Encouragement From The Word

Worship and who it’s for

In the Christian world, we seem to find two extremes in our worship gatherings:  on one end, we have those churches that use smoke and lights and hundreds of decibels to excite us.  On the other end, we have those churches that do everything in their power to make the gospel as boring as possible.

I don’t think either of those is the way to go.

Last Sunday, I talked about the importance of worshipping God in the midst of the crazy world in which we live.  In that message, I said this:

“When you come to worship, don’t come expecting to be entertained, though that may happen from time to time.  Don’t even come expecting to learn something, though I hope that will always happen.  Come expecting to encounter the living God, made known in Jesus Christ, who indwells us and inhabits our praise by the Holy Spirit.”

Worship is more than music and effects.  Worship is more than historic words.  Worship includes these things, as well as prayer, silence, preaching, and even the offering.  We don’t “have a time of worship” that is followed by “everything else”.  That “everything else” is also worship, if we couch it as such with intentionality!

And it’s not for us.  While churches should be particular about how they craft their worship gatherings in terms of relating to the culture around them, the purpose behind that is not to entertain the masses, but to facilitate the people’s praises of the unchanging, holy God.  When we come to worship, God is the audience.  Not us.  And he loves to receive the praises of his people.

This Sunday, I will tie all of this together with an understanding that we worship God because he is worthy.  That can and should be the antidote to the epidemic of fear that has gripped our world.

O nations of the world, recognize the Lord;
    recognize that the Lord is glorious and strong.
 Give to the Lord the glory he deserves!
    Bring your offering and come into his courts.
 Worship the Lord in all his holy splendor.
    Let all the earth tremble before him.
Tell all the nations, ‘The Lord reigns!’
    The world stands firm and cannot be shaken.
    He will judge all peoples fairly” (Psalm 96.7-10, NLT).

Encouragement From The Word

How Do I Love Thee?

The other day, I was listening to a recording of choral music that I’ve heard dozens of times.  For some reason, though, this particular time my ears perked up to one particular anthem that was sung.  It’s called “How Do I Love Thee?”, and I realized upon listening carefully that it is, in fact, a musical setting of what is arguably the most popular sonnet by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Sonnet 43, written as a love poem to her husband, Robert Browning.

For years, in (sort of) listening to this piece, I thought it was just another choral anthem of praise to the Lord.  I hadn’t thought it was an anthem of praise to the poet’s husband!

However, if you examine the words, you can, without difficulty, make it into a song of praise to God:

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.

I love thee to the depth and breadth and height

My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight

For the ends of being and ideal grace.

I love thee to the level of every day’s

Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.

I love thee freely, as men strive for right.

I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.

I love thee with the passion put to use

In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.

I love thee with a love I seemed to lose

With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,

Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,

I shall but love thee better after death.

It works, doesn’t it?

Now, go back and read it again, and put God in the first person, so that it tells of God’s love for you.

Amazing, right?

Victorian-Romantic poetry may not always have been intended for God, but we can make it so.

Spend some time with this sonnet, and make it your own praise to the Lord.

Let everything that breathes sing praises to the Lord!” (Psalm 150.6, NLT).

If you want to listen to the arrangement that struck me, here’s a setting.