Tag Archives: worship

(Psalms 146-150) Praise and Worship

The final psalms center around worship, the how’s and why’s of it. My take-away is that worship must come from our hearts as well as our minds, and praising God must be the natural outpouring of receiving His grace. Worship must focus on God and should not be used to make us feel good, or spiritual, or blessed. Our praise should not have to be choreographed, but should be God-inspired and led.

Why? Because our Holy God demands we put aside our selves and worship Him for who He is and what He has done. I think we sing “I” too many times in our Sunday morning praise songs these days.

These psalms remind me that we can – and should – worship God from surrendered hearts all the time, not just on Sunday morning. The creation compels us to worship the Creator!

In fact, Warren Wiersbe, in his “Be Exultant” commentary, (David C. Cook, publisher; 2004; page 218) said something that hit me. “Without the private worship, we are but hypocrites at public worship.”

How do you balance emotion and intellect when you worship and praise God? I’m not sure worship that is all emotion pleases God any more than worship devoid of emotion. But how do you meld the two into praise and worship that pleases God?

I believe, after looking more closely at the psalms these last few weeks, that if we are truly focused on God in our worship of Him, if our hearts are clean, our sins confessed and forgiven, our wills surrendered to Him, and if we use our minds to consider God’s character, His Presence, His faithfulness in the past, etc., our praise will flow naturally and freely. Our worship will be a perfect balance of emotion and intellect.

God alone is worthy of our careful and purposeful worship, and not just one day a week. God deserves our heartfelt praise because He is worthy.

Let everything that breathes praise the Lord. Hallelujah! (Psalm 150:6)

(Psalm 103) True Praise

“True praise comes from a grateful heart that sincerely wants to glorify and please the Lord.” (Be Exultant; Warren Wiersbe; David C Cook Publisher, 2004; p 55)

Psalm 103 is a psalm of praise. It’s not about show. Its’ not about what a worshiper likes about worship. And it’s not about having a worship experience. Its’ about God.

True praise has nothing to do with what a person does with his hands, or whether or not he’s smiling. True praise has everything to do with clean hearts, surrendered lives, a holy people unto the Lord.

Read Psalm 103. You won’t find one “I” in the whole thing.

I recently heard someone say it should be fun to praise God. I question the “should.” Do we worship to feel good? I don’t think that’s worship. Do we praise so that our hearts soar and we are blessed? I don’t think that’s praising God. Do we organize our time of praise so that it’s fun? If that’s our goal, if that has any part of why we praise, we’ve missed the boat entirely. We can get all that going to ballgame.

We may feel all those things: joy, blessing, hearts soaring as a result of true praise. Or we may feel convicted, sorrowful, humbled while praising God. But none of those things should drive our worship.

Our reason for praising God is because He is worthy of praise. Our reason for worshiping God is because He alone is worthy of our worship.

Maybe we need to spend more time worrying about the condition of the hearts of people than how people look and feel when they praise the Lord. Maybe we need to concentrate more on being a holy people, than having fun while we worship.

(Psalm 93) Adorning the Temple

Our God reigns! He sits on His eternal throne and has absolute rule over His creation. There may be powers that would destroy what God has so lovingly and purposefully made, but God is greater than the enemy of us all.

We can put our confidence in our Eternal King because all He has said is true and completely reliable. What an incredible gift is His Word in print. We can know Him, hear Him, recognize His hand in our lives by spending time in the Bible.

We have reason to praise and worship God!

I have shared that our church fellowship is in the middle of a building project. For years we have met in the basement of a commercial building, but we are hopefully going to move to the north end of this island and occupy a brand new building with classrooms and our own parking lot before the end of this year. God is doing amazing things in and through this journey.

Warren Wiersbe said something in regard to verse 5 of this Psalm in his “Be Exultant” study (David C Cook Publisher, 2004, page 32) that I think could be engraved into the foundation of our new building if the cement wasn’t already dried:

“It is a holy people that makes the temple holy, and ‘the beauty of holiness’ (29:2) is the greatest adornment for any structure dedicated to the Lord.”

We, of course, want our new structure to be pleasing to our Lord. We want what happens inside those walls to matter for eternity. We pray that it will be a tool God uses to reach the lost. But the psalmist (and Wiersbe) reminds me it’s not about the building.

It’s about holy people. Not busy people. Not even worshiping people, or a people with great outreach programs.

Holy people are what makes the temple beautiful in God’s eye; people who have repented of sin and obey God from clean hearts and minds. Holy people, not just good people.

My prayer is that as we worship and praise our Eternal King, whether in the basement or sitting inside a structure smelling of cut wood and new paint, we will each of us be that holy person who adorns the building. I pray that our focus won’t be on the new church or even in the worship and programs inside, but on God alone from clean hearts: a holy people unto the Lord.

If holy people are what makes the temple beautiful in God’s eye, may it be true in the “temple” which will be Frederica Baptist Church on Saint Simons Island. Starting with me.

(Psalm 71-72) Praying My Praise

Part of my study of these psalms today included reading what Warren Wiersbe had to say in his “Be Worshipful” commentary (David C Cook publisher, 2004). He asked some questions for reflection on page 233, and I just had a precious time of worship as I prayed my thoughts and praise to my dear Lord. I’d like to invite you to do the same.

Read these two psalms first, then consider these:

  1. What reasons can you cite to “rejoice and be glad” in the Lord? I know some of you are going through difficult situations. You might have to stretch yourself, but God has given you reason to rejoice and be glad today. Search your heart. Name those reasons, even if your list is short. Tell Him you recognize His grace and mercy, his blessings and provisions. Praise Him for His goodness to you.
  2. How does recounting the Lord’s faithfulness in the past help entrust your future to Him? If you’ve walked with the Lord for a day or a lifetime, you can look back and recognize His hand, His involvement in the circumstances of your life. Recall them. Bask in them. And tell Him you remember. Praise Him for His faithfulness to you.
  3. Verse 6 predicts Israel’s king will be like rain falling on a mown field, like showers watering the earth. How does trusting Jesus bring refreshing showers into your life? Is your relationship with God showering you with peace and joy and calm and assurance? If not, why not? Search your heart and see if there are things you need to repent of, sins you may not even consider most of the time. Ask God to forgive you, and know the showers of blessings that He will pour over you. For me, his blessings look like Jesus! Praise Him for Himself. Praise Him for showers of blessings.

I hope you will have a meaningful time of worship today as you consider these psalms. I’m praying for you.

(Psalms 49-52) Going Through The Motions

The psalms are full of reminders that God isn’t interested in our “just going through the motions” kind of worship. He often asks the Jews, who were given the sacrificial system by God Himself, if they thought He actually needed those animals. He owns ALL the animals in the world, so why would they think He placed some special value on one of His own animals burning on an altar? The sacrificial system was never about the animal, except as a picture of Jesus. That sacrificed animal was about sin, about the sinner’s heart condition before Holy God.

Warren Wiersbe in his “Be Worshipful” commentary on the psalms said this in reference to 50:14-15):

“What the Lord wanted from His people was thanksgiving from their hearts, obedience to His Word, prayer, and a desire to honor Him in everything. But the Lord doesn’t want ritualism or formalism. He wants our worship to come from the heart.” (David C Cook publisher; 2009; page 182)

I can hear all the contemporary worship proponents shouting WOOHOO! Told ya!

But haven’t we simply replaced tradition with a new tradition? We may have stopped worshiping with hymnals in front of us, but now we worship with screens in front of us. Where hands and heads used to be bowed in worship, we’ve replaced that with hands and heads lifted.

We’re told to smile, look joyful, move our bodies, be free (but they usually don’t mean you are free to worship with your head bowed and hands folded). We are no less concerned about ritualism, we have just changed how ritualism looks.

I believe that is no less offering God a “going through the motions” kind of worship than before. And I believe that is still worship that God rejects.

“Surely you desire integrity in the inner self…purify me…wash me…turn your face away from my sin…create in me a clean heart and renew a steadfast spirit in me...”(51:6-10)

“The sacrifice pleasing to God is a broken spirit…” (vs 17)

Stop focusing on how people look when they worship. Stop organizing worship around what people like. We have got to focus on worshiping God with clean hearts, not upraised hands. We need to worship God in purity and not worry about whether people are clapping their hands or not.

You can have a rocking worship service, and still just be going through the motions.

The worship God accepts is only that which comes from people who have dealt with their sin problem first, who approach God in His holiness through the blood of Jesus. Clean hearts. Purified. Washed.

Anything else is ritual and formalism and simply going through the motions.

(Psalm 15) Acceptable Worship

Evidently Psalm 15 was an “entrance” psalm. People who wanted to worship God in the temple didn’t just barge in there. They were to meet the following requirements first:

  1. Be blameless. Doesn’t mean “sinless.” The requirement for worship was receiving Jesus’ righteousness by faith. The Old Testament people looked forward to the Messiah with the same faith we who live after the cross have. Faith in the saving work of God’s Son makes us blameless before our Holy God.
  2. Practice righteousness. Our walk throughout the week must be an expression of our salvation. The psalmist will give us practical ways to practice righteousness in later verses.
  3. Stand for Truth. Jesus IS the Truth. God is the only God and His Words as found in the Bible are True. Period. If we want to worship Him we must worship Him in spirit and Truth.

The psalmist goes on with some specific actions that need to be true of we who worship God according to His Word:

Verse 3 – don’t gossip. Don’t maliciously talk behind someone’s back.

Next is – don’t harm friends. Sometimes we can be cruelest to those closest to us. God wants his worshipers to express patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness…

Be considerate of your neighbor. Yes, that means the person living in the house next to yours. But Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan when asked, “who is my neighbor.”

Verse 4 – We who want to worship God must hate what he hates. And he hates those who reject Him. That’s a hard pill to swallow, especially when we know God is love. But how did Jesus tell us to treat our enemies? Pray for them. Do good to them. And the best good you can do for anyone is introduce them to their Savior.

The psalmist tells us that another requirement of acceptable worship of God is to honor our brothers and sisters. We need to consider our fellow believers more important than ourselves, serve them instead of expecting to be served, mourn with them and rejoice with them, encourage them in their walk with the Lord.

We must keep God’s Word NO MATTER THE COST. That means protecting the Truth by listening to preaching and teaching with discernment, and speaking out against false teaching. It means speaking up when people twist Scripture. And it means obeying what God inspired men to write, even if it’s not politically correct, or pleasant to hear, or easy to do.

Verse 5 – Treat others the way you want to be treated. God’s people need to be the most fair, the most trustworthy, having the most integrity of anyone, but especially to those who are weak and innocent. We represent God Himself to a world that is looking for reasons to reject Him. May they never find those reasons in your life or mine.

The worship of God is a serious thing. If we read the Old Testament we see examples of what happens when people try to take short-cuts to worship. Unauthorized fire, carrying the ark on a new cart, gold calves at the foot of the mountain where God was meeting with Moses, and other examples that all ended in death.

God does not accept all worship, no matter how sincere that worship might be. God might not accept your worship if you don’t meet His requirements.

Please do not invite your unsaved friends into God’s house for a worship service. That is not the place for them to be saved. It’s the place where the saved worship God according to His rules.

Your unsaved friend should be meeting their Savior in your living room or their’s, on a park bench, or over coffee at the local coffee shop where you share the Gospel with them.

Then, when they have received what Jesus died to give them, invite them to worship with you and other believers in sprit and Truth.

And may I suggest that this Sunday when you walk into the sanctuary, instead of chatting with someone about last night’s ballgame, or your problems with your rose bushes, or that new recipe you found, prepare your heart. Find your seat and bow your head, quiet your mind, take inventory to see if you are ready to worship God according to His rules. Are there things you need to confess? Confess them. Center yourself on the One whom you are there to worship.

If we took the “entrance” test this Sunday, would be pass? May we offer God only acceptable worship.

(Psalm 2) Chains? Or Lifelines?

Verses 1-3: This psalm paints a picture of a wild animal fighting against the chains which hold him captive. Snarling, writhing, pulling this way and that with teeth bared. But he is only hurting himself.

He doesn’t understand why he is chained. He just knows he wants to be free of them.

Verses 4-6: The one who has placed the chains on the beast sits back and waits for the beast to wear itself out. He knows those chains has placed the beast under his control, not the other way around.

Verses 7-9: In fact, he gets his authority from the owner of the beast, the big boss. The owner has made him his son! He’s been given the power to control the situation, extending to the ends of the earth.

Verses 10-12: The beast is better off in the hands of his captor, under the protection of the one given authority. Instead of fighting against him, the beast would do better to submit to him. “All who take refuge in him are happy.” (verse 12b)

Here’s what the beast doesn’t understand. He is chained for his protection. There are enemies out there stronger than he, determined to kill him. While he is under the protection of the one with authority he can move around, enjoy freedom within the safe boundaries set out by the one with authority.

Warren Wiersbe says: “Freedom without authority is anarchy, and anarchy destroys.” (Be Worshipful; David C Cook Publisher; 2009; p 24)

Let me say that again. “Freedom without authority is anarchy, and anarchy destroys.”

We are seeing a society of people racing toward destruction because they want to throw off the shackles of Truth, of rules, of religion. They want to create their own truth and will fight anyone who disagrees. Anarchy leads to destruction.

I’m not just talking about society in general. The same is true of the modern Church. We want the freedom to worship like we want, believe what we want, live like we want. Throw traditional dogma out and be free. Anarchy leads to destruction.

But there ARE rules. There IS Truth. There IS right and there is wrong. You may consider them chains. I see them as lifelines.

I am sure most of you get it. This psalm is talking about Jesus, the One given authority by the Father. Jesus, the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Jesus who tells us to follow Him, to be holy, to believe and be saved.

Jesus is not a bully-captor holding us back with cruel chains. He is the lifeline!

All who take refuge in him are happy!

(Ezra 1-6) Not Just My Soapbox

A quote from the CSB Apologetics Study Bible, (Holman Bible Publishers of Nashville, TN, 2017, page 552) regarding 6:21:

“Spiritual holiness was expected of those who worshiped God. Today’s church could learn from this early community. Church discipline has fallen by the wayside as contemporary congregations attempt to shed their image of exclusivity. However, God expects to be served by a holy people. The church today must demand that church members conduct themselves according to certain spiritual standards that honor the faith community and God. (Romans 12:1-2, I Pt 1:13-16)” ( emphasis mine)

I boldly and unapologetically say, “Amen.”

(2 Chronicles 28-31) It’s Just The Beginning

The Jewish people had just participated in a worship service beyond imagination. There were sacrifices for days, songs, trumpets, praises.

“There was great rejoicing in Jerusalem, for nothing like this was known since the days of Solomon son of David, king of Israel.” (29:26)

But it’s what happened after the benediction that spoke to me today.

“When all this was completed, all Israel who had attended went out to the cities of Judah and broke up the sacred pillars, chopped down the Asherah poles, and tore down the high places and altars throughout Judah and Benjamin, as well as in Ephraim and Manasseh, to the last one. “ (31:1a)

We have put so much emphasis on the experience of worship we neglect why we worship. If attending church on Sunday doesn’t inspire and equip and encourage us to get out there and confront sin, if we don’t leave the sanctuary like people shot out of a canon eager to go and make disciples, to be salt and light, fishers of men, why do we bother getting out of bed on Sunday morning?

I believe Scripture tells us the evidence of true worship is what happens next.

And pastors: If your goal isn’t to inspire your congregation to use their worship of God as a catalyst to share the Gospel, why do you bother getting out of bed on Sunday?

Worship isn’t the all to end all. It’s just the beginning.

(Deuteronomy 10) It’s For Your Own Good

Some people have said Christianity has too many rules. Yet these same people will follow a long list of rules every time they get behind the wheel of a car, when they want to keep their jobs, when they commit themselves in marriage to someone, or when they pay taxes, choose not to steal, murder, or destroy property.

I’m very glad people follow rules when I’m on the road. I feel safer knowing people are following rules in my neighborhood. It’s less stressful knowing I can trust someone who is following a set of rules. Rules are in place to make life better, safer, happier.

That being said, the reality is Christianity is NOT merely a list of do’s and don’ts. In fact, Moses tells us in 10:12, there are really only three things God requires of us:

  1. Fear God. Yes, we need to fear God who punishes disobedience without mercy. Moses said we fear, (that word could also be translated “respect,” or “honor”) God when we “walk in His ways.” That means obeying His Laws, of course. If you read the Ten Commandments, you’ll have to admit it’s nearly impossible to perfectly obey them all, all the time. Yet that’s what God demands. Now, here’s the amazing thing about God: knowing we are powerless in and of ourselves to obey His list of rules, He GIVES us the ability to obey. When we accept His grace, the forgiveness of sin Jesus bought for us on the cross, He fills us with Himself and gives us the means to obey Him. We are not at all on our own in this!
  2. Love Him. When you love someone you want to be near them, talk to them, talk about them. You make choices based on your love of them. God wants us to love Him like that. And honestly, once you get to know Him, that’s the easiest thing in the world to do!
  3. Worship the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul. That kind of worship is an emptying of self, an offering of ourselves as a sacrifice to God. It’s laying our health, our family, our present and future at His feet in humble recognition that He is Holy God, Almighty, King of Kings, Creator God, and that He is worthy of our worship.

Now, why did God set down these requirements? Look at verse 13:

Keep the Lord’s commands and statutes I am giving you today, for your own good.

A right relationship with God, rooted in fear, love, and true worship not only honors God, it blesses us beyond imagination.

Follow these three rules. It’s for your own good.