How To Worship Reverently

How do we worship? Does it matter how?

I am slowly working my way through In Reverence and Awe. It has been superb. Every chapter brings me to the truth that God is a glorious, holy God before Whom I should fall in worship and adoration. I am reminded, on almost every page, that I am a wicked sinner deserving at every moment to be cast into hell for eternity. Thankfully, I am also reminded that Jesus bore God’s righteous indignation and saved me forever.

As the name implies, Hart and Muether discuss worship throughout the book. In chapter eight, the two enumerate on the thought “Worship with Godly Fear.” So, according to the authors, how should we worship?

D. G. Hart and John R. Muether write,

“The joy we experience in contemplating and worshiping the risen Savior is an emotion that is always tinged with sobriety and humility. It is not the high-fiving ecstasy of fans who have just seen their team win the national championship. Nor is it the celebration of a job promotion. It is a joy that recognizes not only the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, but also our own complicity, because our sin, in his pain and death. When we contemplate the suffering of Christ we come in humility, restraining sinful impulses, and we embrace a bleeding Savior as the fountain of our comfort.” (Hart and Muether, 128)

There is a beauty in this type of worship. It is God-honoring, for it does not treat God lightly. Truly He is immanent (or close). However, we must never forget that He is transcendent as well. He is, as Isaiah describes, “One who is high and lifted up, who inhavits eternity, whose name is Holy” (Isaiah 57:15, ESV).

We take too causal an approach to the Holy One of Israel. Hart and Muether argue along the same lines as does the author of Hebrews. “Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28-29, ESV).

How do we worship? With reverence and awe.

 

 

 

 

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Worship: Advice Worship

Photo by Robin Spielmann on Unsplash

Worship: Advice on How to Worship

I am slowly working my way through D. G. Hart and John R. Muether’s With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship.[1] It is a wonderful book! In my reading, I came across the chapter, “Leading and Participating In Worship.” In the chapter, Hart and Muether discuss the different roles individuals (ministers and lay-people) play in worship. This post is not a discussion on that particularly (though the question is of upmost importance), I did want to highlight a few helpful points they offer for engaging in worship.

  1. Worship is God-centered

    In a previous chapter, Hart and Muether address the importance of remembering what worship is: “Worship is the work of acknowledging the greatness of our covenant Lord.”[2] We must always remember that we are worshiping God. That is what worship is all about. It is dangerous to be rash with our mouths because “God is in heaven and [we] are on earth.” (Ecclesiastes 5:2, ESV) We are worshiping the Creator of the Universe, the “One who is high and lifted up.” (Isaiah 57:15, ESV) We are not nearly as careful as we should be entering into worship. Toward the end of the chapter, Hart and Muether remark, “…if a problem exists with Reformed worship, the difficulty may be inappropriate expectations.”[3]

  2. Worship is active

    Worship is not a passive event. It is one of action. We worship The question may be asked, “How do I worship God?” Here are several ways offered by Hart and Muether:

    1. Hear the Word of God “diligently and prayerfully”
    2. Prepare for reception of Communion (self-examination, meditation on Christ’s body, etc.)
    3. Live in light of your baptism[4]

“Worship really is a verb when it consists of Word, sacraments, and prayer.”[5]

Is this how you view worship? Do you invest in worship? Do you read the Scriptures to be preached? Do you examine yourself prior to observing the Lord’s Supper?

Worship, far from being passive, is an active participation in glorifying the great and everlasting God.

“It is a time when heaven and earth meet; it is a holy conversation between the Creator of heaven and earth and his redeemed creatures.”[6]

Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker! Psalm 95:6

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You can purchase With Reverence and Awe, and other helpful resources, from Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company.

[1] D. G. Hart and John R. Muether, With Reverence and Awe: Returning to the Basics of Reformed Worship (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 2002).

[2] John M. Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R, 1996), 1.

[3] Hart and Muether, With Reverence and Awe, 116.

[4] Ibid., 113-114.

[5] Ibid., 115.

[6] Ibid., 116.

“Principles for Lyrics”

I’ve been working my way through The Pastor’s Book, and I am currently in the section addressing music. In the chapter ‘Hymns and Songs,’ Douglas Sean O’Donnell offers four principles for the selection of lyrics. I found them very helpful, and so I am passing them along:

  1. Our lyrics should reflect God’s lyrics
  2. Our lyrics should edify others and exalt God
  3. Our lyrics should raise religious affections, not ridiculous emotionalism
  4. Our lyrics should be theologically comprehensive and balanced

From R Kent Hughes, The Pastor’s Book: A Comprehensive and Practical Guide to Pastoral Ministry, published by Crossway.

How to Change the Life of Your Family: Part Four

Family Worship: Some Practical Suggestions

Over the past few posts we have examined family worship. We noted the important role that worship plays in the spiritual development of children in the Sacred Scriptures. We briefly mentioned individuals within history that continued to value this meaningful time. Last post we saw the three aspects of family worship: read, pray, sing.

For this post I want to suggest some practical ways you can build your family worship time. Please remember that each aspect adjusts to your situation. If you have young children, the time, depth, and wording can all be tailored to your family needs. Mature couples may choose to work through more significant matters. The choices depend on you and your family.

Catechize

Catechism was a tool utilized by countless numbers of Christians throughout Church history. Catechism takes place in many ways. One way is a question-answer format. For example, the Catechist would ask, “Who made you?” To which the catechumenate would reply, “God made me.” There are also structures used, found in different types of catechisms, which engage a certain passage of Scripture (e.g. the Decalogue), or a certain aspect of the faith (theology, baptism, etc.). The methods and materials are numerous, and one of the ways in which the teaching of the Lord can take place. (For a biblical defense of catechism, see Acts 18:25; 1 Corinthians 14:19; and Galatians 6:6. The word for teach/instruct is the basis for our word catechism. For catechizing children, I recommend Terry L. Johnson’s Catechizing Our Children: The Whys and Hows of Teaching the Shorter Catechism Today, published by Banner of Truth.

Memorize Scripture

The Psalmist writes, “I have stored up your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11, ESV) We see in this verse (as well as the life of Jesus in Matthew 4:1-11) that Scripture plays a vital role in our spiritual development. One can implement memorization into family worship in a variety of ways. One suggestion is to take Scripture from the Sunday morning sermon. Another way to complete this is to work within the materials used for Sunday schools, Bible studies, etc.

Good Books

As time permits, you may want to work through good books. Biographies of Christians have inspired many believers in the walk of faith. Books written to clarify the Bible may also prove to be helpful. Topical studies may enable you to overcome a certain sin or to push through and receive victory. The possibilities are as numerous as there are books.

Now Do It

The only step we should take is forward. These are simply suggestions, and I would be very glad to discuss them with you further, should you have any questions. Regardless what you do, always remember to read the Bible, pray to God, and sing for his glory and our edification.

God bless!

How to Change the Life of Your Family: Part Three

In a previous post, we saw the lives of individuals like Abraham, Moses and the nation of Israel, Joshua, and New Testament exhortations from the Apostle Paul. In another one we saw men throughout history who either promoted it or shared their experiences themselves.

In this post, I want to share with you some practical helps that will, prayerfully, enable you and your family to begin worshiping our great God. At some point, you will have to begin! But be of good cheer, many people have shared their experiences in order to help you be successful.

So, what does family worship entail? It is really simple. In fact, it can be summarized with three syllables: read, pray, and sing. (For a more thorough discussion of this, I recommend Don Whitney’s book Family Worship) Is it really that simple? Yes! It really is as easy as reading, praying, and singing. In order to help you though, I want to share some practical suggestions for each one.

Read

We begin by simply reading the Scripture. Depending on the age of your family (for instance, if you have little ones) you will determine what you will read. If you are a couple, read through the Bible. Purpose to work your way through a New Testament book, or a narrative in the Old Testament. If you are a family with young children, use a children’s Bible (I’ll share some helpful titles at the end). If you are entering the golden years of life, you may want to read larger chunks of Scripture. Whatever you choose, make sure it is Scripture.

As you have time, you may want to include books and other material. Working your way through historical documents and creeds can be quite enlightening and spiritually fruitful. Of course, the Scripture must always be found.

Pray

Everyone can pray. The father may pray one day, the mother the next, and the children in succession. Or you may want to choose a week for one member of the family. If you have children, this is a wonderful way to begin to teach them how to pray. No matter how your family worship occurs, make sure to pray. My soon-to-be five year old daughter is learning to pray simply through our time of family worship.

Sing

This may seem odd at first, especially if you have older kids (middle and high school students). However, Scripture is laden with passages discussing singing. Colossians 3:16 and Ephesians 5:19 both encourage disciples of Jesus to sing (among other things) spiritual songs. Family worship is the perfect place to “address one another…in spiritual songs” (Ephesians 5:19).

From a personal standpoint, this was what I dreaded the most. I enjoy singing, but I don’t really have the gift for it. My wife, on the other hand, does. When I hear my kids sing, it makes it all worth it. Find music that you enjoy and that is God-honoring, and then simply sing!

Some Suggestions

Many people think they must prepare lessons or materials ahead of time. This is not the case. If you are a couple, or have older children, simply reading through Scripture and offering a few comments is acceptable. If you have young children, I recommend one of the following:

The Big Picture Story Bible by David Helm
Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name Sally Lloyd-Jones
Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments Marty Machowski

Finally, let me leave you with three suggestions Whitney offers:

  1. Brevity- be brief! A good average to follow is ten minutes.
  2. Regularity- keep it going! Make this a commitment every night.
  3. Flexibility- be supple! While maintaining consistency, do not be too rigid. Change up the time, the material, or whatever needs your family has. (taken from Don Whitney’s Family Worship, pages 50-51)

We will discuss some specific challenges and questions in the next post on this topic. I am praying that you will begin worshiping God as a family now!

Church or Family: Who Develops Children?

(Photo by Martin Kníže on Unsplash)

A vital question that every parent and guardian must ask is, “Who is the primary spiritual director for my children?” The answer to that question will have profound impact on your daily life. Typically, we see two places, or institutions if you will, where the spiritual development of children takes place: the Church and the home.

The Church, of course, is the meeting place of the people of God. We will go with Edward Hiscox’s definition of what a Church is, “A Christian Church is a company of regenerate persons, baptized on a profession of faith in Christ; united in covenant for worship, instruction, the observance of Christian ordinances, and for such service as the gospel requires; recognizing and accepting Christ as their supreme Lord and Lawgiver, and taking His Word as their only and sufficient rule of faith and practice in all matters of conscience and religion.” (Edward T. Hiscox, Principles and Practices for Baptist Churches, page 20) Hiscox’s wordy definition includes with it the idea of teaching and instruction. One of the main functions of the Church, then, is to teach individuals about the doctrines and practices of a Christian. (For a thorough treatment on the subject of the Church, see James Bannerman’s classic work, The Church of Christ: A Treatise on the Nature, Powers, Ordinances, Discipline, and Government of the Christian Church. Not only does he provide a detailed look at the subject, but he also provides an enormous amount of Scripture.)

The home, according to Scripture, is the very first institution which God created (see Genesis 1:26-30). In God’s initial creation, humanity was to procreate and cultivate the earth. Along with those two goals, the communication of God’s revealed truth existed as well. Notice particularly, God’s command concerning the tree (see Genesis 2:15-17). This would have been vital to pass on to Adam and Eve’s children. When we enter into the time of Abraham we see a commendable description given by God. God acknowledges that Abraham would transmit God’s truth to his children (see Genesis 18:19). During the Mosaic Law the home was to be the primary place of spiritual development (see Deuteronomy 6:6-9). Even the New Testament addresses the role of the home in the development of the spiritual life (see Ephesians 6:4).

Now, there are two statements that we can deduce from these thoughts:

The Church is not the home. The home is not the church.

These two statements seem to be self-explanatory. Most people that I talk with agree with each statement, at least in theory. Practically speaking, however, we do not believe either statements.

Today, the statements would read more like this, The Church is primary place of the spiritual development of my children.

Now, parents and guardians generally believe they are the primary developers of their children’s faith (for more detailed information about this, check out Barna). There are several reasons that parents do not engage in this life-changing endeavor. That will be the topic of our article today.

  1. Parents and guardians do not feel adequate to develop their children spiritually.

    The research of Barna concludes, “The survey data indicate that parents generally rely upon their church to do all of the religious training their children will receive. Parents are not so much unwilling to provide more substantive training to their children as they are ill-equipped to do such work.” (Barna) Parents and guardians may not have received the training during their own childhood, so the practical side does not exist. Churches have failed to help train and educate parents and guardians to develop their home into a greenhouse for spiritual growth. Parents and guardians have failed to seek out opportunities to learn more about this as well.

  2. Parents and guardians see the Church as the institution to develop their children spiritually.

    We return to Barna’s research yet again. When I mentioned that in practice parents and guardians believe the Church is the primary institution the research backs this up. Consider the following, “Related research, however, revealed that a majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children. However, about two out of three parents of children 12 or younger attend religious services at least once a month and generally take their children with them. Most of those parents are willing to let their church or religious center provide all of the direct religious teaching and related religious experiences that their children receive.” (Barna)

    Did you catch that? “The majority of parents do not spend any time during a typical week discussing religious matters or studying religious materials with their children.” (emphasis mine) This statement, besides being incredibly sad, reveals the truth that parents and guardians do not see their role to develop their children spiritually. The Church has accommodated to this by creating different classes, groups, and activities.

  3. Families are too busy to develop their children spiritually.

    One of the aspects of our culture today (I am speaking of the culture of the US) is busyness. We are constantly on the go, active, productive. Consider this paragraph from research conducted by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

    “Did you know that over the past 20 years, children’s free time for play and unstructured activities has declined by 12 hours per week? During that same period, time in structured sports has doubled, and passive, spectator leisure has increased 5 times, to over three hours per week. The impact this has had on families is profound: a 100% decrease in household conversations, a 33% decrease in family dinners, and a 28% decrease in families taking vacations.”

    In the past twenty years, free time has decline by 12 hours and structure activities have doubled. This, of course, has profound impact on the daily life of the family. If your child is involved in 3 or 4 extra-curricular activities, how will they have time to be educated in the truths of God? If you are involved with groups, book clubs, bowling, etc., every night of the week, how will you have time to educate your children in the truths of God?

These reasons are not exhaustive. They are also general in character. For example, a single mother working to provide for her children may not have a choice but to work extra hours in order to meet the needs of her family. I am discussing the family that consists of a father, mother, and one or more child.

 

In his book, Orange Essentials, Reggie Joiner notes the amount of time parents and guardians have with their children compared with the Church. He writes, “There are 8,760 hours in a year. The average parent has 3,000 hours in a given year to influence a life. The average church only has 40 hours in a given year to influence a life. (Reggie Joiner, Orange Essentials: Five Priorities for Building Faith in the Next Generation, pages 8-9)

Parents and guardians, do not shirk your responsibility to teach and train your children. The Church is a partner. We can work together for our children’s spiritual good. I have posted two other articles on how to conduct family worship. You can check them out here and here. This is the unique opportunity that God has given you.

How to Change the Life of Your Family: Part Two

In a previous post we looked at the biblical basis for Family Worship. It is my hope and prayer that you searched the Scriptures and found that God indeed wants our families to worship Him. Our God works through time, and as a result, history can become one of our greatest teachers. God thought history so important that much of the Old Testament, and a good deal of the New Testament, is recorded history.

Sometimes it is helpful to journey back through time and see how others lived. More importantly than cultural issues, our worship of God through our families is well-grounded in the history of the church. Tertullian and John Chrysostom, early church fathers, both believed and practiced the importance of Family Worship. Martin Luther, the Father of the Reformation, wrote, “Therefore such a house [in which family worship exists] is actually a school and church, and the head of the household is a bishop and priest in his house.” That is, the father is the ‘pastor’ of his ‘church’ (or home). Richard Baxter and Matthew Henry, both incredible men of God, were convinced that family worship was necessary for God’s glory. Jonathan Edwards, the greatest theologian produced by America, had this written about him, “Care for his children’s souls was, of course, his preeminent concern.” Edwards would ask his children age-appropriate questions about the Scriptures. Other men and women throughout history have invested in spiritual worship in their families.

I encourage you, as we work our way through the practical aspects of family worship in the future, to start praying and determining to begin Family Worship in your home. Make the care of your child’s soul your preeminent concern. Let it be said of us that, “I [God] have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice.” (Genesis 18:19)