a community that rallies around an identity that is not consumed with melancholic introspection or shared backgrounds. Once defined by our sin, we are now defined by the person and work of another – Jesus. We are now defined by his righteousness, not our own. As we corporately approach the table, it is a group of righteous people who still sin, a group of righteous people who hate their sin, and a group of righteous people who long for the day when they will not sin.

What a relief to many that there are others who are disgusted with themselves. We are morally frustrated, and yet, also long for the perfection found in Christ’s work – not increased fervor or promises. The Table once again unites a fragmented people. Unified, we come. Sinners who have been made righteous attend this Table. We do not come through varying acts of goodness, but through One Person, applied to his people by One Spirit. The Sacrament of the Lord’s Table is, yet again, the cure for loneliness and isolation.”

– Tim Lien

This Is for You (The Means of Grace)

 

C.H. Spurgeon“So with the Lord’s Supper. My witness is, and I think I speak the mind of many of God’s people now present, that coming as some of us do, weekly, to the Lord’s table, we do not find the breaking of bread to have lost its significance—it is always fresh to us. I have often remarked on Lord’s-day evening, whatever the subject may have been, whether Sinai has thundered over our heads, or the plaintive notes of Calvary have pierced our hearts, it always seems equally appropriate to come to the breaking of bread. Shame on the Christian church that she should put it off to once a month, and mar the first day of the week by depriving it of its glory in the meeting together for fellowship and breaking of bread, and showing forth of the death of Christ till he come. They who once know the sweetness of each Lord’s-day celebrating his Supper, will not be content, I am sure, to put it off to less frequent seasons. Beloved, when the Holy Ghost is with us, ordinances are wells to the Christian, wells of rich comfort and of near communion.”

“Songs of Deliverance,” Sermon no. 763, July 28, 1867, preaching from Judges 5:11.

20130417-174749.jpgAA Hodge in his Evangelical Theology: Lectures on Doctrine, speaks of holy communion as the “visible mark or badge of Christian discipleship.” His words that follow are a stirring call both to a life of testimony and the essential nature of the sacrament.

It is true that a true believer, who for any reason is prevented from confessing Christ by wearing publicly his sacramental badge, may just as efficiently confess him by other significant words and deeds. And it is further true that if a communicant is indeed a true believer at heart he
will constantly confess Christ in other ways—indeed, in all conceivable ways—in all his life. Nevertheless, a loyal citizen cannot choose his own flag. The public and official signification of loyalty cannot be left to the accidental choice of individuals. Above all, in a state of active war no loyal soldier can for one moment fail to hold aloft the one battle-flag which his leader has in trusted to his care. He covers it with his body, he shields it with his life, he carries it aloft with streaming eyes and heaving breast at the head of the host. So do we with solemn joy, with reverent love and passion, carry in sacred pomp this sacramental flag of confession and of challenge high in the face of the world which crucified our Lord.

Eucharist - Communion
In his book on the Lord’s Supper, Puritan Thomas Watson warns of neglecting the sacrament:

Has Jesus Christ been at all this cost to make a feast? Then, surely, there must be guests. (Luke 22:19). It is not left to our choice whether we will come or not; it is a duty purely indispensable. “Let him eat of that bread” (1 Corinthians 11:28), which words are not only permissive, but authoritative. It is as if a king should say, “Let it be enacted.”

The neglect of the Sacrament runs men into a gospel penalty. It was infinite goodness in Christ to broach that blessed vessel of His body and let His sacred blood stream out. It is evil for us wilfully to omit such an ordinance wherein the trophy of mercy is so richly displayed and our salvation so nearly concerned. Well may Christ take this as an undervaluing of Him, and interpret it as no better than a bidding Him to keep His feast to Himself. He who did not observe the passover was to be cut off. (Numbers 9:13). How angry was Christ with those who stayed away from the supper! They thought to put it off with a compliment. But Christ knew how to construe their excuse for a refusal. “None of those men which were bidden shall taste of My supper,” (Luke 14:24). Rejecting gospel mercy is a sin of so deep a dye that God can do no less than punish it for a contempt. Some need a flaming sword to keep them from the Lord’s Table, and others need Christ’s whip of small cords to drive them to it.

“In truth, the music of the sacred liturgy has a dual purpose: to express the faith and to help lead the faithful to holiness, that is, to help form and reform the faithful in the image of God, who is All Holy.”

– Edward Schaefer, Catholic Music Through the Ages: Balancing the Needs of a Worshipping Church

autumn-chalk-collection

 

Nice collection from Shift Worship, “Autumn Chalk,” combining a beautiful fall background with blackboard and chalk graphics. Stills, motions, countdowns and editable psd files. Ready for triple-wide as well.  Very nice!

 

autumn-chalk-verse-still

The Hymns That Endure

September 13, 2012

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This is from the Cardiphonia blog:

Here are a couple of great resources for you research geeks exploring the most popular hymns in the (western) world.  This post to keep you thinking as you fill out the Wendell Kimbrough Essential Songs Survey.

Hymnary
These are the 250 hymns published the most frequently in modern hymnals indexed by Hymnary.org

Christianity Today
The hymns that keep on going”  – The top 27 hymns published in hymnals in the last few centuries.

Stephen Marini
Most Frequently Published Evangelical Hymns, 1737-1860  (PDF)

CCLI

Just to keep things interesting here is also a list of the top CCLI songs published between 1997-2012 including the top 200 from CCLI’s “Song Select” service.

PDF

By Michael Horton:

Michael HortonAccording to several studies, American evangelicals generally do not know what they believe and why they believe it. Consequently, most share with the wider culture a confidence in human goodness and a weak view of the need for God’s saving grace in Jesus Christ. According to these reports, most evangelicals believe that we are saved by being good and that there are many ways of salvation apart from explicit faith in Jesus Christ.

Here are a few of the disturbing trends that need to be checked and reformed in contemporary church life:

1. We are all too confident in our own words

We are all too confident in our own words, so that churches become echo chambers for the latest trends in pop psychology, marketing, politics, entertainment, and entrepreneurial leadership. We need to recover our confidence in the triune God and His speech, as He addresses us authoritatively in His Word.

2. We are all too confident in our own methods

We are all too confident in our own methods for success in personal, ecclesial, and social transformation. We need to be turned again to God’s judgment and grace, His action through His ordained means of grace.

3. We are all too confident in our own good works

We are all too confident in our own good works. We need to repent and be brought again to despair not only of our sins but of our pretended righteousness.

4. We are all too enamored of our own glory

We are all too enamored of our own glory, the kingdoms that we are building. We need to be brought back to that place of trust in Christ where we are deeply aware of “receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (Heb. 12:28), because God is building it for His own glory, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it.

Only as we turn our ears away from the false promises of this passing age to God’s Word, to His saving revelation in Christ as the only gospel, and to the glory of the triune God as our only goal, can we expect to see a genuine revival of Christian discipleship, worship, and mission in the world today.


Excerpt adapted from Michael Horton’s foreword in R.C. Sproul’s latest book, Are We Together? Available now from ReformationTrust.com

Thanks to Peter Cockrell for this.

The Funnies 7.20.12

July 20, 2012

https://twitter.com/ChrchCurmudgeon/status/224888504587530242
https://twitter.com/YouthPastrAnon/status/224726907235737600
https://twitter.com/CelebPastor/status/219826250309570563
https://twitter.com/ChrchCurmudgeon/status/224481381814775809
https://twitter.com/CelebWorshipKey/status/226019093147443201
https://twitter.com/TheSurlyDeacon/status/226101465436020736

And who doesn’t like watching guys throw like gir… I mean with the wrong hand!

Men Throwing Rocks With The Other Hand from Juan Etchegaray on Vimeo.