Monday, July 11, 2011

True Case for Christianity

"The case for Christianity today and perhaps always rests on its witness to the world that such appeared in history.  Bonhoeffer was right that Christ is the strength of Christianity and we may hope that those who gaze equally at evil and at Christ will believe too that it is only under his protection that anything can live.  According to Christianity, good and evil in their fullest intensity could not pass each other by in history, but came into climactic conflict with the historical appearance of Jesus.  Christians have believed that only when the full intensity of evil was borne in historical time by one who emerged the victor could the temporal progeny of Adam gain redemption.

- Stephen N. Williams

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Happy 502nd, John Calvin

Our hope is in no other save in Thee;
Our faith is built upon Thy promise free;
Lord, give us peace, and make us calm and sure,
That in Thy strength we evermore endure.

- John Calvin

Soli Deo Gloria

Value of the Hymnal

"The hymnbook and hymn-based worship thrive on hands-on printed material.  A hymnbook is a portable, readable, concrete body of work.  The words are there, easily at hand and available even when the projection screen is turned off.  The music is printed.  It can be read and learned by being seen.  It is in its own way an excellent primer for sight singing.  Even those who cannot read music in the academic sense of the word learn to see and follow pitch curves, rhythms, and harmonic textures simply by watching them move around on the page.  And often the approximate reading leads to precise reading...We must remember that a musically educated singing church - congregation, choir, and above all, carefully trained children - not only comprises a fitting worshiping community, but enriches a musically wayward culture itself."

-Harold Best

Soli Deo Gloria

Acceptable or Unacceptable

"The fact that some worship in the Old Testament was regarded as unacceptable to God is a reminder that what is impressive or seems appropraite to us may be offensive to him."

-David Peterson

Soli Deo Gloria

The Object of Worship

"We worship our Creator-God "precisely because he is worthy, delightfully so."  What ought to make worship delightful to us is not, in the first instance, its novelty or its aesthetic beauty, but its object: God himself is delightfully wonderful, and we learn to delight in him.

In an age increasingly suspicious of (linear) thought, there is much more respect for the "feeling" of things - whether a film or a church service.  It is disturbingly easy to plot surveys of people, especially young people, drifting from a church of excellent preaching and teaching to one with excellent music because, it is alleged, there is "better worship" there...Although there are things that can be done to enhance corporate worship, there is a profound sense in which excellent worship cannot be attained merely by pursuing excellent worship.  In the same way that, according to Jesus, you cannot find yourself until you lose yourself, so also you cannot find excellent corporate worship until you stop trying to find excellent corporate worship and pursue God himself...As a brother put it to me, it's a bit like those who begin by admiring the subset and soon begin to admire themselves admiring the sunset."

- D.A. Carson

Soli Deo Gloria

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Worship as Revelation and Response

"Worship is conversation between God and human beings, a dialog that should go on continually in the life of a believer.  The worship service may provide the beginning of certain aspects of the conversation; it also should help us anticipate what God may communicate in the days ahead and remind us what our continuing response should be.

-Donald P. Hustad

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Taking God Seriously

"Such taking God seriously is...decidedly countercultural. We live in an age and a culture that want instead to turn the worship of God into a matter of personal taste and time, convenience and comfort. Consequently, we need the biggest dose of God we can get when we gather for worship on Sunday morning—to shake us out of this societal sloth and somnambulism and summon us to behold God’s splendor and respond with adoration and service and sacrifice. Taking God seriously, being immersed in his splendor, unites us with a community that practices the alternative way of life of following Jesus, of participation in the kingdom of God."

- Marva Dawn

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, July 4, 2011


"It's time for the Church to free itself from the religious holiness of the Pharisees and begin to manifest the holiness of the Kingdom.  It's time for us to realize that our calling is to serve people sacrificially - including prostitutes, tax collectors, and enemies - rather than judging them.  It's time we cease getting Life from the rightness of our beliefs and behaviors and return to getting it from the one true source of Life.

Gregory A. Boyd, The myth of a Christian religion: losing your religion for the beauty of a revolution (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 2009), 65. 

Soli Deo Gloria


"The shallowness of our inner experience, the hollowness of our worship, and that servile imitation of the world which marks our promotional methods all testify that we, in this day, know God only imperfectly, and the peace of God scarcely at all."

A. W. Tozer. The Pursuit of God. Christian Publications. 1948. pg. 17.

Soli Deo Gloria


Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. -Jesus

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, July 1, 2011

Unspeakable Worth

O could I speak the matchless worth,
O could I sound the glories forth
Which in my Savior shine,
I'd sing His glorious righteousness,
And magnify the wondrous grace
Which made salvation mine,
Which made salvation mine.

I'd sing the characters He bears,
And all the forms of love He wears,
Exalted on His throne:
In loftiest songs of sweetest praise,
I would to everlasting days
Make all His glories known,
Make all His glories known.

Soon the delightful day will come
When my dear Lord will bring me home,
And I shall see His face;
Then with my Savior, Brother, Friend,
A blest eternity I'll spend,
Triumphant in His grace,
Triumphant in His grace.

-Samuel Medley, 1789

Soli Deo Gloria

Thursday, June 30, 2011

What Is Worship?

“True worship involves reverential human acts of submission and homage before the divine sovereign in response to His gracious revelation of Himself and in accordance with His will.” 

-Daniel I. Block

Soli Deo Gloria 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Sense of Vocation

"If we ask how this most remarkable of the miracles of history was performed, we are amazed at the simplicity of God's method.  The world needed a saving faith, and the formula was that such a faith comes by a particular kind of fellowship.  Jesus was deeply concerned for the continuation of his redemptive work after the close of his earthly existence, and his chosen method was the formation of a redemptive society.  He did not form an army, establish a headquarters, or even write a book.  All he did was to collect a few unpromising men and women, inspire them with the sense of his vocation and theirs, and build their lives into an intensive fellowship of affection, worship, and work."

Elton Trueblood, Finding God at Harvard: Spiritual Journeys of Thinking Christians, ed. Kelly Monroe Kullberg (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2007), 334.

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Happy Birthday John Wesley

 Happy 308th birthday to John Wesley.

"Thanksgiving is inseparable from true prayer; it is almost essentially connected with it. One who always prays is ever giving praise, whether in ease or pain, both for prosperity and for the greatest adversity. He blesses God for all things, looks on them as coming from Him, and receives them for His sake- not choosing nor refusing, liking or disliking,anything, but only as it is agreeable or disagreeable to His perfect will." 

-John Wesley

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, June 27, 2011

Our King's Kingdom

A "kingdom," as I wrote earlier, is a king's domain.  To belong to the Kingdom of God means we surrender our life to God and make it part of the domain over which he rules.  When we do this, we immediately begin so experience the Life that comes from God and begin to be transformed into the image of Jesus.

Gregory A. Boyd, The Myth of a Christian Religion (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009), 42. 

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Worship Must Be Theological

Moreover, that which St. Augustine has said is true, that no one is able to sing things worthy of God except that which he has received from him. Therefore, when we have looked thoroughly and searched here and there, we shall not find better songs nor more fitting for the purpose, than the Psalms of David, which the Holy Spirit spoke and made through him. And, moreover, when we sing them, we are certain that God puts in our mouths these, as if he himself were singing in us to exalt his glory.

-John Calvin

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Psalms and 21st-Century Worship

The book of Psalms will not solve our worship controversies and dilemmas, which typically focus on taste and traditions rather than on biblical or theological propriety.  Is there a biblical way to worship? Yes - with a "pure heart" (24:4).  "Pure heart" refers to the integrity of our motivations and the clarity of our commitment to live holy lives.  That is the worship that is pleasing to God.  It is important for us to remember that the effectiveness of our worship is not measured by how we feel when we are done.  It is too easy to walk out of church asking ourselves what we got out of it.  We should be wondering what God got out of it.  Our question should be, "How did I do?"

"In addition, there are precedents for worship that we can glean from the Psalms.  For instance, despite the presence of exuberant worship in Psalms, we cannot afford to ignore the inclusion of the other two psalm categories - lament and wisdom.  Lament suggests the appropriateness of coming before God with problems, questions, petitions, humility, and repentance - not just in personal prayer, but in corporate contexts as well.  Wisdom psalms indicate the appropriateness of instruction and exhortation in the context of worship.  These should not be considered requirements, but ideas offered concerning the range of possibilities that should be considered for well-rounded worship."

John H. Walton and Andrew E. Hill, Old Testament Today: A Journey from Original Meaning to Contemporary Significance (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2004), 371.

Soli Deo Gloria 

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Worship Looks to a Central Figure

"Jesus is absolutely in the middle.  If you want to know who God is, look at Jesus.  If you want to know what it means to be human, look at Jesus.  If you want to know what love is, look at Jesus.  If you want to know what grief is, look at Jesus.  And go on looking until you’re not just a spectator, but you’re actually part of the drama which has him as the central character."

-N.T. Wright

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Who Are We Dealing With?

True worship must reflect the reality of who God is.  That is, whatever the liturgical forms may be, they must conform to certain theological norms.  But for many advocates of "contemporary worship" this fact is often obscured by attempts at ad hoc constructions of "orders" of worship that pay more attention to what the congregation demands than to what God requires.  For example, in many charismatic services today worship is a continuous celebration.  One gets the impression from start to finish that God is nice, accommodating and friendly, always expected to meet my needs and solve my problems.  One gets to see only the divine fascinans without the tremendum, love without holiness, immanence without transcendence.  This seems to be the predilection of our modern age.  The "domestication of transcendence" is not only found among so-called progressive theologians; evangelicals and charismatics are equally guilty of domesticating transcendence through their marketing strategies and seeker-friendly services.  Perhaps we all need reminding that Aslan is "not a tame lion."

Simon Chan, Liturgical Theology: The Church as Worshiping Community (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2006), 57. 

Soli Deo Gloria

C.S. Lewis on Purpose

He demands our worship, our obedience, our prostration.  Do we suppose that they can do Him any good, or fear, like the chorus in Milton, that human irreverence can bring about "His glory's diminution"?  A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word "darkness" on the walls of his cell.  But God wills our good, and our good is to love Him (with that responsive love proper to creatures) and to love Him we must know Him: and if we know Him, we shall in fact fall on our faces.  If we do not, that only shows that what we are trying to love is not yet God - though it may be the nearest approximation to God which our thought and fantasy can attain.  Yet the call is not only to prostration and awe; it is to a reflection of the Divine life, a creaturely participation in the Divine attributes which is far beyond our present desires.  We are bidden to "put on Christ," to become like God.  That is, whether we like it or not, God intends to give us what we need, not what we now think we want.  Once more, we are embarrassed by the intolerable compliment, by too much love, not too little."

C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (San Francisco: HarperOne, 2001), 47.

Soli Deo Gloria


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

We Are What We Sing

"Why were hymns, and why have hymns been, so important for all evangelical movements from the eighteenth century through the present? Historically considered, it is possible to interpret the role of hymnody for evangelicals as just one more particular episode illustrating humanity's deep bond to and with music. Movie goers who are conscious of connections between the scores they hear and what they are watching on the screen know that Martin Luther once caught it exactly: "For whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate or to appease those full of hate ... what more effective means than music could you find?" We are what we sing, the music we listen to regularly, the music we instinctively like, the music that brings tears to our eyes or a charge of energy to our spirits, the music that expresses our deepest longings and strongest loyalties."

-Mark Noll in Worship Leader Magazine.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Hope for the Future

"In the postmodern condition, whatever is "now" is privileged as the primary reality.  With this dynamic comes an incessant need for persons to recreate themselves and a subsequent loss in value of any historical perspective.  Persons think less in terms of the consequences associated with their choices.  This condition affects notions of morality and accountability.  On the other side, many experience a loss of future direction and a diminished sense of hope and purpose.  Postmodern persons tend to live in the present, a present that thrives on surfaces, images, and experiences.  In this context, the church bears a gospel that is rooted in actual history, a gospel that takes seriously both consequence and contingency, and a gospel that offers a genuine hope for a real future."

Darrell L. Guder, ed., Missional Church: A Vision for the Sending of the Church in North America (Gospel and Our Culture) (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998), 45.

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Giving Everything

Take my life and let it be
consecrated, Lord, to thee.
Take my moments and my days;
let them flow in ceaseless praise,
let them flow in ceaseless praise.

Take my hands and let them move
at the impulse of thy love.
Take my feet and let them be
swift and beautiful for thee,
swift and beautiful for thee.

Take my voice and let me sing
always, only, for my King.
Take my lips and let them be
filled with messages from thee,
filled with messages from thee.

Take my silver and my gold;
not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect and use
every power as thou shalt choose,
every power as thou shalt choose.

Take my will and make it thine;
it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart - it is thine own;
it shall be thy royal throne,
it shall be thy royal throne.

Take my love; my Lord, I pour
at thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be
ever, only, all for thee,
ever, only, all for thee.

- Frances Ridley Havergal


"Worship means offering ourselves, "ever, only, all for thee."  It means dedicating ourselves, today and tomorrow and forever, to God's praise.  It means dedicating ourselves "only" to him in a unique, unsurpassable way, and therefore giving to no one else and to nothing else, the full allegiance of love that we owe to God.  It means giving everything we are, and everything we have, to God for his glory. 

Jeffrey P. Greenman and George, R. Sumner, Unwearied Praises: Exploring Christian Faith through Classic Hymns (Toronto: Clements Publishing, 2004), 179.

Soli Deo Gloria


"On occasion, individuals who are prone to sentimentality will read a biblical injunction about joy, for instance, and then assume that worship is inadequate unless a certain emotional experience occurs, as though the emotional stirring were itself valuable.  I suggest, however, that unmerited feelings have no merit, almost tautologically.  If the (external and objective) substance or a hymn, prayer, or sermon provokes appropriate emotional response, all well and good; but to manufacture such a response without a corresponding reason is just sentimentality: emotion for emotion's sake."

T. David Gordon, Why Johnny Can't Sing Hymns: How Pop Culture Rewrote the Hymnal (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishing, 2010), 135. 

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, June 17, 2011

Doxological Overflow

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
     How unsearchable his judgments, 
     and his paths beyond tracing out! 
“Who has known the mind of the Lord? 
     Or who has been his counselor?"
“Who has ever given to God, 
     that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and to him are all things. 
     To him be the glory forever! Amen. 
 -Romans 11:33-36 (TNIV)

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How inscrutable are his judgments and how unsearchable his ways!
     "For who has known the mind of the Lord or who has been his counselor?"
     "Or who has given him anything that he may be repaid?"
For from him and through him and for him are all things.  To him be the glory forever.  Amen.
- (NAB)

How rich and deep are the wisdom and the knowledge of God!  We cannot reach to the root of his decisions or his ways.  "Who has ever known the mind of the Lord? Who has ever been his adviser? Who has given anything to him, so that his presents come only as a debt returned?" Everything there is comes from him and is caused by him and exists for him.  To him be the glory for ever! Amen.
- (NJB)

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Worship Is Consecration

"There are those who argue that worship does not - almost cannot! - take place in church because hymn-singing and listening require so little of us in respect to how we live.  They argue that authentic worship takes place when we live obediently Monday through Saturday amidst a hostile world.  Certainly they have a point.  Worship cannot be separated from consecrated service to God.  The notion that you can come to church on Sunday and bend your knee in worship when in fact you have not done so during the week is a delusion.  Such "worship" is a spiritual impossibility.  Certainly no liturgical exercise performed in a putative "sacred space" can presume to be worship apart from week-long service of God."

"To understand that worship is consecration means that the pastor must see to it that everything in gathered worship leads to Isaac Watts's conclusion: 'Love so amazing, so divine / demands my soul, my life, my all."

R. Kent Hughes, "Free Church Worship: The Challenge of Freedom," in Worship by the Book, ed. D.A.Carson (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002), 159.

Soli Deo Gloria

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Leading Corporate Worship: Responding to the Critics

In an effort to be a wise and informed blogger, I follow bloggers who are better, smarter and more creative than I.  One of these features the wonderfully-relevant and theologically-sensitive Zac Hicks, who is the Associate Pastor of Worship and Liturgy (what a fantastic title!) at Cherry Creek Presbyterian Church in Denver.  Our quotes for today come from his June 13 post, Worship Leader Requires Leathery Skin and a Buttery Heart.

I do always want to be careful when using the term "worship" that we distinguish between a life-engulfing, informed, heartfelt response and corporate, gathered worship that happens at a specific place and time, usually Sunday mornings in a church building.  In the following excerpts, Zac is, of course, employing the latter meaning of the term.

His blog can be found at

"Worship leaders who do not know and love God's Word, or who have little grasp of theology and church history, are ill-equippped to handle much criticism.  If that is the case, hit the books.  If you don't care about "that theology stuff" and don't think it's important, resign."

"Collaborative worship-planning (esp. with other pastors) is a great antidote to criticism, because the team shares in the blame and the defense."

"The only way criticism won't hurt is if you really don't care about the church--Christ's Bride and God's flock.  And if that's the case, please resign.  The call to worship leading is a pastoral call, and this is a call (like many others) to share in the sufferings of Christ.  The invitation to lead worship is a call to come and die.""

"Consumerism is alive and well in the Church.  I would say that over 75% of the time, criticism is based on a willingness to be preferential and an unwillingess to love and die to self."

"Sometimes, criticism exposes blind spots in your ministry."

"In almost every criticism, there is at least a kernel of truth, even if the kernel is something VERY different from what the criticizer is expressing."

Zac Hicks, “Worship Leading Requires Leathery Skin and a Buttery Heart,”, entry posted June 13, 2011, (accessed June     14, 2011). 

Soli Deo Gloria

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Pressure to Be Relevant

"The pressure to be relevant is everywhere.  One of the last things anyone in church leadership wants to be charged with is being out of touch.  Yet isn't this just how the church is typically seen?  So what do we attempt to do?  Make sure that our services are relevant.  The criteria for appropriate relevance include things like a contemporary service, a great sound system, projection screens for songs and images, video clips.  We try to look, sound and feel like we are relevant, just like the broader culture.  It's about technology.  It's about speed.  It's about volume.  It's about now.  Even the retro efforts of emergent worship take this to an extreme by making the worship experience about the relevant moment.

It's necessary, of course, to remember that the Christian faith is based on the central affirmation that God has come to humanity through Jesus Christ.  The incarnation demonstrates personally and tangibly that God's love and his kingdom are the most relevant things in the universe.  Incarnational ministry is the cornerstone of how the church is to carry out its life.  This means that we seek to be relevant to those around us and to communicate this message clearly."

Mark Labberton, The Dangerous Act of Worship: Living God's Call to Justice (Downers Grove: IVP Books, 2007), 49. 

Soli Deo Gloria

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Worship Does God's Story

"In a world where worship follows the culture and becomes like another TV program - presenting, entertaining, satisfying to religious consumerism - it is no wonder that even a pastor trained in seminary knows little to nothing about the meaning of worship.

The problem goest even deeper, however.  It goes to the heart of the Good News.  Worship - daily, weekly, yearly - is rooted in the gospel.  And when worship fails to proclaim, sing, and enact at the Table the Good News that God not only saves sinners but also narrates the whole world, it is not only worship that becomes corrupted by the culture, it is also the gospel.  Not only has worship lost its way, but the fullness of the gospel, the story which worship does, has been lost."

Robert E. Webber, Ancient-Future Worship: Proclaiming and Enacting God's Narrative (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008), 40. 

Soli Deo Gloria

Saturday, June 11, 2011

To God All Praise and Glory

Sing praise to God Who reigns above, the God of all creation,
The God of power, the God of love, the God of our salvation.
With healing balm my soul is filled and every faithless murmur stilled:
To God all praise and glory.

What God’s almighty power hath made His gracious mercy keepeth,
By morning glow or evening shade His watchful eye ne’er sleepeth;
Within the kingdom of His might, Lo! all is just and all is right:
To God all praise and glory.

The Lord is never far away, but through all grief distressing,
An ever present help and stay, our peace and joy and blessing.
As with a mother’s tender hand, God gently leads the chosen band:
To God all praise and glory.

Thus, all my toilsome way along, I sing aloud Thy praises,
That earth may hear the grateful song my voice unwearied raises.
Be joyful in the Lord, my heart, both soul and body bear your part:
To God all praise and glory.

Let all who name Christ’s holy Name give God all praise and glory;
Let all who own His power proclaim aloud the wondrous story!
Cast each false idol from its throne, for Christ is Lord, and Christ alone:
To God all praise and glory.

 Johann Schuetz, 1675

To God All Praise and Glory