worship

Preparation for Worship

iStock_000004625291MediumToo often when we gather for worship we miss out on a vital part of worship: Confession of sin and need for God. Of course confession is all too often left out of our worship gatherings but that is our great loss. It is only when we allow ourselves to be humbled at our desperate condition that we can rejoice most fully in God’s gracious salvation. The stars are seen and enjoyed most when the darkness around us is greatest.

So to help you prepare to worship God with other believers tomorrow, here is a possible prayer of confession. It is loosely based upon one of the prayers from the little book Valley of Vision.

Father,

You are good beyond all our thought, but we are defiled by sin, wretched and miserable in our sin, and blind to the awfulness of our sin.

Too often our lips are ready to confess but our hearts are slow to feel our need and our ways relunctant to change.

We bring our souls to You; O, Father. Break us, wound us, bend us, mold us. Unmask to us our sin’s deformity and ugliness, that we may hate it, abhor it, and flee from it.

Our thoughts and senses have been weapons of rebellion against you. And as rebels we have misused our strength and served the adversary of your kingdom.

Give us grace to hate and mourn our senseless and foolish sin! Grant us to know that the way of sinners and rebels is hard; that evil paths are wretched paths; that to depart from You is to lose all good.

We have seen the purity and beauty of Your perfect law, the happiness of those in whose hearts it reigns, the calm dignity of the life to which it calls us, yet we daily violate and break its precepts for us.

Your loving Spirit strives within us, he brings us warnings from Scripture and he speaks to us in startling ways. Yet we choose to live life on our own terms and to our own hurt. In pride we grieve and provoke your Spirit to abandon us.

All these sins we mourn, lament, and cry pardon for them.

Work in us a more profound and abiding repentance;

Give to us the fullness of godly grief:

–         A grief that trembles and fears,

–         Yet A grief that always trusts and loves you alone,

–         A grief that is powerful and yet confident in your grace.

Grant to us through the tears of repentance that we may see more clearly the brightness and the glories of the saving cross of our Savor and King, Jesus Christ.

In whose name we pray,

Amen.

Worship is War

rthymns-of-graceThe “worship wars” are never behind us. They are always with us. Just because your church has settled upon what style of music it is going to use come Sunday does not mean that worship has ceased to be a war for you or your church.

A few weeks ago I finished Rhythms of Grace, a book by Mike Cosper. It is an excellent book that would benefit every pastor (especially those who are primarily responsible for the worship order on Sundays). It speaks to the power of the worship service shaped by the biblical story of the gospel. Here is what he has to say about the “worship wars” in particular.

Whoever dubbed the debate over musical style a “worship war” failed to realize that worship is always a war. The declaration that there is one god, that his name is Jesus, and that he has died, has risen, and will come again is an all-out assault on the saviors extended at every level of culture around us. We’re taught to find a sense of hope in a political party, trusting in our duly elected saviors to make the world right once and for all. We’re taught to find our identity in our friend counts on Twitter and Facebook. We’re taught that a victory at work or good news from a doctor or a bathroom scale will satisfy us. We look longingly into the eyes of other human beings and believe that they can affirm us enough and love us well enough to end our sense of loneliness.

We believe these things because we’ve been taught them again and again. Like the ascending pilgrims of Psalm 121, we’re surround[ed] by clamorous mountains advertising happiness, sex, and power, all available for consumption. Our entertainment in television, film, and literature paints the good life this way, and it grips our heartstrings, calling us away to worship at the feet of these idols.

Worship isn’t merely a yes to the God who saves, but also a resounding and furious no to the lies that echo in the mountains around us. The church gathers like exiles and pilgrims, collected out of a world that isn’t our home, and looks hopefully toward a future. Our songs and prayers are a foretaste of that future, and even as we practice them, they shape us for our future home. (pg. 103-104)

Just before this Cosper quotes Jean-Jaques von Allmen:

Christian worship is the strongest denial that can be hurled in the face of the world’s claim to provide men with an effective and sufficient justification for their life. There is no more emphatic protest against the pride and the despair of the world than that implied in Church worship.

These are powerful words. Gathering for church with the body of Christ is a private protest against sin, satan, and all the false hopes and dreams this world offers and which vie for our affection. It is a public rebellion against the false gods of our culture that tempt us to believe satisfaction, joy, and deliverance can be found in anything other than God through Christ. Worship is war.

The following are my favorite books on worship. What are yours and why?

  1. Worship by the Book ed. by D. A. Carson
  2. Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship from the Garden to the New Creation by Allen P. Ross
  3. Give Praise to God: A Vision for Reforming Worship ed. by Ryken, Thomas, & Duncan
  4. Christ-Centered Worship: Letting the Gospel Shape Our Practice by Bryan Chapell
  5. Rhythms of Grace: How the Church’s Worship Tells the Story of the Gospel by Mike Cosper
  6. Worship Matters: Leading others to Encounter the Greatness of God by Bob Kauflin