Theology of Worship- Prayer as Worship

“Prayer is the process by which our will is brought in line with God’s will.”

In reference to Jesus teaching the Lord’s Prayer- “Our patter of conduct becomes God’s pattern of conduct to us.  What kind of God is this?  He forgives us as we forgive our debtors.”

“Prayer changes God.  He is immutable in his essence and character, but He is not a stone.  There are circumstances that when there is repentance, He changes his mind.  (Jonah 3, Exodus 32)”

“There is a great difference between private and public prayers.  Private prayer is often spontaneous.  There is room for speaking to God as if in natural conversation, voicing struggles, concerns, and things like it.  But when prayer is public, on behalf of a congregation, it is not casual.  It is to be poetic and elevated.  It has an appropriate awareness of being in God’s presence on behalf of the people of God.”

“Prayer operates to make our hearts more like God’s.  It is important that in our prayers and thanksgiving that we declare God’s grace in our lives.  It can also be done in the way we address God in our prayers in our opening words of adoration.  It communicates a profound theology and ecclesiology.  We can do it in appealing to God to have mercy according to His lovingkindness.  The moment we say that, we declare theology.”

New Blog Linked

I wanted to take a moment to let you all know of a new blog that I hope will bless you.  My friend and co-bond servant in Christ Tim Dinkins has decided to start a blog.  Tim is a graduate of BIOLA University and is going to be graduating from The Master’s Seminary this spring.  After graduation, he and his wife Lydia will be answering God’s call to foreign missions.  they will be starting off in Albania, working with Lydia’s parents who are missionaries there.  Tim also grew up on the mission field, while his parents were in Thailand.

Tim has been the intern at SGUC for a few years now, and it has been an absolute pleasure to see him grow in grace, maturity, and a knowledge of God.  He has a sensitive spirit for God’s will and desire for his life and his love for God’s Word, particularly the words of Christ and the book of Proverbs, has been an encouragement to me.  I can truly say that Tim has become a close friend and fellow servant of the Gospel.  I will truly miss his heart for God and the encouragement he has brought me, sharing an office for the last few years.

I look forward to reading what God has convicted Tim about in the future, and continuing to follow the path that God has he and his family on.  If you have found the recent posts on the Theology of Worship class helpful, I would encourage you to check out Tim’s thoughts and memories from the class, as we were able to attend it together.

Theology of Worship- Scripture and Torah

Something that Block said that was particularly noteworthy was about the perception and definition of Torah.  For most people, we read Torah and think law.  ‘Torah’ is a Hebrew word, and Block says that it has unfortunately automatically translated as law.  The LXX (Septuagint) can be blamed for that.  When translating Jewish scriptures into Greek, they used the word ‘nomos’, which is the common word for ‘law’.  And we have carried that over and now think of the Torah as simply law.  But that misrepresents the meaning of Torah.

Block would say that this has created a sense that much of the Pentateuch is useless today.  We elevate the Decalogue, or Ten Commandments, and the rest of the law has been dismissed and deemed unimportant or outdated.  This is lived out in our cultural presentation of the Ten Commandments, too.  What does Moses look like when he’s holding a false representation of the ten commandments?  He always has a stern look on his face!  He always looks really mean, ready the thump the law over your heard and condemn you with it.

moses460

But the Moses never saw Torah as a condemnation, but as an exercise of God’s grace.  When they read the law in Nehemiah 8, it should have lead to joy, not weeping.  When Moses is speaking of it in Deuteronomy 6:24, he says it existed for their good always, that he might preserve them alive. When asked what is the meaning of the testimonies and statutes and rules that God has commanded them. Moses replies by recounting God’s exercises of grace towards them. Bringing them out of Egypt, showing signs and wonders against Egypt, bringing them to the Land Promised, and then providing statutes, so that they can fear the Lord.

In Deuteronomy 4 wee see that if they keep the law that they will be wise and have understanding.  People will say “Wow!  They are so wise and understanding!”  They call the statutes and rules righteous and praise God for providing them for the people to follow.  People wouldn’t look at Israel and think, “Wow, it must stink to be them!  Look at all the rules they have to follow.”  No!  They saw the grace that God had upon them in letting them know how to please Him.

Block also points at how people misunderstand the Decalogue.  It is not a national law, but a personal one.  It isn’t meant to be out in front of a courthouse, but kept in the heart of a believer.   It’s not even supposed to be ten ‘commandments’, but should be ten words.  Block also notes that if you don’t include the preface to the Decalogue, “I am the Lord Your God”, it just boils down to moralism.  That’s what Paul was battling in Galatians when he took on the Judaizers.  They saw the law as a way to achieve holiness, not a way to please their God.  These laws/statutes/rules/teachings are to be followed in order to please the Lord.  To make matters worse often times when someone does have a monument, it looks more like a gravestone than art.  What does that subconsciously communicate about the perception of the law?

437px-ten_commandments_monument

Block really made me want to read through Deuteronomy over again.  I don’t know if I’ve ever really wanted to read Deuteronomy specifically.  But I’m looking forward to reading through, searching for evidences of grace and what their perception of the law was.  I looked forward in my reading plan, and I’m not supposed to be there until May!  So I may have to do some editing to my reading plan, here…

Block added that much of it should be read out loud, they are Moses’ final speeches/sermons to his people/sheep.  They are his final words of encouragement to passionately pursue God, not just a recitation of law.  As Block says, its all grace!

Theology of Worship- The Role of Music

“Music is not just our reaction to God, but gettng God’s Word, mind, and will down to the people.”

“Throughout Deuteronomy prosperity would provide th ebiggest threat to their faith.”

From the notes: “What is so troubling about this debate is how much pragmatism determines winners and losers, and how little theology is allowed to color the discussion.  If the style you choose helps to fill your pews then it must be right.  In many places all the church activities revolve around filling the building, designing worship so that people will get into the right mood, and when it is over feel good about themselves and about what happened in the service.  This is extremely important for the highest administrative goal in all this is to guarantee that the people will return next Sunday.  We are generally oblivious to the fact that a packed house is not necessarily evidence that we are doing something right.  On the contrary, given the carnality of many who attend our services, it may be the most obvious proof that everything we are doing is wrong.”

“The life of the person is more important than the performance.  This applies to both those preaching and leading worship. What our people need to see is the embodiment of righteousness.”

“When you divide services by musical taste, the devil has you where he wants you.  It is a sick, SICK practice.”

From the notes: “Truly worshipful music is not just emotive, but instructive didactic, and informative, keeping alive the memory of God’s gracious actions, and our own unworthiness, and declaring the nature of trule holy and godly living.”

“Truly worshipful music admonishes the carnal, corrects the sinner, challenges the lazy, reproves the indulgent, encourages the depressed, comforts the sorrowful, inspires the lethargic.”  Sounds a lot like preaching, huh?

“Truly worshipful music is subservient to the Word…The worship must revolve around the word, rahter than the song.  The song is not the primary focus of the worship, let alone the primary worship experience in teh service.  What God has to say to the worshiper (in the word) is always more important than what the worshiper has to say to God.”  How often have you exited a service, aske someone how it went, or possibly asked yourself, how the service was, and the answer is “Good, the worship was great.”  Most times this would be in reaction to the music being isolated from the rest of the service.

Quote from Spurgeon:

We should do well if we added to our godly service more singing.  The world sings: the millions have their song; and I must say the taste of the populace is a very remarkable taste just now as to its favorite songs.  They are, many of them, so absurd and meaningless as to be unworthy of an idiot.  I should insult an idiot if I could suppose that such songs as people sing nowadays would really be agreeable to him.  Yet these things will be heard from men, and places will be thronged to hear the stuff.   Now, why should we, with the grand psalms of David, with the noble hymns of Cowper, of Milton, of Watts- why should we not sing as well as they?  Lest us sing the songs of Zion: they are cheerful as the songs of Sodom any day.  Let us drown the howling nonsense of Gomorrah with the melodies of the New Jerusalem.

“Evangelical ministers of the word must become more pro-active in establishing patterns of worship for the local congregation.  The planning of the entire service should ensure coherence between the ministries of proclamation, prayer, and music, the latter two arising out of and comlementing the former.”

Theology of Worship- Scripture Reading in Service

The following quote is from Daniel Block’s syllabus for the Theology of Worship class.  This comes from a section of the role of the reading and proclamation of Scripture in worship.  Block begins with his definition for worship, and its dependency on the role of Scripture:

“If true worship involves reverential human acts of submission and homage before the divine Sovereign, in response to his gracious revelation of Himself, and in accordance with his will, then the integrity and acceptability of one’s worship will  depend directly upon the clarity of the divine revelation and the level of understanding of his will.”

Obviously, most of us would agree with that previous statement.  But then Block nails it home with a plea for Evangelicals to rediscover that in the reading of Scriptures worshippers hear the voice of God.  Block had this to say:

“Despite our creedal statements to the contrary, the relative absence of the Scriptures is one of the marks of contemporary evangelical worship.  At best the Scriptures are read piecemeal and impatiently that we might get on with the sermon.  After all, our interpretation of Scripture is much more important for the congregation that the sacred word of God itself.  At worst, we do not open the Scriptures at all.  In our efforts to be contemporary and relevant advertently or inadvertently we dismiss the reading of the Scriptures as a fossil whose vitality and usefulness has died long ago.  In the process we displace the voice of God with the foolish babbling of mortals, and the possibility of true worship is foreclosed.  And then we wonder why there is such a famine for the word of God in the land (Amos 8:11-14).”

Theology of Worship- Representing Yahweh

This week I have the privilege of taking the winterim class at The Master’s Seminary.  I have gone to the class the last 2 years, and wanted to go to this one even more since it will probably be my last opportunity to do this.  The class is “For the Glory of God: A Biblical Theology of Worship” taught by Daniel Block, professor at Wheaton College and renowned Old Testament commentator.  I’ll be including little snippets of great things that I’ve learned and that have challenged me.  So far I have really enjoyed Block’s pastoral style of teaching.  He doesn’t just info dump or read off a list of references, but really gets to the heart of the matter while approaching the text expositionally.

My first thought is what it means to “take the name of the Lord in vain”.  Conventionally, this has been interpreted and applied as not swearing or using God’s name casually.  Of course, that is part of what this is saying, but that falls short of the whole intended meaning.  In that time, there was a practice of writing the name of God on your hand if you wanted people to know that you were a follower of Yahweh.  You were taking on the name of God for everyone you meet to know.

Taking the name of the Lord in vain would be failing to live up to the name that you were carrying or writing on you.  It was living a life that was contrary to the God you claimed.

We also entered into a discussion of what this means in our prayer lives, and a warning of using God’s name casually or hypocritically in prayer.  So often, I can enter into prayer and not think about the Almighty God I’m speaking to.  Block also spoke of how often people use the name of God as a filler word in prayers, dropping it without thinking.  The thing that got me thinking most was how often I have asked students to pray, only to hear a student treat the prayer lightly and casually.  Sometimes something happens and then giggles break out, and my heart breaks that they take prayer so lightly.

The scariest thing I’ve wondered is if I have placed students in positions to sin.  Have I asked them to do something that they don’t take seriously?  It has definitely caused me to think more seriously, not only about how I pray, but also about who I encourage to lead in public prayers.