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Archive for the ‘Worship’ Category

Open The Eyes Of My Heart

The song by Michael W Smith goes like this:

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You
Open the eyes of my heart, Lord
Open the eyes of my heart
I want to see You, I want to see You

[Chorus]
To see You high and lifted up
Shinin’ in the light of Your glory
Pour out Your power and love
As we sing holy, holy, holy.

So we ask: is this a song that we should be singing? The four main themes of the song are:

  • Our inability.
  • A longing to know God.
  • A commitment to worship Him, for who He is.
  • A desire for His working in our lives.

These all seems to be eminently biblical themes. Here are some thoughts

The Need For the Lord to Open the Eyes of our Hearts:

Paul addresses this in his prayer In Ephesians 1:16-23, part of which reads:

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power towards us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come (Eph. 1:16-21).

Paul is clearly asking for the Ephesian believers that the eyes of their hearts be opened so as to see God’s purposes and workings. The song is in line with this desire.

To See the Lord High and Lifted Up

The main gist of the hymn goes on to link in with Isaiah 6. So we read

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple (see Is. 6:1).

Further scriptures in Isaiah lead us to see the Lord high and lifted up. So we read:

Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted (Is. 52: 13).

For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite (Is. 57:15).

How important it is for our spiritual welfare to see the Lord high and lifted up. This hymn helpfully leads us into that theme.

The “Holy, holy, holy” Cry 

This continues the Isaiah 6 experience of Isaiah who recounted

Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.  And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Is. 6:2-5).

As we enter God’s presence His magnificence leads us to cry out regarding the thrice holy God. Again the song brings us into this theme with the implied consequential knowledge of our own weakness.

The Longing To Know His Love and Power

Paul longed to know God and so should we. He wrote that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Phil 1:10-11). 

We so easily settle for a detached God-distant Christianity, but Christianity is about us being brought into a close relationship with the eternal Lord God. And we can never know His power and love in our own strength and so we cry out to Him. Paul picked up something of this theme with the Thessalonians. He remarked that our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction (1 Thess. 1:5)

So this is a great hymn for us to sing to bring us into the Lord’s presence with the right appreciations and longings.

If there would be a couple of qualms it would be:

  • There is no mention of the saving work of Christ to bring us into the knowledge of God. But every hymn cannot say everything.
  • The danger of repetitive rehearsing of the verses. Repetition is not bad. The significant worship scene in Revelation 5 seems to have a degree of repetition so repetition cannot be wrong in itself. In fact it can be helpful to reinforce the themes of the Lord’s grace. The problem comes when the reputation is overdone and we need to be careful of that.

 

India (8)

I have heard it said that you have to go to somewhere like Italy to see Catholicism in the raw. Thereby, you will see the vileness of that system and how it is steeped in idolatry. To have been in India is to have seen the vileness of Hinduism.

The whole paraphernalia of the religion for the outsider is just crazy. The entities with their elephant trunk-like noses which preponderate as visual displays of the gods. The massive statues of the gods. The noise and the miserable chanting. All present a warped religion

It is shocking to observe how seemingly normal people embrace such nonsense and happily become devotees.

This leads me to ponder upon the idolatry in the West which is shockingly vile. The philosophical system which leads to the glorification and establishing of self-realisation beyond all other life principles has produced it’s own mad paraphernalia.

We have the emergence of such phrases as “his husband” and “her wife” in our vocabulary. We face a massive bill to de-sex all of our toilet facilities, Women’s only spaces are intruded upon by men presenting themselves as women with all the threat that that brings to vulnerable women. Women’s sport is also to be thrown into confusion by the intrusion of the aforementioned individuals. Surely, to any sober analysis this is all madness

Are these not the mad paraphernalia of our idolatrous worship of everyone being allowed to be what they want to be. Self-realisation is the main idol that people bow down to and worship in the West. Such an idol produces its own warped religious system.

In the West we might scorn the primitive religions that are found around the world with their bizarre regalia. But the West, in principle engages in the same stuff. In the end all philosophies and religions which do not acknowledge the true God as God tend in the direction of insanity. As has been said “when people stop believing in God they don’t start believing in nothing, but rather they believe in anything.”

 

Rigidity

My traversing of different churches earlier in the year has led me to ponder upon the issues related to order, rigidity, familiarity and informality. When I use these terms I am thinking of the general structure of our services.

I am left wondering whether our churches at the more conservative end of the evangelical spectrum, have not adopted an overly rigid form. We have justified under the guise of being orderly and reverent.

We have seen the excesses of the charismatic movement and deemed that anything that smells of the charismatic approach to worship needs to be rejected. So as soon as someone lifts their hands or claps or moves their body in worship, we conclude, with pharisaical like undertones, that they are “going charismatic”. This, of course, alternatively, means they are “going-off-the-rails.”

We instead stick with our rigid formality and comfort ourselves on being faithful and reverent whilst all the time having no sense of God.

Now I am not arguing for chaos. But I am arguing that we need to think about how we reflect the working of God in our services. I know that some people (and some cultures) are more demonstrative in worship than others and perhaps we. anglo-saxon Brits. are less so. But surely there can be more room for the showing of emotion and expressing that in different ways in our worship services. In this context I have written previous;y here about David and Michal.

Let us also be thoughtful of those from those more demonstrative cultures who come among our churches. I feel we have lost many over the years from our church, Feltham Evangelical, because they could not accommodate themselves to our church culture. Many, I feel, we could have led into a better understanding of God’s way, but alas they moved on from us. There were things they liked about our church, but we expected them to adjust too much. In the end they went somewhere they were more comfortable with. It all makes me wonder whether we could have done more to prevent this.

 

 

Saturday Nights Are Alright For……………………………….

Well what are Saturday nights alright for?  How you answer that probably all depends on what your thoughts are about Sunday. If you have got no thoughts about Sunday then Saturday night is probably OK for just about anything that takes your fancy. In fact the Saturday night will flow into the Sunday, so it is all just one Saturday night until you emerge from your slumbers mid afternoon on the Sunday.

But if Sunday means something to you then your Saturday night will be affected. This is particularly so for Christians. So fellow Christian what do you think about your Saturday evenings?

The first thing to have in mind on a Saturday evening is that you have got church tomorrow, and therefore you need to remember that you are committed to being with the Lord’s people in the church of which you are a member, in order to worship the Lord with them. Everything you do and think on Saturday evening is permeated by this awareness.

The second thing to do which builds on the first is to prepare for Sunday. If you have filled your mind with junk on a Saturday evening don’t be surprised if church is an empty experience on the Sunday morning.  Perhaps set aside sometime to meditate on Scripture and seek the LORD confessing your sins and getting your soul in good order. And pray over the services of the Lord’s Day ahead; pray for the preacher and all those taking part. Pray that you would be in the right place at the right time to say the right thing and act the right way.  So that you will be a blessing to others.

The third thing to be aware of on a Saturday evening is the impact that you have upon others. This particularly applies if you have got children and even more so when the children are younger. And I cannot emphasize too much the importance of Christian fathers taking the lead here. Christian parents you should be expecting and anticipating that the whole family is going to be in church. So you will arrange everything around this. You will make sure that the kids are in bed in decent time. You will make sure they know what time they need to get up on Sunday. Your whole schedule operates on Saturday night around knowing that you will be in church by the time the service is arranged to start.

And when we see God’s people getting their Saturday nights sorted out, then we will see the whole experience of the Lord’s Day transformed.  What do you think?

(This is an adaptation of a post Originally published at Venabling on 1st June 2015)

David / Michal

I have a great fear that form trumps passion, rather than form being a conduit for passion, in our churches. Form is right and proper we need to do everything decently and in order. And our God is the God who brings order out of chaos. He does not glory in chaos and neither should we.

Yes the prescriptions for how we arranges our worship are very limited. The focus is upon the heart that we are to have and be worshiping in spirit and in truth.

Can I bring  a test for us in this light then. How would do you respond to the account of David and Michal in 2 Samuel 8:13-16.

When those who were carrying the ark of the Lord had taken six steps, he sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf. Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.

As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

and 2 Samuel 6 :20-22a

When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, ‘How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!’

David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel – I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes.

David was so thrilled about the ark of God, emblematic of God’s presence, coming back among the people of God. He demonstrated this passionately in his uninhibited dancing. Much energy seemed to be going into it. He was just overwhelmed with delight and that was demonstrated in his bodily movements. His reputation was not paramount, but his delight in the Lord was.

His wife, Michal, had no affinity with David in this. She despised him for his exuberance and thought he was just unnecessarily making a fool of himself.

I fear that I and many of us in our churches are very Michal-like. We rightly covet reverence and decorum, but in our emphasis thereupon have we squeezed out of our services anything that might be David-like.

And if there was anything David-like happening in our services would be despising that person for their unseemly irreverence.

Everything points  to the fact that the Lord was on David’s side of the matter and not Michal’s. In fact the next chapter of scripture gives us one of the mega-promises of the Bible. And it was to…… David of course. The man who had just disgraced himself in Michal’s eyes was to be the one upon whom an eternal kingdom would be bestowed.

David not Michal was on the right side of history. Which side are we on? Of course we say, as good evangelicals, that we must be with David. But in reality are we really?

 

Breakage to Services

Given my differing church experience so far this year, I was led to ponder upon how being led into the worship of God and sensing God, can be hindered by certain happenings. I have already written here about how the introducing of hymns is important for assisting the flow of worship. Two further things I wnat to mention here are:

Interviews

I experienced two instances of this. One was where a couple who were being welcomed into membership were interviewed. This worked well. The recognizing of fellowship which was being displayed in this seemed to be fully appropriate for appreciating the ways and grace of God together.

The other instance of this was where there was an impromptu interview of a lady who had just got engaged. This was somewhat tiresome. And as she was questioned about the gory details of how her beloved (now) fiance had done this and taht, you could feel the fuel of worship draining away from the service.

Movements of People

There are three aspects of this:

  • People arriving late. In a service recently I felt myself subconsciously looking to discover how many people had arrived at different pasts of the service. This distraction personally disturbed the appreciation of the service. I know that sometimes circumstances dictate that we are late for church, but why are so many people late?
  • Too many people leading at the front. Too many switches of personnel at the front can lead to a breakage in the service flow. Sometimes this is simply through switches of microphones; with certain ones phased in and out for different people. Otherwise it can be the need to adjust to so many different people leading which can be distracting. I would hasten to add that I think it good to involve different people in the services, but this must be done carefully.
  • The Mass Exodus I have written here about the mass exodus associated with the children leaving the church service and how this breaks up the flow of the service. In one church we were asked to talk together whilst this happened. After that it seemed as though we were starting a completely new service.

Will There Be Power Tomorrow?

Why are our services so often so mundane and routine and lacking in impact? Why is there a lack of power? The danger is that when we diagnose that there is a problem, along the lines described we go for the wrong solution; we go for men’s wisdom.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5: My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power. Paul was doing everything to makes sure that men’s wisdom did not prevail in his ministry. A human wisdom approach means to look to arrangements, to look to impressiveness, to look for the charismatic, to look for lights and loudness. These have their place in the proper arrangement of things and they all need to be properly considered. However, we can get everything re-packaged in our services and still be mundane, routine and lacking impact even though all is spruced up a bit.

What we need though is the Spirit’s power; we need the power of God. We, like Paul, need to labour to make sure the power of God is known in our services. So how will we get it? We need godliness and prayerfulness. To be godly means there is a sin-rejecting, God inclining direction in our lives which moves us into and keeps us in the presence of God. Prayerfulness means we will be in touch with God as the source of all power. We will be pleading with Him to work and be known.

Oh let us then commit ourselves into godly and praying ways. Overnight tonight let that be our soul’s desire. And might it be tomorrow that we will be experiencing the power God. To have no desire for godliness and no commitment to prayerfulness are the recipe for a powerless church.

So yes we need the services arranged well and the preaching done well, but all will be to no avail without the power of God.

And how will we know that God’s power is among us? Sin will be confessed and rejected; Christ will be magnified in all His saving and keeping majesty and God will be extolled and glorified.

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