All posts in "Theology"

Rules for corporate worship – MarsHill Church, Seattle


The media arm of MarsHill Church, pastored by Mark Driscoll, has a great post listed what might be considered ‘non-negotiables’ for corporate worship. Corporate worship: 1.  …is to be G0d-centered 2.  … should be intelligible 3.  …is to be seeker-sensible 4.  …is to be unselfish. 5.  …is to be orderly. 6.  …is to be missional. These seem obvious but may bear repeating occasionally. Also posted are the elements of corporate worship w/scripture references: Preaching (2 Timothy 4:2) Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Table (Matthew 28:19;1 Corinthians 11:17–34) Prayer (1 Timothy 2:1) Reading Scripture (1 Timothy 4:13) Financial giving (2 Corinthians 8–9) Singing and music (Colossians 3:16) Agree?  No?


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Looking in the wrong direction


Professor John Koessler of Moody Bible Institute has a problem with his Sunday morning worship: I find that I have reached a stage in life where most of the music I hear in church is “their” music, whoever “they” are. That is to say, I have reached a stage in life where most of the music I hear in church annoys me. I do not mean to be a musical snob. Indeed, I think of myself as an eclectic. I was raised on Bix and Beethoven. I came of age in the era of the Beatles. The buttons on my car radio are set to classical, country, oldies, rock, and even Christian music. I think of myself as someone who has been baptized by immersion in the waters of musical diversity. Yet somehow when Sunday comes, all my musical sophistication dissolves, and I am reduced to that most primitive test of aesthetic values: “I may not know what art is, but I know what I like.” Or, rather, “I may not know what worship is, but I know what it isn’t.” When the worship leader reminds me that worship “isn’t about me,” I try to take it to heart. I really do. Nevertheless, more often than not, I walk into church hoping to be a worshiper and leave a curmudgeon. A chastened curmudgeon. A repentant curmudgeon. But a curmudgeon nonetheless. He also has a solution: I have concluded that the root of my problem is one of vertigo, not aesthetics. What I need is not a change of tune so much as a reorientation along worship’s true trajectory. Like most churchgoers, I tend to view worship as something that moves from earth to heaven. We think of worship as something that originates with us, our gift to God. Perhaps this is why so many of us are conflicted about it. We consider worship to be an expression of our personal devotion. So when the musical style or some expression gets in the way, we don’t feel like it is our worship at all. It is someone else’s idea of worship. Perhaps the worship leader’s or that of the majority. But not our own. The biblical portrait of worship moves in the opposite direction. The trajectory of heavenly worship begins with God and descends to earth. This trajectory is reflected in Psalm 150, where praise begins in the heavenly sanctuary and resounds throughout the domain of God. From there it is taken up by those on earth, who praise God with a variety of instruments and dancing, until “everything that has breath” praises the Lord (Ps. 150:6). The entire piece is worth reading. Do you have similar difficulties?  Different problems?


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The myth of self-ownership


Here’s an excerpt by a terrific new book I’m wading through by Kelly Kapic titled For God So Loved, He Gave. We live under the burden and illusion of self-ownership. Think of commercials that tell women that at forty-five years old they should still look twenty-eight, and if not, it is their fault for not buying the product.  Parents are promised their children’s future success if they will only purchase the newest educational video and attend every extracurricular sporting activity.  From the clothes we wear to the food we eat, the reality is that convention, and a complex of other competing forces own us.  We are won by our possessions; owned by those around us; owned by people we have never met but who exert incredible power over our lives in some of the most subtle and sinister ways. So we enter into the myth of self-ownership, and we cannot hear the good news. Read the first chapter here.


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The key to generosity…


…is to see yourself as materially poor, says Tim Keller. In an extended video interview with Desiring God Ministries discussing his book “Generous Justice; How God’s Grace Makes Us Just“, the New York City pastor, he explains how the Gospel necessarily leads to generosity. The Christian Post: Often people look at a poor person and ask, “Why didn’t you pull yourself up by your bootstraps?” But if God asks that same question to humans then everyone would be spiritually dead, said Keller in an interview with Desiring God ministry. And if Christians question whether the poor person will abuse their charity and grace, then they should remember that they have also “trampled” on God’s charity and grace by not living the life they should. Video below and  here.  Article here.


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Pop star religion


In an interesting piece over at the Wall Street Journal, Neil Strauss shares faith statements by Lady Gaga, Snoop Dogg, and Christine Aguilera (which themselves are worth reading) before coming to this conclusion: Before they were famous, many of the biggest pop stars in the world believed that God wanted them to be famous, that this was his plan for them, just as it was his plan for the rest of us not to be famous. Conversely, many equally talented but slightly less famous musicians I’ve interviewed felt their success was accidental or undeserved—and soon after fell out of the limelight. His conclusion: …Believing that God wants you to be famous actually improves your chances of being famous. Of course, from the standpoint of traditional theology, even in the Calvinistic world of predestination, God is much more concerned with the fate of an individual’s soul than his or her secular success, and one’s destiny is unknowable. So what’s helping these stars is not so much religion as belief—specifically, the belief that God favors their own personal, temporal success over that of almost everyone else. While this certainly smacks of presumption, I wonder if it doesn’t also provide us insight. Could it be that the creative mind, even in a fallen state, recognizes the ultimate Creator? See Romans 1:18-21, Psalm 19.


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The mediation of Christ in worship


If you are feeling tired?  Perhaps exhausted? Please stop what you are planning to do for the next 20 minutes and read this. It is, IMHO, one of the best practical and theological articles on Christ’s role and our’s in worship than I have read in some time, including this gem: The mediation of Christ in worship powerfully reminds us that worship begins with God, not us.  God initiates, and we respond.  ’The desire to pray,’ wrote A.W. Tozer more than 60 years ago, ‘begins with God’s previous desire to have us talk with him.’ This changes our roles as worship leaders significantly from ‘producers of the sacred’ who have to create moments of worship from scratch, to worship guides who help the congregation connect with the ongoing worship of Jesus. Try putting a PowerPoint slide with these words on the screen when the countdown clock reaches 0:00:  ”We now join the worship of Jesus our High Priest which is already in progress.” Much more.  Good stuff. Please read.  You won’t regret it.


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The Gospel according to Bono


Building on a previous post, here’s a quote from the frontman of U2 courtesy of Worship.com: Grace defies reason and logic. Love interrupts, if you like, the consequences of your actions, which in my case is very good news indeed, because I’ve done a lot of stupid stuff…That’s between me and God. But I’d be in big trouble if Karma was going to finally be my judge…. It doesn’t excuse my mistakes, but I’m holding out for Grace. I’m holding out that Jesus took my sins onto the Cross, because I know who I am, and I hope I don’t have to depend on my own religiosity.


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R.C. Sproul on music, beauty and God


R. C. Sproul’s  must-see series on “Rediscovery the Beauty of the Arts” is currently streaming on the Ligonier website. Topics include: Is Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder? (are there objective standards of good & bad in music and art?) The Influence of Music (addresses the profound impact music has on people and how it can be used to influence or reflect moods) Music:  The Handmaiden of Theology (the critical difference between simplistic and simplicity in music) Well worth your time.  You’ll do some hard but necessary thinking on the role of music in worship and life. Not sure how long it will be posted, but you can always purchase audio or video here.


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Jonathan Edwards on music and heaven


The best, most beautiful, and most perfect way that we have of expressing a sweet concord of mind to each other, is by music. When I would form in my mind an idea of a society in the highest degree happy, I think of them as expressing their love, their joy, and the inward concord and harmony and spiritual beauty of their souls by sweetly singing to each other.  But if in heaven minds will have an immediate view of one another’s dispositions without any such intermediate expression, how much sweeter will it [be]. But to me ’tis probable that the glorified saints, after they have again received their bodies, will have ways of expressing the concord of their minds by some other emanations than sounds, of which we cannot conceive, that will be vastly more proportionate, harmonious and delightful than the nature of sounds is capable of; and the music they will make will be in a medium capable of modulations in an infinitely more nice, exact and fine proportion than our gross air, and with organs as much more adapted to such proportions. Jonathan Edwards, 18th century theologian and 1st President of Harvard, from his Miscellanies #188.  Heaven (HT: Tyler Kenney @ Desiring God)


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