Preparing For Worship

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It is once again time to prepare our hearts for worship. Tomorrow we have the privilege of celebrating Communion as a church.  Joni Eareckson Tada said: “Sometimes I know that I come to Communion unprepared, not paying attention to the housecleaning that my heart needs.” Paul says in 1st Corinthians 11:28: “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.” So, as we prepare for worship let’s be sure to do some housecleaning on our hearts and let’s be sure to examine ourselves before we come to the Lord’s table tomorrow.

The last 4 weeks we have considered this quote from Ligon Duncan: “Reflect on and pray through the attributes of God. Consider what makes Him worthy of our worship. Consider yourself, and spend time in confession of sin. Pray that God would prepare your heart to hear the proclamation of His Word.” So, for four weeks in a row we have looked at a different attribute of God. We have looked at God’s immensity, God’s omniscience, God’s power, and God’s patience. This week I want to focus on the grace of God.

A.W. Tozer writes that: “grace is an incomprehensibly immense and overwhelming plenitude of kindness and goodness. If we could only remember it, we wouldn’t have to be played with and entertained so much. If we could only remember the grace of God toward us who have nothing but demerit, we would be overwhelmed by this incomprehensibly immense attribute, so vast, so huge, that nobody can ever grasp it or hope to understand it.”

A.W. Pink said that: “Divine grace is the sovereign and saving favor of God exercised in bestowing blessings upon those who have no merit in them and for which no compensation is demanded. Nay, more; it is the favor of God to those who not only have no positive deserts of their own, but also who are thoroughly ill-deserving and hell-deserving. It is completely unmerited and unsought, and is altogether unattracted by anything in or from or by the objects upon which it is bestowed.

Grace cannot be bought, earned, nor won by the creature. If it could be, it would cease to be grace. When a thing is said to be of “grace” we mean that the recipient has no claim upon it, that it was in no wise due him. It comes to him as pure charity, and, at first, unasked and undesired.”

God’s grace should continually stun us. We should be constantly amazed by His amazing grace towards us, but often times we are not stunned by His grace. Sinclair Ferguson helps us understand why we often times fail to find God’s grace amazing. He writes: “There are many reasons, but usually they involve three things. First, we have such a low sense of the holiness of God and we are insensitive to the sheer intensity of it. To whatever extent our sense of God’s holiness is diminished, to that extent our sense of amazement at God’s grace will be diminished. Second, we adopt superficial views of our sinfulness and too often guard against the ministry of the Word and Spirit exposing it. Jesus said that it is those who are much forgiven who love much. The reason is that those who are most conscious of their sin become most conscious of their need of grace, and therefore most aware of the wonders of grace. Third, we think too little of the costliness of grace. It comes freely to us because it was so expensive to Christ to satisfy the justice of God on our behalf.”

So, as we prepare for worship let’s think about the holiness of God and the sheer intensity of it. Maybe we need to spend time reading through Isaiah 6. We should also think of the costliness of grace. We should spend time reflecting on what it cost Jesus to satisfy the justice of God on our behalf. As A.W. Tozer said: “If I want to know this immeasurable grace, this overwhelming, astounding kindness of God, I have to step under that shadow of the cross. I must come where God releases grace…I must look…to that cross where Jesus died. Grace flowed out of His wounded side. The grace that flowed there saved Abel―and that same grace saves you. ‘No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6). And Peter said, ‘Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).”

Tozer ends his chapter on God’s grace with a wonderful little prayer. He says: “Father, we pray for all of us, that You will sweep away our self-righteousness, even any little, ragged traces of self-righteousness that may be left. Save us from ourselves. Let grace abound from Calvary, and teach us that it is not by grace and something else, but by grace alone, Thy goodness, Thy kindness in Christ Jesus. This we ask in the name of the Lord who loves us. Amen.”

Let’s be sure to pray for Ian, Erin, and Ethan as they lead us in worship tomorrow. Let’s also pray for Jerry as he will lead us in a time of confession tomorrow. Let’s also pray for Mark as he will be opening up God’s Word to us. We will be starting our study of the book of Galatians. Mark will be preaching on Galatians 1:1-5. The link to the ESV text of chapter 1 of Galatians is below.

Galatians 1

Picture of Symmes Chapel in South Carolina from here

Preparing For Worship

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It is once again time to prepare our hearts for worship. This Sunday will be our last sermon in the book of Genesis. The last three weeks we have considered this quote from Ligon Duncan: “Reflect on and pray through the attributes of God. Consider what makes Him worthy of our worship. Consider yourself, and spend time in confession of sin. Pray that God would prepare your heart to hear the proclamation of His Word.” So, for three weeks in a row we have looked at a different attribute of God. We have looked at God’s immensity, God’s omniscience, and God’s power. This week I want to focus on the patience of God.

Here are several verses on the patience of God: Psalm 145:8 tells us: “The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Psalm 103:8 -“The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” Exodus 34:6 -“The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,” Psalm 86:15 -“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.” Joel 2:13 -“and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the Lord your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and he relents over disaster.” A.W. Pink said: “Certainly we lose much if we do not frequently meditate upon the patience of God…”

So, as we prepare our hearts for worship today and tomorrow let’s all spend some time thinking about God’s patience. Specifically think about His patience in your own life. John Piper said: “If God’s anger had a hair trigger, his love would not last one day in my life. If rockets of wrath shot out from God’s eyes every time I sinned, I would be blown to smithereens before I got out of bed in the morning. But he shouts on Mount Sinai, “I am slow to anger!” He holds back his wrath by the reigns of his love. He is long-suffering. He is extraordinarily patient. And so he keeps steadfast love. He guards it and preserves it by being slow to anger.”

Similarly Stephen Charnock said: “He is slow to anger, he takes not the first occasions of a provocation; he is long-suffering (Rom. 9:22), and (Psalm 86:15) he forbears punishment upon many occasions offered him. It is long before he consents to give fire to his wrath, and shoot out his thunderbolts. Sin hath a loud cry, but God seems to stop his ears, not to hear the clamor it raises and the charge it presents.”

Think about how amazing Isaiah 65 is that says: “I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually,” Then think of Jesus spreading out his hands on the cross as Matthew Henry says: “When Christ was crucified his hands were spread out and stretched forth, as if he were preparing to receive returning sinners into his bosom and this all the day, all the gospel-day. He waited to be gracious, and was not weary of waiting even those that came in at the eleventh hour of the day were not rejected.”

We were all provoking God to His face continually as Isaiah 65 says. This was the first 23 years of my life, just absolutely provoking God to His face everyday. Any of those days during my first 23 years of life, God could have justly ended my life. He could have justly sent me to Hell for eternity, which is where my sins deserved. I am so thankful that God is patient and that He has been incredibly patient with me. As 2 Peter 3 says: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

A.W. Pink writes: “Let us review our own lives. It is not long since we followed a multitude to do evil, had no concern for God’s glory, and lived only to gratify self. How patiently He bore with our vile conduct! Now that grace has snatched us as brands from the burning, and given us a place in God’s family, and begotten us unto an eternal inheritance in glory; how miserably we requite Him. How shallow our gratitude, how tardy our obedience, how frequent our backslidings! One reason why God suffers the flesh to remain in the believer is that He may exhibit His “longsuffering to us…” (2 Pet. 3:9).”

As we prepare for worship let’s be sure to thank God for His patience with us. Let’s also be sure to pray for Ian, Erin, and Molly who will lead us in worship. Let’s also pray for Jerry who will lead us in a time of confession. Let’s also be sure to pray for Mark as he preaches the last sermon on the book of Genesis. We will look at Genesis 50 tomorrow. The link to the ESV text is below:

Genesis 50

Preparing For Worship

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It is once again time to prepare our hearts for worship. The last two weeks we have been thinking through something that Ligon Duncan said. He said this: “Reflect on and pray through the attributes of God. Consider what makes Him worthy of our worship. Consider yourself, and spend time in confession of sin. Pray that God would prepare your heart to hear the proclamation of His Word.” So, we have been looking at one attribute of God each week to help us prepare for worship. The first week we looked at God’s immensity and last week we looked at God’s omniscience. This week I want to look at God’s power.

Stephen Charnock said: “God’s power is like Himself: infinite, eternal, incomprehensible; it can neither be checked, restrained, nor frustrated by the creature.” Psalm 18 says: “The Lord also thundered in the heavens, and the Most High uttered his voice, hailstones and coals of fire. And he sent out his arrows and scattered them; he flashed forth lightnings and routed them. Then the channels of the sea were seen, and the foundations of the world were laid bare at your rebuke, O Lordat the blast of the breath of your nostrils.” Every thunderstorm should remind us of God’s power and as Charles Spurgeon says a storm should also “assure us of the real power of him who is our Father and our friend,…” A.W. Pink says: “There is infinitely more power lodged in the nature of God than is expressed in all his works.” He goes on to say that: “Not a creature in the entire universe has an atom of power save what God delegates. But God’s power is not acquired, nor does it depend upon any recognition by any other authority. It belongs to him inherently.”

Psalm 89 says: “For who in the skies can be compared to the LordWho among the heavenly beings is like the Lorda God greatly to be feared in the council of the holy ones,
and awesome above all who are around him? O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord,” Psalm 50:1 says: “The Mighty One, God the Lordspeaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.” Isaiah 40 tells us: “To whom then will you compare me, that I should be like him? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high and see: who created these? He who brings out their host by number, calling them all by name; by the greatness of his might and because he is strong in power, not one is missing. Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard?The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He does not faint or grow weary; his understanding is unsearchable.”

What are some practical implications of God’s power? I think one would be a holy awe must come upon us as Matthew Henry says: “A holy awe of God must fall upon us, and fill us, in all our approaches to God, even in secret…” Another implication of His power would be that we should trust Him fully. A.W. Pink says: “He is worthy of implicit confidence. Nothing is too hard for Him. If God were stinted in might and had a limit to His strength we might well despair. But seeing that He is clothed with omnipotence, no prayer is too hard for Him to answer, no need too great for Him to supply, no passion too strong for Him to subdue, no temptation too powerful for Him to deliver from, no misery too deep for Him to relieve. “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1). 

God’s power should also remind us that He can do far more than we ask or think. As Paul tells us in Ephesians 3: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Lastly, I think we should be stunned that the Almighty God of the universe, who is infinite in power has adopted us into His family and He is our Father! As 2nd Corinthians 6 tells us: “and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.”

Let’s be sure to pray for Ian, Erin, and Molly as they will lead us in worship tomorrow. Let’s also pray for Allen as he will be leading us in a time of confession. Let’s also be sure to pray for Mark as he will open up God’s Word to us. Mark will be talking about the authority of scripture tomorrow and we will look at Genesis 49. The link to the ESV text is below:

Genesis 49

 

Preparing For Worship

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It is once again time to prepare our hearts for worship. Last week I quoted Ligon Duncan who said that one way to prepare for worship would be to: “Reflect on and pray through the attributes of God. Consider what makes Him worthy of our worship. Consider yourself, and spend time in confession of sin. Pray that God would prepare your heart to hear the proclamation of His Word.” I thought that praying through the attributes of God was a great idea and I thought it would be good to discuss a different attribute of God every week for several weeks. Last week I mentioned God’s immensity. As a quick reminder about God’s immensity A.W. Tozer said: “God has the attribute of immanence and immensity. God is immanent, which means you don’t have to go distances to find God…He is right here…God is above all things presiding, beneath all things sustaining, outside of all things embracing and inside all things filling. That is the immanence of God.”

Psalm 139: 7-10 says: “Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.”

This week I want to focus on God’s omniscience. A.W. Pink says: “God is omniscient. He knows everything: everything possible, everything actual; all events, all creatures of the past, the present and the future. He is perfectly acquainted with every detail in the life of every being in heaven, in earth and in hell…His knowledge is perfect. He never errs, never changes, never overlooks anything.” Hebrews 4:13 reminds us: “And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Sam Storms says that God: “sees things at once and in their totality, whereas we know only as the objects of knowledge are brought before us, one bit after another. With God the act of perception is complete and instantaneous. God thinks about all things at once.” Wayne Grudem helpfully tells us: “If he [God] should wish to tell us the number of grains of sand on the seashore or the number of stars in the sky, he would not have to count them all quickly like some kind of giant computer, nor would he have to call the number to mind because it was something he had not thought about for a time. Rather, he knows all things at once. All of these facts and all other things that he knows are always fully present in his consciousness” This is the God we are preparing to worship! Psalm 147:5 says: “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.”

Sam Storms reminds us: “God’s knows exhaustively all his own deeds and plans. He also knows us thoroughly and exhaustively. No secret of the human heart, no thought of the mind or feeling of the soul escapes his gaze. Carl Henry points out: “Psychologists and psychoanalysts speak of deep areas of subconscious experience of which human beings are hardly aware. But God knows all men thoroughgoingly, psychologists and psychoanalysts and theologians included.”

What are some practical implications of God’s omniscience for us? John Piper is helpful here when he says: “It means that there are no complete secrets in your life. You may have succeeded in hiding something all your life from everyone on this earth. But you have not hidden it from Jesus. The person who matters most knows most. The person whose judgment about you is all important knows all. Let that sink in. You are totally known. Totally. There is not the slightest part of your heart unknown to Jesus, at this hour, and every hour.”

God’s omniscience should fill us with adoration and comfort. Sam Storms says: “What is even more glorious is that this doctrine which makes us fearful of sin is also the foundation of comfort and assurance. If God is omniscient, then he knows the worst about us, but loves us notwithstanding! The apostle John writes: “By this we shall know that we are of the truth and reassure our heart before him; for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything. (1 John 3:19-20) A.W. Pink similarly says: “The apprehension of God’s infinite knowledge should fill the Christian with adoration. The whole of my life stood open to His view from the beginning. He foresaw my every fall, my every sin, my every backsliding; yet, nevertheless, fixed His heart upon me. Oh, how the realization of this should bow me in wonder and worship before Him!”

Lastly and powerfully John Piper tells us: “Let me close with one word about the cross of Christ—the death of Christ. You would think that a man who can see perfectly into the heart of every soul and know what everyone is thinking and feeling and planning—you would think that such a man could move through life by avoiding all human danger. He can simply see all thoughts of ill-will and get out of reach. That’s true. He could. If that was his plan.

But it wasn’t Jesus’ plan. He knew what was in man—including Judas (John 6:64). And so he chose when and where and how and why he would die. And he did it for you. If you see him and his cross as the greatest glory and believe on him, the Lamb of God takes away all your sins, you will have eternal life. He is a glorious Savior.”

As we prepare our hearts for worship let’s be sure to pray for Ian and Erin as they will be leading us in worship. If you would pray for me as I will be doing the confession I would appreciate it. Let’s be sure to pray for Mark as well, who will open up God’s Word to us. He will be preaching on Genesis 46-47. The links to the ESV text are below:

Genesis 46

Genesis 47

Picture from here

 

Preparing For Worship

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It is time once again to prepare our hearts for worship. 1st Samuel 16:7 says: “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” I read that this week and was reminded again about the importance of preparing our hearts for worship. ‘The LORD looks on the heart.’ We do not prepare for worship by putting on a fake smile 5 seconds before we walk into the church building. If all we do is work on our outward appearance before attending worship, then we have failed to properly prepare our hearts for worship.

Matthew Henry comments on 1st Samuel 16:7 and says: “Men judge by the sight of the eyes, but God does not. The Lord looks on the heart, that is, (1.) He knows it. We can tell how men look, but he can tell what they are. Man looks on the eyes (so the original word is), and is pleased with the liveliness…that appear in them; but God looks on the heart, and sees the thoughts and intents of (the heart).” We are not fooling God one bit if we come to worship and only clean up our outward appearance and fail to work on our hearts. So, what do we need to do to prepare our hearts for worship?

There are lots of things that we need to do as we prepare our hearts for worship. Prayer and reading of God’s Word are absolutely essential as I have mentioned many times. Something that I thought about today though was that preparing for worship should be something that we do joyfully. Ligon Duncan said: “corporate worship is both our great privilege and responsibility, every…believer will want to prepare for it.” He goes on to say that: “gathering with God’s people to meet with God Almighty is a far greater privilege (than meeting a King or a President). Hence, Christians will joyfully and carefully and expectantly prepare for this.” We should be joyfully, carefully, and expectantly preparing to meet with God Almighty in  corporate worship. We should never view church as a burden, but as a wonderful privilege that we get to participate in each week.

Ligon Duncan I thought was so helpful when he says this about how we should prepare Saturday night or Sunday morning for worship: “Reflect on and pray through the attributes of God. Consider what makes Him worthy of our worship. Consider yourself, and spend time in confession of sin. Pray that God would prepare your heart to hear the proclamation of His Word.  We should pray for the ministers, and for those who will join us in worship. We should pray that God would be honored by the worship at (North Avenue Church), that the gospel would go forth powerfully, convicting and convincing sinners, and that the people of God would be built up and grown up in grace.”

When Ligon said to pray through the attributes of God, I thought I will try and mention one different attribute of God each week for several weeks as a way of helping us prepare for worship. The first one I will start with is God’s immensity. A.W. Tozer is helpful on this attribute of God. He says this: “We think that the sun is very large with its planets circling around it. But if you study astronomy—even elementary astronomy—you will learn that there are suns so large that each one could absorb our sun, all of its planets and all of the satellites that revolve around those planets into itself. They say that there are suns that are so large you could put millions of our suns into them…Then there is space.” He says that space is a way of accounting for different positions in the universe. “We call it distance…If it’s the moon they say 250,000 miles or if it’s the sun they say 93 million miles (away from earth). But after that they start talking in light years. They say that there are (stars) millions of light years away—say 10 million just to get a start. So if you want to know how far it is from earth to that (star) I’m talking about, you multiply 5 trillion, 862 billion, 484 million by 10 million. Doesn’t that stun you? It makes my head ache! Seen over against this, you and I are terrible small.

Then there is God. God has the attribute of immanence and immensity. God is immanent, which means you don’t have to go distances to find God…He is right here…God is above all things presiding, beneath all things sustaining, outside of all things embracing and inside all things filling. That is the immanence of God. God doesn’t travel to get anywhere. We may say in prayer, “Oh God, come and help us,” because we mean it in a psychological way. But actually God doesn’t have to “come” to help us because there isn’t any place where God is not.”

Psalm 139: 7-10 says: “Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.”

Let’s be sure to pray for the service tomorrow as well. Let’s pray for Ian and Erin as they lead us in worship. Let’s pray for Jerry as he leads us in a time of confession. Let’s also be sure and pray for Mark as he opens up God’s Word to us. Mark will be preaching on Genesis 45:16-46:34. The links to both chapter 45 and 46 of the ESV text are below.

Genesis 45

Genesis 46

Picture from here

Preparing For Worship

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It is once again time to prepare our hearts for worship. I want to go back to a quote from R. Kent Hughes that I mentioned in my very first preparing for worship post. He said: “We must discipline ourselves in preparation for corporate worship, and that does not begin with the thirty seconds after we have breathlessly sat down.” So, we need to discipline ourselves Saturday night and Sunday morning as we prepare ourselves for corporate worship. John Piper says that as we prepare for worship we are seeking to stay alive in our souls ‘to keep the juices flowing, to fan the flame again…and have it burning bright on Saturday night.’

We need to figure out what are some things in our life that help us fan the flame in our souls for God? What are those things that raise our affections for Jesus? When we figure out what those things are then we need to fill our life with those things, especially Saturday night and Sunday morning as we prepare for worship. Matt Chandler phrases the questions like this: “What stirs your affections for Jesus Christ? What is it, when you are around it, when you’re in it, when you’re with them, that really stirs up your heart and mind so that you want to know the Lord, you want to worship and follow Him? What are those things that stir your affections?”

Matt Chandler then says that graveyards actually stir his affections for Jesus. He tells this story when he was just 24 and he had attended the funeral of his friends father, and he and his friend: “were kind of walking around the graveyard and I came across a tombstone of a guy who died when he was around my age. And so I was 24 at the time. So the guy on the tombstone was 24, and I began to try to imagine his life. Did he get a chance to get married? What did he die of? There was nothing but this is when he was born this is when he died, and then there was this little race car thing on his tombstone? I began to wonder about his life, and in all that wondering, I was reminded that I am mortal and that I’m going to die and that I’m not guaranteed any amount of years to come. Being in that graveyard that day stirred up my affections for Jesus Christ. Because my confidence needed to be in Him and my life needs to be in Him and my focus on the things that are above and the mindset in my brain focused intently on Jesus Christ as I looked at the tombstone with the guy’s name on it who died when he was my age.”

Chandler goes on to say that we also need to be aware of those things that rob our affections for Jesus. Which the things that tend to rob our affections for Jesus are usually morally neutral things as Matt Chandler explains: “If I had to bet, what hinders the bulk of you in your relationship with Christ is not something that’s morally wicked but something that’s morally neutral.” He goes on to say that: “it could be morally neutral things just absolutely sabotaging your depth of intimacy with Christ. So, what stirs your affections and what robs your affections? I think you’ve constantly got to be aware of this. You’ve got to constantly be tuned in and dialed in to this.”

So, as we prepare for worship lets examine our hearts and see if there is something sabotaging our depth of intimacy with Christ. Let’s repent if we find things that have sabotaged our intimacy with Christ this week and let’s race to the cross. If we have had a great week spiritually, then let’s examine our week and find out what were the things that raised our affections for Jesus? Maybe it was fellowship with Christian friends, maybe it was evangelism, or worship songs, or a testimony that you heard. Whatever those things were, let’s be sure to dial into those things as Matt Chandler says. Let’s be sure to spend time reading God’s Word before we come to worship tomorrow, and let’s be sure to spend time in prayer as well.

Let’s be sure to pray for Ian, Erin, and Ethan who will be leading us in worship. Let’s pray for Jerry as he leads us in a time of confession. Let us also be sure and pray for Mark as he opens up God’s Word for us tomorrow. As Pastor Alistair Begg said: “A congregation who prays for their pastors will be a better-fed congregation than those who do not.”

Mark will be preaching on Genesis 45. The link to the ESV text is below.

Genesis 45

Picture from here

 

 

Preparing For Worship

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It is time once again to prepare our hearts for worship. One of the reasons why I do this post each week is because I don’t want us to honor Jesus with our lips on Sunday when our hearts are far from Him. Jesus in Matthew 15 said: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me.” John Piper says: “For Jesus, this worship amounts to zero. That is what “vain” means. “In vain do they worship me.” Zero. It is not worship. This is a zero worship. It is zero if there is no heart dimension to it. So, you can do as many deeds as you want and go to as many church services as you want and never be worshiping if it is all external and nothing is happening in your heart toward God. All true worship is in essence a matter of the heart. It is more, but it is not less.

Piper goes on to say that: “True worship is a valuing or a treasuring of God above all things. So the inner essence of worship is the response of the heart to the knowledge of the mind when the mind is rightly understanding God and the heart is rightly valuing God.” He later concludes with this: “The inner essence of worship is to know God truly and then respond from the heart to that knowledge by valuing God, treasuring God, prizing God, enjoying God, being satisfied with God above all earthly things. And then that deep, restful, joyful satisfaction in God overflows in demonstrable acts of praise from the lips and demonstrable acts of love in serving others for the sake of Christ.”

So, we want to rightly understand God and we want to know God truly as Piper says. To do this we must read our Bibles as we prepare our hearts for worship. I read something from J.I. Packer recently that has stuck with me this last week. Packer said that we should think about the Bible as “God preaching—God preaching to me every time I read or hear any part of it—God the Father preaching God the Son in the power of God the Holy Spirit.” That is amazing! We hold in our hands a book in which the God of the universe preaches God the Son to us in the power of God the Holy Spirit! We should not treat the Bible like an old history book. Sam Storms said that we should never think of “Scripture statically but dynamically, that is to say, not merely as something that was spoken or recorded centuries ago but also as something God is saying today. The Bible speaks not merely to men in general but also to each particular person who reads or hears it in the present moment.”

So, maybe we just grab our Bibles and pray a short prayer similar to Psalm 119 and say: Heavenly Father please ‘Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things’ in your Word this morning. Then turn to maybe a familiar passage. Say maybe the book of Colossians. Just read the first couple of chapters slowly. Colossians 2:13-15 gets me almost every time: “And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” 

This passage tells me that I was ‘dead in my trespasses.’ This was the first 23 years of my life. I was dead in my sin. I was running a hell bound race, but God in His mercy reached down and He made me alive together with him. As Mark said this past Sunday God snatched us like a brand from the fire. Charles Spurgeon said: “Out of the state of our natural depravity we have been plucked so that every man who is delivered from its sway may well say, “Am not I a brand plucked out of the fire?” Colossians goes on to tell us that God has forgiven us all our trespasses, which is stunning, but the passage tells how this was done: ‘by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.”

God took the record of debt that stood against us, which was a massive debt and he put that record into the palm of His dearly beloved, precious, innocent, perfect Son. Then God took the spike and nailed the record of our debt to the cross. As John Piper says the spike: “was driven through the record into the hand, into the wood, and that record was settled, paid, finished!” As we dwell on these gospel truths our hearts are warmed, and our affections for God are raised.

As we prepare for worship lets be sure to pray for Ian and Erin as they lead us in worship. Let’s also pray for Jerry as he leads us in a time of confession. Let’s be sure to pray for Mark as he will open up God’s Word to us. Mark will be preaching on Genesis 44. The link to the ESV text is below.

Genesis 44

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Preparing For Communion Sunday

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It is time once again to prepare our hearts for worship. Today we will be partaking in Communion at North Avenue for the 2nd time. So, how should we prepare our hearts to take the Lord’s Supper? Joni Eareckson Tada said: “Sometimes I know that I come to Communion unprepared, not paying attention to the housecleaning that my heart needs.” Paul says in 1st Corinthians 11:28: “Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup.” All of our hearts need housecleaning as Joni said before we come to the table. The Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs said: “We should make a diligent search to see whether there is not…, some evil in your heart; and whatever sin you shall come to find in your heart, there must be a casting out of it.” When we come to the Lord’s Supper we are coming to remember the broken body and shed blood of Christ. Burroughs says that: “a suitable disposition is brokenness of heart, a sense of our sin, of that dreadful breach that sin has made between God and the soul.” Tim Challies says that: “Our sin should be upon our hearts, but only in such a way that we understand it through the application of the blood of Christ. We must behold Christ broken and behold the ugliness of our sin in the red of the glass of the blood of Jesus Christ.”

As we examine ourselves and when we find sin in our hearts, Burroughs gives us a powerful metaphor of how we are to regard that sin as we come to the Lord’s Supper: “If you saw the knife that cut the throat of your dearest child, would not your heart rise against that knife? Suppose you came to a table and there is a knife laid at your plate, and it was told to you that this is the knife that cut the throat of your child. Fathers, if you could still use that knife like any other knife, would not someone say, ‘There was but little love to your child?’ So when there is a temptation come to any sin, this is the knife that cut the throat of Christ, that pierced his sides, that was the cause of all his suffering, that made Christ to be a curse. Now will you not look upon that as a cursed thing that made Christ to be a curse? Oh, with what detestation would a man or woman fling away such a knife! And with the like detestation it is required that you should renounce sin, for that was the cause of the death of Christ.”

So, let us repent of the sins that we find and fling them away. Let us pray that God would stir up our affections for Him. We should come tomorrow with a hungering and thirsting for more of Jesus, knowing that in Christ these sins have been forgiven and they have been removed as far as the east is from the west. Burroughs again says: “Oh, that I might have more of Christ, that I might meet with Christ, that I might have some further manifestation of Jesus Christ, that I might have my soul further united to the Lord Christ, and so have further influence of Christ to my soul.”

Let us also pray for Ian and Erin as they lead us in worship. If you would pray for me as well as I will be doing the confession time. Also, we should pray for Mark as he will open up God’s Word to us and preach from Genesis 43. The link to the ESV text is below:

Genesis 43

Preparing For Worship

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It is time to once again prepare our hearts for worship. As we prepare for worship I think we need to ask ourselves why we are going to church tomorrow afternoon? Are we going because we like the music? Are we going because we want to see our friends? Are we going to hear an inspirational talk? James Boice reminds us that: “People have lost any real sense of the fact that when we come to church we come to worship and learn about God. Years ago I spoke at a conference and my topic was on a number of the attributes of God. Later I got some feedback from a gentleman who was listening to my presentation. He had been in the church for thirty years, and in fact was now an elder, and that was the first time that he ever heard a series of messages on the attributes of God. And after hearing this his friend asked him, “Well, whom did you think you were worshiping all that time?” But he hadn’t really thought about those things and I’m convinced that we have literally thousands of people in our churches today who really seldom, if ever, think about who it is they are worshiping, if they think about God at all.”

R. Kent Hughes similarly says: “The unspoken but increasingly common assumption… today… is that worship is primarily for us-to meet our needs. Such worship services are entertainment focused, and the worshipers are uncommitted spectators who are silently grading the performance. From this perspective preaching becomes a…preaching to felt needs-man’s conscious agenda instead of God’s. Such preaching is always topical and never textual. Biblical information is minimized,…Anything and everything that is suspected of making the marginal attender uncomfortable is removed from the service, whether it be a registration card or a ‘mere’ creed. Taken to the nth degree, this philosophy instills a tragic self-centeredness. That is, everything is judged by how it affects man. This terribly corrupts one’s theology.”

So, as we prepare for worship we need to remind ourselves that we are not coming to church to be entertained. We are not coming to be uncommitted spectators who grade a performance. We need to remind ourselves as we prepare for worship that we are coming to church to worship and learn about God. John Piper has a great little prayer that would be helpful for all of us to pray before we go to church that says: “Lord, I come. I come to sing to you. I come to pray to you. I come to listen to your Word. I come to enjoy your presence.”

What does it mean then to worship God? James Boice says: “To worship God is to ascribe to him supreme worth, for he alone is supremely worthy. Therefore, the first thing to be said about worship is that it is to honor God. Worship also has bearing on the worshiper. It changes him or her, which is the second important thing to be said about it. William Temple defined worship very well: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.”

The Throne of Grace and the Promises of God

As we prepare for worship we may need to reorient our hearts and our minds on God. We need to run to the throne of grace and draw near to the Lord in prayer. James 4:8 is a precious promise that tells us: “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” We want to be near to God. So, if you are far from God today draw near to the Lord in prayer. Repent of any known sin in your life and plead with God to draw your heart close to him. Pray that the Lord would help you focus on Him, pray that God would raise your affections for Him.

Another way that we can prepare our hearts for worship is just going to the precious promises of God in the Bible. 1st Thessalonians 5:9-10 is a great place to turn. John Piper suggests that everyone memorize these two short verses, which say: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” 

John Piper personalizes these verses and we should to. When he personalized these verses, he said they came: “with precious personal power: “John Piper, you are mine, and I, your Father, have not destined you for wrath…Nor will you ever come into wrath. There is not wrath for you. But you are appointed, by my sovereign decree, for salvation. And this is sure and solid and unshakeable through your Lord, Jesus Christ. Because he died for you. He died for you! So that whether you wake or sleep — that is, whether you live or die — you will live with him.” Forever. Relax. I’ve got everything under control.”

So, we should just spend this afternoon or Sunday morning pondering a precious promise like this, and just think that God has not destined us for wrath, but he has destined us for salvation through Jesus! Wrath is what we deserve, but we get salvation through Jesus, and no wrath, because Jesus bore the wrath reserved for us!

Let’s be sure to pray for Ian and Erin who will once again lead us in worship. Let’s also pray for Jerry as he leads us in a time of confession, and let’s pray for Mark as he will open up God’s Word to us. Mark will be looking at Genesis 42 and possibly some of Genesis 43. Links to the ESV text for both chapters are below:

Genesis 42

Genesis 43

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Preparing For Worship

 

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It is once again time to prepare our hearts for worship. I wanted to start this off by just talking about what the essence of worship is. John Piper says that the “essence of worship is not external, localized acts,…” So, the essence of worship is not going to church on Sunday and occupying a seat there. The essence of worship is not singing songs at church and reading from our Bible’s when the Word is preached. Why are these things not the essence of worship? The answer is because all of these things can be done without having the heart engaged. As John Piper says: “Worship that does not come from the heart is vain, empty. It is not authentic worship.” So, what is the essence of worship? John Piper answers and says that the essence of worship is an ‘inner, Godward experience.’ Another way he says it is like this: “Worship is real, authentic experience in the heart with God, or it is nothing.”

Jesus said: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matthew 15:8). Piper commenting on this verse said: “That means they are singing. They are preaching. They are praying for nothing. This people honors me with their lips. Why is it vain? Why is it for nothing? Because their heart is far from me…There isn’t any more important question than to ask the heart question. What is my heart supposed to be doing while we are doing these music things, these verbal things, this preaching thing?” This is an extremely important question. Let me quote Piper again as he talks about worship and asks a similar question: “Worship is all about reflecting the worth or value of God. So the question we are asking this morning is: What inner experience of the heart does that? If the essence of worship is not mere outward form, but inner, Godward experience, what experience reveals and expresses how great and glorious God is?”

 So, what are our hearts supposed to be doing on Sunday at North Avenue? What inner experience of the heart reflects the worth or value of God? Piper answers: “the inner essence of worship is cherishing Christ as gain — indeed as more gain than all that life can offer — family, career, retirement, fame, food, friends. The essence of worship is experiencing Christ as gain. Or to use words that we love to use around here: it is savoring Christ, treasuring Christ, being satisfied with Christ. This is the inner essence of worship.”

So, how do we prepare for this type of authentic heart worship? Piper is helpful when he says: “And the answer would seem to be that we get up in the morning and we get our hearts fixed on Christ. We go to him and renew our satisfaction in him through his word. And then we enter the day seeking to express and increase that satisfaction in all that God is for us in Jesus.”

The problem is that most of the time we don’t get up and get our hearts fixed on Christ. We get up and get our hearts fixed on our problems, or our jobs, or school, or our favorite sports team, or our plans for the day, or our singleness, or 100 other things. If I spend all of Sunday morning fixing my heart on anything other than Christ, then my heart is not prepared for worship. This is why prayer is utterly essential for us as we prepare for worship. So, we pray something like: “Lord I feel my heart wandering to 100 other things this morning, please help me to fix my heart on You this morning. As I go to read Your Word this morning open my eyes that I may see wondrous things in your law (Psalm 119:18); help me to taste and see that you are good this morning (Psalm 34:8). Lord I don’t want to worship you with a heart that is far from you this afternoon. Stir up my affections for You.”

 So, we plead with God at the throne of grace to draw us closer to Him, we read from His Word, seeking to renew our satisfaction in Him, and we should use other means of grace to help get our hearts fixed on Jesus. Something that my wife and I have found helpful in stirring up our affections for Jesus is worship songs. So, often times we will turn to worship songs to help us prepare for worship.

As we prepare for worship let’s remember to pray for Ian and Erin who will once again lead us in worship. Let’s be sure to pray for Jerry who will lead us in a time of confession, and let’s pray for Mark as he will open up God’s Word to us. Mark will be looking at Genesis 41. The link to the ESV text is below:

Genesis 41

Picture from here