Modern Worship

Read this on a blog today which greatly challenged me, the truths of this article are rooted in the Gospel, focused upon who Christ is. Why do we worship God, go to church, and is our worship a genuine worship of the Creator or just a sense of emotion, a “feeling” we get from going to church? May our hearts, minds, and souls be stirred to worship God in church, every day as we saturate our minds in the truths of Scripture, and as we go through life reflecting upon the beauty and goodness of God. I pray that this excerpt from this site will bless, challenge, and stir your heart as it did mine.

Might Modern Worship Be Sort of Like A Cocaine Rush?

July 30, 2013 —

I once met with a man—let’s call him Nathan—who described himself as a, “recovering charismatic.” He was open to it; but his experience of modern worship gave him pause.

As he grew up, his mother frenetically flitted from one worship experience to the next.

After Toronto she visited Florida, then Bethel Church, and then anywhere she heard “something” was happening.

Worship music unceasingly blared throughout the house. She seemed to need its euphoric “oomph” to motivate her for the tiniest of tasks. Wiping kitchen counters took the combined efforts of Matt Redman, Chris Tomlin, and Paul Baloche.

Don’t ask what spring cleaning required.

But she remained anxious, fearful, self-concerned, and neglectful of her husband and sons. She’d say, “I just want to go where God is working,” but it really seemed she just wanted an escape, a place where her problems could be sedated.

After describing all this, Nathan added, “A friend of mine became a crack addict. Frankly I didn’t see much difference between him and my mom. They got their highs in different ways, and their lives remained a mess.”

I wonder,” he continued, “if modern worship is like a cocaine rush.”

I’m sympathetic

Nathan’s description of his childhood experiences startled me. I was a worship leader for years, and I often tried to stir up feelings. I loved to hear someone say, “Wow, that worship was great; I really felt the Lord’s presence.”

Now I wonder about our pursuit of euphoria in worship. Oswald Chambers says,

If we continually try to bring back those exceptional moments of inspiration, it is a sign that it is not God we want. Never live for those exceptional moments. God will give us His touches of inspiration only when He sees that we are not in danger of being led away by them (My Utmost For His Highest, emphasis added).

Most catechisms that I’ve studied say humans are designed to worship God and to enjoy him. But the purpose is to worship God—joy is simply the result. Unfortunately, it seems to me that the purpose of modern worship services is simply to stir up good feelings.

Do we want worshipers to give their lives in adoration? Or are we competing with our media-dominated culture by using musical abilities to titillate the emotions of the worshiper?

What is wrong with the world?

The problem with the world is self-centeredness; from Hitler-like dictators grabbing for power to three year-old boys making a mountain of matchbox cars to keep them from a younger brother. (Not to mention what you and I do.)

Self-centeredness is the cause of all wars, divorce, betrayal, theft, and every miserable part of human history. We are all thinking of ourselves.

And seeking the “rush” in worship is simply another example of concentrating on ourselves (though we may fail to recognize it because it’s disguised as “worship”).

What are we to do?

Real Christian worship is the solution for self-centeredness. It is fixing our mind on the Ultimate Other.

It is a heart-gaze on God, contemplating the majesty and glory and goodness of God. It is consciously staring at his unimaginable love, his unstoppable power, his ultimate justice, his attention to the sparrow’s needs, and his care for every human being.

Worship is attributing ultimate value to the Ultimate Being who is ultimately beyond us; and yet who is beside us as we sit in our desk chair and in us as we wash the dishes.

Real worship involves an intense focus (of heart, mind, soul and strength) on the beauty of God. It is looking, gazing, meditating, and reflecting on the majesty of God. It is seeing him for all his is, Lord, Master, King, Father, Shepherd, and Friend.

And, yes, seeing his glory often move us to joy as well.

And worship changes us

In The Lord of the Rings, Sam Gamgee is facing horrible evil, his hope is nearly spent, and he is about to give up. One evening he sees a star.

The beauty [of the star] smote his heart … and hope returned to him. For like a shaft clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end, the shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty forever beyond its reach. His song in the tower had been defiance rather than hope;for then he had been thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him, and he fell into a deep untroubled sleep.

When Sam Gamgee gazes on a star and perceives it’s meaning of “light and high beauty forever,” his own fate—and even his masters’s—cease to trouble him. He is changed. He is joyful. He is peaceful.

Likewise, when we let our heart gaze on the Ultimate Star, when we let its beauty and light penetrate our soul, then we’ll be changed forever. Anxiety, grasping for euphoria, selfish ambition, and even self-consciousness will cease. We’ll worship and adore the Creator not the creation.

Real worship of the real God does, in the end, bring real life. I’m in favor of experiencing God. I hope I do more. I hope you do too. But the experience is a result of worship (at least sometimes) not the purpose.

Lewis said, “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.”

Sam (Edited and re-posted from Beliefs of the Heart, June 2012)

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Posted by on August 10, 2013 in Edification, Encouragement


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Leaving ALL Behind

As I’ve been reading through the Gospel of Mark, one key aspect I have never noticed before stood out to me in recent days. Mark 1:16-20 highlights the key aspect as seen below:

Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. 17 And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. 18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him. 19 And when he had gone a little further thence, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets. 20 And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.

Reading through these verses, it became clear to me one theme which would not only be developed in Mark but all four Gospels. Simon and Andrew were fishermen by trade, to leave their nets would indicate that they were now giving their full allegiance to Jesus instead of the things of this world. In other words, there was a radical shift in their allegiance from the world to now pursuing and following after Christ.

Furthermore, the story tells us that not only did they follow but also James the son of Zebedee and John likewise left “their father Zebedee” and “went after him.” Here was Jesus, the promised Messiah who had come to save men from their sins and manifest the glory of God through His obedience to the will of the Father, doing for us what we could not do for ourselves, and these new disciples were now following Jesus. The cost of following Christ is made clear here, those who might follow Christ and be His disciples will have a new attitude towards the things of the world, abandoning them in hopes of pursuing Christ.

Thinking upon this passage, it causes me to question my own sincerity in following Jesus. Here is a group of disciples who left their source of income, fishing, to follow Jesus where He would go. Even more, the other two mentioned left their own father immediately in order to follow Him.

Now the question I must ask myself is, how serious is my desire to pursue and follow after Christ? Is it a mere desire to have the blessings of Christianity, live a comfortable life, and do what I want while trying to add Jesus to my life, when convenient? Such a response indicates a heart in need of God’s work, for those who do not treasure Christ more than the world show that their allegiance, first and foremost, lies not with Him but with the things of the world.

On the other hand, can I look at my life and see a growing desire to know more of Christ, to follow Him no matter where it leads or how uncertain the future is, and to pursue above all else that which lasts for eternity? May our goals, ambitions, allegiance, and treasure lie not in our family, friends, job, or possessions but in knowing, following, serving, and giving our all in following Jesus. 


Posted by on August 9, 2013 in Edification


The Eternal Bread

In preparation for a Sunday school lesson tomorrow, I have been meditating upon John 6 in addition to listening to a sermon by D.A. Carson on the subject. With tomorrow marking the first day of my summer internship, things will be busy yet fruitful. A quick thought from studying John 6 has brought to life this one truth which continually sticks out to me. As Jesus speaks to the people in John 6, He knows their true heart and motives for following Him is merely for their own financial gain and self-interest. Upon correcting their misguided and false motives, Jesus asserts one of the popular “I Am” statements found throughout the book of John by claiming to be the bread of life. His words are as follows:

“I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.”

What powerful and penetrating words from the Messiah! Although the people were merely seeking after power, liberation from Rome, financial gain, and various other motives, Jesus asserts that the people have completely missed the point of why He came. Jesus did not come for their financial gain, to free them from Roman rule or to give them a life full of worldly things; instead He came to glorify the Father by obeying Him, dying on the cross, and freeing people all over the world from the terrible blindness of sin, opening people’s eyes to see the beauty of who He is. As we go about our busy days and schedules our days revolve more around the here and now than they do eternity; the unkind words to a friend or family member leave a hurt which may last for years, the neighbor who has not been told the wonderful news of what Christ has done is ignored. Instead of rejoicing in Jesus and what He has done, we often live with a selfish motivation of going to heaven without ever really proclaiming the Gospel to the lost or living for what truly will last. Ultimately, as the Bread of Life, Jesus died so that we might be free from sin and experience the real joy and satisfaction from a relationship with Him. As Carson put it in his sermon, His death meant our life, but our rejection of Him means our death spiritually.

I wish I could devote more time and depth to this post, however I want those who read this to be reminded of what Jesus has done. May our motivation be not for our gain, but for God’s glory. As we go through life searching for true joy and satisfaction, I pray that we might see the vanity of living for the temporal so that we might daily be caught up in the glory of Christ, partaking in the Bread of Life and the Water which leaves the soul eternally satisfied in Jesus.

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Posted by on June 8, 2013 in Edification, Encouragement


Why Study Revelation Part 2

As promised, here is the second part to why we should study Revelation.  G.K. Beale provides an excellent summary of the second theological emphasis in Revelation, namely, the victory Christians have in spite of the outward trials and tragedies of life. Here is his excerpt, let me know what you think in the comments!

Suffering and Victory

As in John’s Gospel, so in John’s Apocalypse, the death and defeat of Christ are, in reality, his victory over Satan. The Lamb’s followers are to recapitulate the model of his ironic victory in their own lives; by enduring through tribulation they reign in the invisible kingdom of the Messiah. They exercise kingship in the midst of their suffering just as Christ did from the cross: Christians are called to be conquerors by emulating in their own lives the archetypal triumph of Jesus. Though the Christian’s outer body is vulnerable to persecution and suffering, God has promised to protect the regenerated inner spirits of true saints. And, at the end of the sojourn of Christ’s body (the church) on earth, its presence, like his, will be completely removed, and then it will be resurrected.

Conversely, when the church’s opponents persecute God’s people, they spiritually defeat themselves in the same manner that Satan was defeated at the cross, though it appeared that he had won a physical victory over Christ (cf. Col. 2:14–15). Acts of oppression against the saints, when not repented of, lay an increasing foundation for the oppressors’ final judgment and even become expressions of a judgment of hardening by God on permanently recalcitrant people.

The main rhetorical goal of the literary argument of John’s Apocalypse is to exhort God’s people to remain faithful to the call to follow the Lamb’s paradoxical example and not to compromise, all with the goal of inheriting final salvation. This, however, is not the most significant theological idea in the book (see on the conclusion to 21:1–22:5). The major theological theme of the book is the glory due to God because he has accomplished full salvation and final judgment. Even the notion of Christ and the church reigning ironically in the midst of their suffering and the idea of unbelieving persecutors experiencing spiritual defeat in the midst of their physical victories demonstrate the wisdom of God and point accordingly to his glory.

G.K. Beale, NIGTC Revelation

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Posted by on April 25, 2013 in Edification, Encouragement


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Why Study Revelation? Part 1

Possibly one of the most feared books of the Bible is Revelation. Most Christians approach it with the fear of not knowing what the message is, what will happen in the end times, the relevance of the book, and seem to feel as if it is “too difficult” to understand. I know for years I have never really studied Revelation for many of these reasons, and others as well. However, the main theme of Revelation is to reveal the glorious person and work of Jesus Christ, what He has accomplished, what He will accomplish in the future, and His power over Satan and death. G.K. Beale writes, in his commentary, some observations on the theology presented in the book. I will post several excerpts over the next several days showing the main theology of the book which serves to encourage Christians, reveal Christ’s glory, and motivate believers to resist worldliness and pursue godliness.

The Place of Christians in the World

In the light of all this and the exegetical analysis in the following commentary, we have already contended in the section of this Introduction on “Structure and Plan” that the main idea of the Apocalypse could be roughly formulated as follows: the sovereignty of God and Christ in redeeming and judging brings them glory, which is intended to motivate saints to worship God and reflect his glorious attributes through obedience to his word (see, e.g., on 22:9). It is not coincidental that the Apocalypse’s most significant expressions of worship occur where God’s glory is highlighted (chs. 4–5; 7:9–12; 11:15–19; 15:2–8; 19:1–8; see also where words for “worship” are found). Idolatry is regarded not merely as worshiping other gods, but as “the failure to worship the one who is Lord of all.”

The book portrays an end-time new creation that has irrupted into the present old world through the death and resurrection of Christ and through the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost. John’s vision communicates values that run counter to the values of the old world and provide “a structure of meaning that grounds” the lives of Christians in the new world.

The symbols describing the new world spell out the eternal significance and consequences of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection and of the present choices and behavior of the readers. Part of the main point is to motivate the readers not to compromise with the world but align their thoughts and behavior with the God-centered standards of the new creation. They are to see their own situation in this world in the light of the eternal perspective of the new world, which is now their true home.

In this respect, the churches are to read and reread the book in their assembly so that they may continually be reminded of God’s real, new world, which stands in opposition to the old, fallen system in which they presently live. Such a continual reminder will cause them to realize that their home is not in this old world but in the new world portrayed parabolically in the heavenly visions. Continued reading of the book will encourage genuine saints to realize that what they believe is not strange and odd, but truly normal from God’s perspective. They will not be discouraged by outside worldliness, including what has crept into the churches, which is always making godly standards appear odd and sinful values seem normal.

John refers to true unbelievers in the book as “earth-dwellers” because their ultimate home is on this transient earth. They cannot trust in anything except what their eyes see and their physical senses perceive; they are permanently earthbound, trusting only in earthly security, and will perish with this old order at the end of time when the corrupted cosmos finally is judged and passes away.

On the other hand, Christians are like pilgrims passing through this world. As such they are to commit themselves to the revelation of God in the new order so as progressively to reflect and imitate his image and increasingly live according to the values of the new world, not being conformed to the fallen system, its idolatrous images, and associated values (cf. Rom. 12:2).

In this connection it may be profitable to ask why Christ addresses the churches in the letters through their angelic representatives, especially since it does not seem logical to blame angels for the sins of churches. One answer is that it is essential to the idea of corporate representation that the representative be held accountable for the group and the group for the actions of the representative. So there is some sense in which the angels are accountable for the churches, yet the churches also benefit from the position of the angels.

In this respect, the existence of the churches in heaven is represented and embodied in their representative angels. In fact, one reason for the presence of so many angels throughout the visions in Revelation, and especially for addressing the churches through their representative angels (chs. 2–3), is to remind true Christians that a dimension of their existence is already in the heavenly realm, that their real home is not with the unbelieving “earth-dwellers,” and that they have heavenly help and protection in their struggle not to be conformed to the pagan environment. And one purpose of the church gathering on earth every week (as in 1:3, 9), in addition to the purposes noted above, is to be reminded of its heavenly identity by modeling its worship on the angels’ and the heavenly church’s worship of the exalted Lamb. This is why scenes of heavenly liturgy are woven throughout the Apocalypse, especially in concluding sections, which serve as interpretations of the preceding visionary narratives.

It is in this manner that the churches are to learn how to worship in their gathered meetings and are to be given a zeal for worship of the true God. The intended consequence is that believers experience an increasing attitude of worshipful reverence for God, not only in church assemblies, but in bowing to divine sovereignty in every aspect of their lives and in every facet of its outworking.

~Beale, G. K. The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle, Cumbria: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 1999, 174-176.~

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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in Encouragement


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Guilt and Repentance

I found this video online and thought I would share it. If you’ve ever wondered what true biblical repentance is, this video quickly, concisely, and accurately presents the biblical view of repentance.




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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in Edification, Encouragement


The Beauty Revealed

As I looked through some photos I have recently taken, I was amazed at the recent pictures which capture just a glimpse of the beauty which God has chosen to reveal in creation. As we come upon Thanksgiving, there is much to be thankful for. Time spent with family, cherishing the moments to remember for a lifetime, seeing the grandeur of creation, and so many other wonderful blessings from God. May we not forget the most important aspect to be thankful for this year, that being the wonderful grace of God which has been displayed through Jesus Christ on Calvary. Just as these pictures capture only a tiny glimpse of the beauty revealed by God in creation, may our eyes be opened to gaze upon the beauty of Jesus this Thanksgiving and every day of our life.  Below are a few pictures which I have captured revealing the variety and beauty found in God’s creation, enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

The stately tree stands proud against the colorful sunset..

Contrasted with the radiant sky…

To the diminutive beetle…

The stare of a small tree frog…

Or perhaps the sunbeams shining through the trees, beating back the fog…

To the glorious rainbow, reminding us of God’s faithfulness and protection. All these pictures remind us of Someone Who is far greater than anything we can see or comprehend, far more beautiful and majestic than even the dazzling rainbow painted in the blue sky, and far more glorious than the radiant sunbeams on a frigid day. May we be reminded from these pictures of the beauty in creation, but far more importantly that we would be able to see the goodness, grace, and perfection of Jesus Christ our Savior.

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Posted by on November 21, 2012 in Encouragement

In Christ Jesus

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus