Book Review: Called to Worship

Title: Called to Worship – The Biblical Foundations of Our Response to God’s Call
Author: Vernon M. Whaley
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

What does the Bible say about worship? That’s the question that Vernon Whaley answers in Called to Worship. And the answer is, quite a bit.

In Called to Worship, Whaley guides readers through an overview of the entire Bible, illustrating principles of worship from Genesis through Revelation, in an extremely accessible style that will no doubt be helpful to new believers and pastors alike.

A great benefit of a survey like this is when it calls attention to details in familiar stories that are easy to overlook. One example: Joshua is preparing to lead the men of Israel into battle against Jericho, and as he approaches the city, he sees “a strange man standing in front of him, sword in hand. ‘Are you an enemy or a friend?’ Joshua asked him.”‘Neither,’ the man replied. ‘I am [the] commander of the Lord’s army’ (5:14 NLT)… [W]hen he identified himself, Joshua instantly fell with his face to the ground and worshipped” (p. 90).

The author goes on to comment that Joshua, having been selected by God Himself to lead the people, would not have bowed down to an ordinary man (nor any created being, for that matter). “Yet he bowed down to this commander, absolutely prostrate… What’s more, the commander received Joshua’s show of deference,” revealing himself to not be a created being, but Christ Himself (see p. 90).

The Old Testament portion of the book, for the most part, lists and explains actions that should accompany our worship, and generally, the author does a great job explaining each principle. There are a few weak spots here and there, but nothing that damages the essential message of the book.

As he follows the storyline of the Bible, Whaley gives a twist as we reach the New Testament, as he essentially tells readers, “All of these things we’ve talked about are the ways to worship the true God. There’s just one catch—we can’t do any of it on our own. We need help. We need Jesus” (my paraphrase; see pp. 222-223). And as the book transitions to how worship looks in light of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, there’s much that readers will find profitable. From the importance of singing to Jesus, sacrificing our lives to Jesus through service and the putting-off of “self,” gathering corporately to share what God has done and is doing in our lives, partaking of Communion and proclaiming His Word through preaching, the chapters on the Gospels and the Epistles are delightful and remind us who the true object of our worship is: Jesus.

Finally, Whaley does a great job explaining what the true purpose of the book of Revelation is actually about: Worship. It’s refreshing to see this important aspect focused upon, as it’s easy to miss with all the debates that involve charts and graphs. Revelation is a book steeped in worship, and this chapter alone makes reading this book worthwhile.

Called to Worship is an extremely accessible and profitable book. If you’re looking to develop a strong biblical foundation for worship, it’s well worth your time.

Recommended.


This book was reviewed as part of Thomas Nelson’s Blogger Review Program

Ripe for Co-opting

Today’s post contains no serious content. It does, however, contain rock music videos. Reader discretion is advised.

Have you ever noticed that there are certain songs that just seem ripe for co-opting? Songs that have something that sound vaguely spiritual—like they could be talking about God, but could just as easily be talking about a girl.

 

U2 is an obvious (and easy) example, particularly with their new record. Check this song out:

 

Now, in all fairness, Bono and the band do profess faith in Christ (true story), and many songs do have some pretty overt spiritual content. There are even a lot of churches that are already playing their stuff during their corporate worship (including some Anglican ones, I believe). But, it just seems, I don’t know, a bit weird to me. Maybe it’s just me.

While listening to the radio this week, I found that there are actually quite a few songs that, if you thought about it hard enough, you could probably co-opt for a Christian worship service.

And I was even more surprised when I realized that one is the newest Our Lady Peace single, All You Did Was Save My Life: [Read more...]

A Preview of Heaven

hebrews

The last couple of weeks have been a bit hectic in the Armstrong house. A very enjoyable trip to Grand Bend with my in-laws over the Labor Day weekend, followed by a visit to my Dad the following Sunday for our annual family birthday (my Dad, sister, niece and I have birthdays within a couple weeks of each other—it can make celebrating a bit overwhelming).

Because of all the traveling, there was one thing we were unable to do: Go to our local church and worship together with the people there. As much fun and valuable as our time with our relatives was, we were missing a very important part of our lives.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:24-25

This time reminded us just how much we love going to church (the institution) to be part of the church (the body of Christ). I know that there’s a lot of folks out there who might lose their minds even reading that statement, but we have to remember: The church is both Christ’s body and Christ’s institution.

He will build the institution who is His body and His bride.

So we, the body of believers, come together to worship God the Father through God the Son by the power of God the Holy Spirit, through the reading of Scripture, the preaching of the Bible (by a biblically-qualified male elder), the singing of songs…

There’s something incredibly powerful in it, if you’re a Christian. Something beautiful, even.

And it’s something completely different from any other interaction and activity in our lives. It’s not something that happens when I’m at the office of my Christian workplace talking about Jesus with my coworkers. It’s not something that happens when I’m having lunch or coffee with one of the guys I mentor.

It’s something that only happens when the larger congregation comes together, to worship God together.

It’s a preview of heaven.

And why would anyone who is a Christian want to neglect that?

Why would any of us willingly desire to disconnect ourselves from the very thing that is meant to stir us to love and good works? To encourage each other as we wait patiently for Christ’s return—when the preview ends and the new heaven and the new earth begin and we join the wedding supper of the Lamb?

I look forward to that day.

In the meantime, I will enjoy the preview.

Religion Saves: Humor, The Emerging Church, The Regulative Principle

Religion-Saves-humor

893 questions posted. 343,203 votes cast. Nine controversial subjects. The resulting sermons were then reformatted and expanded in the book, Religion Saves & Nine Other Misconceptions, released in June, 2009, through Crossway and RE:Lit.

This post will be dealing with three subjects from the book: Humor, the Emerging Church and the Regulative Principle.

Humor

There are few things about Mark Driscoll more talked about than his sense of humor. He’s got a sharp wit, is quite cutting in his delivery… but sometimes he’s just downright mean. And the question that prompted this chapter is a great one:

Why do you make jokes in sermons about Mormon missionaries, homosexuals, trench coat wearers, single men, vegans, and emo kids, and then expect these groups to come know God through those sermons?

Generally speaking, I appreciate Driscoll’s humor. Most of the time he avoids the edge of completely inappropriate, although there are times when he skirts dangerously close to the edge. As he says in the opening of the chapter, “I am on a mission to both put people in heaven and put the ‘fun’ back in ‘fundamentalism’” (p. 45). This is a noble goal to be sure; we can all stand to laugh at ourselves a little bit. In my younger days, I was a pretentious, trench coat wearing, comic book reading, intellectual snob who used a lot of big words to show off (and divert people’s attention from my insecurities).  I can laugh about that and poke fun a bit. And truly, there are some things that we do that are simply ridiculous and do need to be made fun of.

That said, this chapter is by far the weakest in the book, for a number of reasons. [Read more...]

Sunday Shorts (06/14)

Josh Harris: My Run-in with Borat

A great story on the need for discernment:

Thoughts on Evangelical Superstardom

Kevin DeYoung offers a very insightful follow-up to John Piper’s recent article on Hero Worship v. Holy Emulation. Here’s an extremely important excerpt:

[D]on’t like someone just because others do, and don’t dislike someone just because others like him. Both are dangers in a celebrity culture. Some people wait on the corner just looking for bandwagons they can hop on. Others–the too cool for school crowd–have a dire fear of being a part of something popular. These folks decide to dislike an author or pastor or speaker or band or movie just because all their friends rave about them. I understand the reaction, but you don’t have to be a groupie to be edified. Don’t like Calvinism or Piper or Driscoll or whatever because it’s cool. And don’t be the cynical I-hate-labels, why-are-Christians-such-lemmings person either. Give thanks for godliness where you see it, the gospel where you hear it, and good examples when you can find them.

Read the whole article at Kevin’s blog.

The Perfect Technology

Tim Challies wrote this enjoyable article on why he feels books are the perfect technology:

…there is more to a book than its words. A book is an experience, and the experience includes the media through which we consume those words. Reading a book printed on paper, reading a book on a reading device and listening to a recording of a book are, at least in some way, different experiences.

Read the rest at Challies.com.

In case you missed it

Here are a few of this week’s notable posts:

The Persevering Prophet: I Know the Plans I Have for You Exploring the meaning of that famous coffee-cup verse, Jeremiah 29:11.

Book Review: Agape Leadership Reviewing spiritual leadership lessons from the life of RC Chapman.

Made in the Image of God: Choice How humanity images God through the ability to make choices

I Have No Words Zack Morris(!) appears on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. I am shocked that Mark-Paul Gosselaar didn’t break character once.

My Heroes in the Faith

Matt at EV recently wrote about who he considered his heroes in the faith—those people whose lives have been an encouragement and a model for his own.

I’ve been thinking about that question for a few days now. I’ve answered this question in part over at Evangelical Village in an interview, looking at three people who’ve impacted my faith. There, I answered Matt Chandler of the Village Church, my friend Adam Duguay, and my lovely wife Emily. Those three have all made a huge impact on me (and one without having ever met me, thanks to the wonders of modern technology).

But I’ve found it to limit myself, simply because there are so many. The Apostle Paul is a huge influence, in part because he is the greatest example of God’s grace to sinful humanity. A murderer of Christian men and women, saved by Jesus to become His instrument.

His disciple, Timothy, who was beaten to death in Ephesus for contending for the gospel.

Men like John Piper, Tom Carson, Charles Spurgeon, Chris Matthisen, and so many others all are men I look to as an example of the pursuit of holiness.

But in thinking about this subject, I came across an article by John Piper called Hero Worship and Holy Emulation. Because it deals with this very subject, I felt it would be appropriate to share an excerpt:

What is the meaning of the attention given to well-known pastors? What does the desire for autographs and photographs mean? The negative meaning would be something akin to name-dropping. Our egos are massaged if we can say we know someone famous. You see this on blogs with words like “my friend Barack” and the like. And I presume that, for some, an autograph or a photo has the same ego-boost.

However, I don’t assume the worst of people. There are other possible motives. We will see this below. But it is good to emphasize that all of this is more dangerous to our souls than bullets and bombs. Pride is more fatal than death.

When I say “our souls” I mean all of us—the signature-seeker, the signer, and the cynic who condemns it all (on his very public blog). There is no escaping this new world. The question is, How do we navigate it for the glory of Christ, the crucifixion of self, the spread of truth, the deepening of faith, and the empowering of sacrificial love?

Here is one small contribution. In spite of all the legitimate warnings against hero worship, I want to risk waving a flag for holy emulation—which includes realistic admiration. Hero worship means admiring someone for unholy reasons and seeing all he does as admirable (whether it’s sin or not). Holy emulation, on the other hand, sees evidences of God’s grace, and admires them for Christ’s sake, and wants to learn from them and grow in them.

May we not make idols of our influences; they are a poor substitute for our Savior.

Opinions Please: Orderly Worship

A group of us are studying the issue of when more “charismatic” Christians (sometimes not-so-affectionately referred to as Charismaniacs) cross a line into doing something other than orderly worship and I want your opinion.

Is there a line? If so, what is it?

Opinions, please!

Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 106

The Psalmist gives us a sharp, stinging description of the absolute ridiculousness of idolatry when he says, “They exchanged the glory of God for the image of an ox that eats grass” (Psalm 106:20).

Read that again:

“They exchanged the glory of God
    for the image of an ox that eats grass.”

They exchanged worshipping God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, serving Him, gazing upon His glory…

For a cow.

It’d be funny if it wasn’t so pathetic.

And yet… how different are we? How different am I? [Read more...]

Blogging the Psalms: Psalm 71

Something I’ve never fully appreciated in the Psalms until recently is the revealed constant reliance on God of the authors, especially during difficult seasons of life.

It’s truly inspiring to see this, even in a song of lament like Psalm 71 these statements:

Rescue me, O my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of the unjust and cruel man.
For you, O Lord, are my hope,
my trust, O Lord, from my youth.
Upon you I have leaned from before my birth;
you are he who took me from my mother’s womb.
My praise is continually of you (v. 4-6, emphasis added).

But I will hope continually
and will praise you yet more and more (v. 14).

The Psalmist boldly proclaims, “You are my hope. My praise is continually of you… I will hope continually and will praise you yet more and more.” He does this while in the midst of trial! He does this while facing persecution from his enemies.

This is a big deal!

The psalms bring this important lesson—that despite our circumstances, despite our trials, despite our hardships, we can and should continue to praise God for all He is and all He has done—in a way that few writings can.

They show us what faith lived out really looks like:

It’s tangible. It’s deep. It’s all encompassing. And it’s awe-inspiring.

Honestly, who among us, who profess to be followers of Jesus, wouldn’t want a faith like this?

I want it. And by God’s grace, I will proclaim like the Psalmist, “You are my hope! I will hope continually and praise you yet more and more.”

For other entries in this series, please visit the Blogging the Psalms page.

The Arrest

Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

While he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a great crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man; seize him.” And he came up to Jesus at once and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” And he kissed him. Jesus said to him, “Friend, do what you came to do.” Then they came up and laid hands on Jesus and seized him. And behold, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?” At that hour Jesus said to the crowds, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I sat in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But all this has taken place that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples left him and fled.

Matthew 26:36-56

Today, millions of Christians around the world will celebrate the brutal murder of Jesus Christ to pay the penalty for our sins. Betrayed, denied, mocked, beaten, and ultimately nailed to a Roman cross—all because of us. And by us.

Let us not make light of the seriousness of sin, particularly as the new day dawns. The cost was high to make God’s enemies His friends. May we worship with hearts filled with thanksgiving as we celebrate our suffering Savior, who cried “It is finished” (John 19:30), and put an end to the curse of death.

And may God bless you as you do.

10 Things We Don't Mention in Worship Songs…

A while back, Abraham Piper wrote about “10 Things we don’t mention in worship songs but that I’m happy God saved me from.” I liked it so much that I’m blatantly copying him, although not his 10 things.

Here’s my list:

  1. Rage
  2. Children out of wedlock
  3. Divorce
  4. Adultery
  5. Pride (though I struggle with this constantly)
  6. girls with low self-esteem
  7. Self-esteem
  8. Satan (long story)
  9. Candy and things that taste like candy (again, I struggle with this constantly)
  10. Emergent theology

What’s yours?