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Archive for the ‘congregational worship’ Category

Joe Thorn speaks to an all too common problem (being late to church). But his real goal is to get people to arrive at church early:

It doesn’t sound like a big deal, and of course this isn’t the sort of thing that brings fire from heaven or church discipline. But being late can have a genuinely negative impact in more ways than one.

For example, a consistently late arrival may contribute to the leadership’s felt need to postpone the start of the service. Or, when a lot of people are arriving late visitors are more likely to feel uncomfortable and isolated. And if you are frequently late to worship you may be missing the opportunity to meet new people. These things (and many more) are true, but I don’t want to come down on people for being late, as much as I want to encourage everyone to get to church early. Why?

Well, if the opening of your worship services feature a pastor flying in on a zip-line, or some such nonsense, feel free to be late. Or find another church. Otherwise, you should be careful to get there on time because the beginning of the worship gathering is not a throw-away of announcements (which you should pay attention to anyway). Rather, at least in our case, the beginning of our corporate worship is thoughtfully put together with the aim of directing our thoughts toward God. From the opening Scripture to the closing benediction every piece of the liturgy is a piece to a puzzle that, when assembled, gives us all a fuller picture of the gospel.

And consider this; if you are frequrently late you are missing something you need: perhaps a reading from a Psalm that highlights the character and work of God as the answer to your own fears and doubts. Why does this matter? Well, scripture is one of the primary means of grace God has given us, and by coming in late you may be missing the very truths your heart needs the most. You may be unintentionally side-stepping the very words from the mouth of God that would address your heart, lift your head, and strengthen your faith. The opening reading and prayer of corporate worship is also what God will use to prepare you to listen, sing, and believe the truth of God that fills the entirety of the service.

So, get to church early, and eager. Who knows what God is going to do in your heart this Sunday?!

More here.

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The words of worship flow so easily from our lips that we seldom stop to think about them: we casually talk about knowing the Lord; we say we talk to God and in one way or another hear from God. We attend churches on Sundays to have, as we say, fellowship with God and each other. There we celebrate the belief that he is our God with songs and hymns, but even these have become so familiar to us that our minds drift to other, more immediate concerns. And when we approach the Lord’s Table, to eat with God as it were, we often do not have enough time to appreciate what it means. In short, our worship services have become time-bound and routine. We have been so successful in fitting God into our important schedules that worship is often just another activity. But it should be anything but routine and ordinary.

After all, this God we say we know is the sovereign Creator and Lord of the whole universe, the eternal and ever-living God, all wise, all powerful, and ever present. Our attention to the Lord must not be an ordinary part of life; our worship of him should be the most momentous, urgent, and glorious activity in our lives.

~Allen P. Ross~Recalling the Hope of Glory: Biblical Worship From the Garden to the New Creation (Grand Rapids, MI; Kregel Publications; 2006) p. 35.

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John MacArthur asks a thoughtful question and then gives a surprising answer:

When you think about coming to church, what aspect do you look forward to the most?

For the sake of this discussion, let’s assume your answer is something spiritually noble—nothing vain or selfish like wanting people to see you dressed in your finest clothes, showing off a new car, or trying to sell goods or services to friends at church. Instead, let’s assume the best—that whatever it is you look forward to most is somehow related to ministry.

Some people might say the teaching keeps them coming back each week. Others would say the music. For some believers, it might be the deep relationships with other Christians they find through their churches—relationships that they can’t cultivate elsewhere. Others might just appreciate the temporary relief from the pressures of life, work, and the world.

But let me suggest something to you: If we really understand Scripture—particularly some specific promises from Jesus—the thing you should look forward to the most is the offering.

Keep reading “The Abundance of Giving” by John MacArthur as he explains why giving ought to excite us!

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“As you look ahead to Sunday worship gathering do you pray for the congregation? Some remember to pray for the pastor or preacher and the preaching of Scripture, but I wonder how many of us remember to pray for those intended to receive the word. Paul prayed for the churches, not just the leadership. In Eph. 3 he prayed that the body would be…

…strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
(Ephesians 3:16-19 ESV)

Pray that God’s people would not just hear the word, but receive it with gladness. Ask the Holy Spirit to do what only he can do: bring about true conviction leading to repentance wherever necessary, and a deepening faith in Christ. Pray that all would be so sure of God’s love for them in Jesus that they would be drawn closer to the Savior and conformed into his image. Pray that the people would be so changed and challenged by the word that they are compelled to talk of it over lunch, share the message with others during the week, and treasure it in the hearts.”

–Joe Thorn

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Barry York at Gentle Reformation writes:

According to the forty-seventh Psalm, we are to sing the praise of the Lord “with skillfulness.”   I will leave the musical instruction side of that commandment, with its pitches, note reading, beat, proper breathing, harmonizing, etc., to those more gifted than I am in this area (which would be quite a number of people).   Yet a congregation can make vast improvements in its singing even without choral training.  How?  Simply by listening to and obeying the Word of God’s instruction on how we are to sing in the presence of God.  Consider applying in a purposeful way these short exhortations to your singing as you go to the house of the Lord the next time.

His list in bullet points is as follows:

  1. Sing to the Lord
  2. Sing with the Lord
  3. Be enthusiastic
  4. Engage your mind
  5. Reflect the mood
  6. Admonish the brethren
  7. Warn the unbelieving
  8. Lift up your voice

He just has a few sentences of explanation for each point. Click here to read the rest.

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Joe Thorn contributes a a very edited* piece from Thomas Watson’s treatment of the fourth commandment as it relates to preparing ourselves for our gathering together for worship.

PREPARING FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP

Having awoke on the Lord’s Day and dressed your bodies, you must also dress your souls for hearing the word. As the people of Israel were to wash themselves before the law was delivered to them, so we must wash and cleanse our souls; and that is done by reading, meditation, and prayer. Exod 19: 10.

BY READING THE WORD.

Scripture is a great means to sanctify the heart, and bring it into a worshipful state. ‘Sanctify them through thy truth,’ &c. John 17: 17. Read not the word carelessly, but with seriousness and affection; as the oracle of heaven, the well of salvation, the book of life. David, for its preciousness, esteemed Scripture above gold; and for its sweetness, above honey. Psa 19: 10. By reading the word aright, our hearts, when dull, are alert; when hard, are softened; when cold and frozen are inflamed with zeal; and we can say as the disciples, ‘Did not our heart burn within us?’ Some step out of their bed to hearing. The reason why many get no more good on a Sabbath by the word preached, is because they did not breakfast with God in the morning by reading his word.

BY MEDITATION.

Get upon the mount of meditation, and there converse with God. Meditation is the soul’s retiring within itself, that, by a serious and solemn thinking upon God, the heart may be raised up to divine affections. It is a work fit for the morning of our corporate worship. It is helpful to meditate on four things: on the works of creation, on God’s holiness, on Christ’s love in redeeming us, and on the glory of heaven. On creation for He who can create, can provide; he that could make us when we were nothing, can raise us when we are low. ‘Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.’ Psa 124: 8. On God’s holiness for the contemplation of it leads us to a posture of humility that is suitable to a holy God; it would make us reverence his name and hallow his day. On Christ’s redeeming love for when the sunshine of Christ’s electing love has risen upon the soul, it never finally sets. Death may take away our life from us, but not Christ’s love. And on the glory of heaven for heaven is the extract and essence of happiness. The meditation of heaven would raise our hearts above the world. Oh, how would earthly things disappear and shrink into nothing, if our minds were mounted above visible things, and we had a prospect of glory! How would the meditation of heaven make us heavenly in our Sabbath exercises!

BY PRAYER.

Prayer sanctifies and strengthens our benefit from observing the Sabbath. As we pray, let us beg a blessing upon the word which is to be preached; that it may be a savour of life to us; that by it our minds may be more illuminated, our corruptions more weakened, and our stock of grace more increased. Let us pray that God’s special presence may be with us, that our hearts may burn within us while God speaks, that we may receive the word into meek and humble hearts, and that we may submit to it, and bring forth fruits. James 1: 21. Nor should we only pray for ourselves, but for others.

Let us also pray for him who preaches the word; that his tongue may be touched with a coal from God’s altar; that God would warm his heart who is to help to warm others. Your prayers may be a means to strengthen the minister. Some complain they find no benefit by the word preached; perhaps they did not pray for their minister as they should. Prayer is like the whetting and sharpening of an instrument, which makes it cut better.

Let us pray with and for our families. Yes, pray for all the congregations that meet on this day in the fear of the Lord; that the dew of the Spirit may fall with the manna of the word; that some souls may be converted, and others strengthened; that gospel ordinances may be continued, and have no restraint put upon them.

Let us pray earnestly with reverence, humility, fervency, and hope in God’s mercy. Luke 22: 44. That we may pray with more fervency, we must pray with a sense of our wants. He who is pinched with wants, will be earnest in craving alms. He prays most fervently who prays most feelingly. This is to sanctify the morning of a Sabbath; and it is a good preparation for the word preached.

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Challenging question and thought from Mark about our congregational worship:

If an outsider came into your Sunday meeting and observed you worshiping, what would he conclude you think about God? 

Does your expression of worship say how great and glorious, delightful and exciting you think God is? Does your worship say you’ve found God to be faithful and good, loving and satisfying?  Would an outsider conclude you believe God to be real and present?

Or does your worship say you find God about as exciting as an exam on protein chains (maybe you bio majors would get excited about this – I wouldn’t).  Do you sing with all the enthusiasm of someone who has just been asked to shovel 2 tons of manure?  Does your worship say you believe God is distant and uncaring?

What does our worship say about what God did for us? Do we sing like those who have been redeemed eternally from the wrath of God? Like those who have been seated with Christ in heavenly places? Like those who are grateful to have every sin wiped away? Do we rejoice like those who have the king of the universe living inside them?

Read more from Mar “What Does Our Your Worship Say about God?” and then go sing the roof off at your church on Sunday!

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