Worship

From the Archives: Five Ways to Beat Bitterness: #1 – Worship

Bitterness often begins as a normal—maybe even healthy—response to the losses, disappointments, failures, and unfairnesses of life. In that sense, the term “bitterness” is pretty much synonymous with mental, spiritual, emotional (and often also physical) pain.

But the Bible reveals that when indulged and nurtured, bitterness becomes an infection of the inner man that taints—and has the potential to corrupt—all our activities and relationships. I’ve written about the forms and harms of bitterness previously (see Bitterness Happens, and Six Ways Bitterness Can Poison Our Lives).

The good news is that both Scripture and experience (as application of biblical principles) point us toward some practical strategies for overcoming bitterness in our lives before, or even after, it becomes a chronic problem.

Feed the Attitudes of Worship

Worship is not an “experience.” In Scripture, worship is a set of attitudes and beliefs finding some form of expression. Acceptable worship is the right attitudes and beliefs finding a right expression, in the context of a right relationship. That’s a lot of things to get right. But it all begins with the attitudes.

Much has been written about the attitudes of worship, but for now we can simplify: at their core, these attitudes are humble, submissive, repentant, thankful, and joyful.

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A Case for Traditional Music, Part 2

Read Part 1.

How to Judge Worship Music

At this point someone will certainly raise the objection that judging music is terribly subjective. For example, some musicians have taken traditional hymn texts and reset them in a contemporary style. Who is qualified to say whether the older or the newer style better accords with the truths in these texts? If serious and devout people cannot agree on these issues, is that not an indication that these are merely matters of opinion? There are several answers here.

Sustained disagreement, even among sincere believers, is far from an adequate reason to declare a matter to be mere preference.

Surely we realize that in matters of doctrine and practice, Christians of tremendous intelligence and piety have unresolved differences. The fact that such disagreements have not been settled—and show little prospect of ever being settled before the return of our Lord—does not justify our concluding that there is no truth of the matter. While reasons may exist for thinking that music is a matter of preference, a lack of consensus alone is not one of those reasons.

Scripture itself calls us to make exactly these kinds of judgments, and our progress in them is a decisive mark of spiritual maturity.

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Worship for Dummies

God created man for worship. Jesus declared that the Father is seeking worshippers who will worship Him “in spirit and truth” (John 4:23-24). Not surprisingly, the Shorter Catechism begins by affirming, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” But this raises the question, “How should God be worshiped?” To be more precise, “What kind of worship pleases God?” The answer is vital. Thankfully, it’s not that complicated. Even a child may understand.

Red Light: “Stop!”

It may seem a bit stifling to start with a negative. But that’s where God begins:

You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them (Exod 20:3–5 ESV).

We can’t just approach God on our terms. It ultimately doesn’t matter whether it seems good, feels good, or looks good to us. God doesn’t accept “manmade” religion (Matt 15:1-9; Col 2:20-23; 1 Tim 4:1-5). As the Supreme Object of human worship, God reserves the right to define the terms by which men may offer to him acceptable love, service, and devotion. And when God says, “You shall not!” we must not. Period! In the words of the Baptist Confession, “The acceptable way to worship God is instituted by Him, and it is delimited by His own revealed will” (22.1).1 Which brings me to the next point.

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Ye Humble Souls That Seek the Lord

Detail from The Resurrection of Christ (1524-1531), Pieter Coecke van Aelst

Ye humble souls, that seek the Lord,
Chase all your fears away;
And bow with rapture down to see
The place where Jesus lay.

Thus low the Lord of life was brought;
Such wonders love can do:
Thus cold in death that bosom lay,
Which throbbed and bled for you.

A moment give a loose to grief,
Let grateful sorrows rise,
And wash the bloody stains away,
With torrents from your eyes.

Then raise your eyes, and tune your songs,
The Savior lives again:
Not all the bolts and bars of death
The Conqueror could detain.

High o’er the angelic bands He rears
His once dishonored head;
And through unnumbered years He reigns,
Who dwelt among the dead.

With joy like His shall every saint
His vacant tomb survey;
Then rise with His ascending Lord
To realms of endless day.

Philip Doddridge (d.1751)

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From the Archives: Musing About Music

Reposted, with permission, from DBTS Blog. Originally posted in 2013.

WikiAnswers poses the question, “Why does music exist?” then self-replies: “Because it brings happiness to people all over the world.”

We must grant that WikiAnswers is scarcely an authoritative reference source, but it does offer a window on popular culture. It reflects that a common reason (and perhaps the most common reason) for the societal “doing” of music today is to forget the pain, grief, anxiety, dreariness, and simple ennui of life and enter an imaginary world where one can have the emotional experience of his choice—usually a happy one. Ironically, the historically central idea of “music” (fr. the Grk. μοῦσα, to muse, think, remember, or reflect) has been transformed in the last century into its own etymological opposite—an occasion, whether active or passive, for not “musing,” or, supplying the alpha privative, a venue foramusement. This is not to say that music as amusement or as a means of forgetting is always bad (see in principle Prov. 31:7), but it does reflect a total reversal of the Western tradition concerning the central purpose of music.

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A Brief Review of “Doxology: How Worship Works”

Image of Doxology: How Worship Works
by Nicolas Alford
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform 2017
Paperback 172

There are many books on Christian worship: some helpful and some not-so-helpful. Nicolas Alford’s Doxology: How Worship Works clearly belongs in the former category. Though affirming the broader sense of worship (as a way of life), the book intentionally focuses on congregational worship. Alford is preeminently concerned that God’s people worship by the Book. Drawing from the Reformed tradition, he concisely expounds and carefully applies the Regulative Principle of Worship (RPW), which, in essence, is the doctrine of sola Scriptura applied to church life and ministry.

But Alford does more—which is what makes this book superior to many others. First, he prefaces the the major principles that should govern our worship with a chapter that distinguishes between authority and influences. The Bible is the ultimate authority for worship. Nevertheless, there are other considerations that may and, in some cases, should affect the way we understand and apply the Bible. Alford defines and explains these influences in the following order of priority: Confessional/Convictional, Traditional/Cultural, and Preference/Deference.

Second, Alford identifies seven prefatory principles that we must employ as we seek to order our worship aright: the Biblical, Trinitarian, Covenantal, Ecclesiastical, Sabbatic, Governing, and Commissioned principles. These are Scriptural vantage points or perspectives from which we can ascertain the biblical contours of worship more clearly.

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