Category Archives: Worship

the one who fundamentally cares about relationships

If we let the Bible form how we think about him – if we let God is Father become that first thought – then we will see him as a God who fundamentally cares about relationships. We will see him as a personal being, not a distant deity out of touch with our lives. He is a God who has never done anything arbitrary. He has never done anything out of an isolated, self-centered will. Instead, He is a God who is involved. He is a God who, in his essence, is aware. He is a God who takes an interest in what comes into your mind when you first think of him.

Relationship is at the heart of who he is, the God triune – the Father who loves his Son in the fellowship of the Spirit.

Jonathan Parnell, Never Settle For Normal, p. 19


i am with myself and not with thee

Sometimes I wake, and, lo! I have forgot,
And drifted out upon an ebbing sea!
My soul that was at rest now resteth not,
For I am with myself and not with thee;
Truth seems a blind moon in a glaring morn,
Where nothing is but sick-heart vanity;
Oh, thou who knowest! save thy child forlorn.

 

George MacDonald, A Book of Strife in the Form of The Diary of An Old Soul, p. 6

Published in 1880.


when i was jesus

The flash of Judas’ eyes. People being healed. John, my beloved disciple, standing next to my mother, Mary. The calming of the storm. The confused look on Mary’s face in the garden. The realization of the truth overwhelming Thomas’s doubt. I saw it all – with my own eyes. You see, I used to be Jesus.

Now before you ring the psychiatric department, let me explain. I was active in a very large church with a vision to present the gospel to our community during the Easter season, so we regularly produced rather elaborate Easter productions. Since I was tall, dark and bearded, with some acting experience, I was chosen to play Jesus.

I realized that this was a great privilege, and threw myself into studying the Gospels and other literature to properly portray Jesus. As an actor, along with just learning lines and blocking, I tried as best I could to “become” Jesus to properly portray him to the audience. Little did I realize then what a lasting influence being Jesus would have on my life.

Of course, there are the many fond memories, since working on a major production brings people very close together. Imagine a room full of fifty adult men all trying to put on Queen-sized, control-top pantyhose for the first-time (my wife’s idea – it was much less messy than leg make-up.) Or the rehearsal where I, as Jesus, was a few seconds late for my resurrection appearance. Our pastor, the narrator, ad-libbed “and as they were gathered together Jesus came and appeared among them saying . . . ‘Sorry I’m late, boys!’” Then there was the rehearsal of the calming of the storm scene when Peter fell out of the boat. And who would have guessed that an off-stage romance would lead to Mary Magdalene marrying Judas!

But this past Good Friday, as a small group of believers gathered to remember our Lord’s passion, a flood of strong, significant memories nearly overwhelmed me. And I realized that I had a unique perspective of the Lord’s Passion Week. These are some of the things I remember from when I was Jesus.

As I broke the bread and passed the cup, I realized that I would never again see these twelve men before I died. They were talking among themselves, some laughing, some quiet, but, oh, how I longed to make eye contact with each one of them as they took the bread and wine. Some did, but others were too busy to notice me. Oh, how that burned in my soul! And those with whom I did make eye contact . . . didn’t seem to understand.
Judas was sitting just to my left. He was talking and enjoying the food like all the others. Until I handed him the bread. He was smiling as I handed it to him, but his smile faded, and as he rose his eyes flashed and his smile had turned to a sneer. The utter contempt that he felt for me at that moment was written clearly on his face. As he ran from the room, I wondered if there was anything else that I could have done for Judas. But it was too late now, there was no turning back. The grand scheme had been set in motion.

During Christ’s crucifixion, the nails were driven not through the palms of His hands, as Hand Ligamentsis typically depicted. Bearing the full weight of His body, the nail would have ripped through the flesh and of his hand and He would have fallen from the cross. Rather, the nails were driven through what we now call the wrist. You can feel the depression in the front and back, just below the heel of your hand. By driving the nails here, the bone and ligaments would be strong enough to hold the weight of the human body indefinitely. This small depression also happens to be where the ulnar nerve leads to the hand. As the nail drove through and destroyed the nerve, the white-hot pain would shoot at least to the elbow, perhaps as far as the shoulder.

As I hung on the cross, even through the pain I saw those who had gathered. So many were jeering and taunting. But I sought out and locked onto the familiar faces, two weeping women to my left. Further back, I spotted John – he was here with me! And he had his arm around my mother, Mary. I could hardly look at her, the horror and agony on her face – I felt such shame. I was bloodied, undressed, helpless. Why did she have to see me like this?

My breathing became more labored as I tired. Each breath I had to push up with my legs to pull the air into my lungs. The mind becomes very active, many thoughts flash by as death approaches. And there was the realization that I was alone, so alone. My Father had abandoned me! The weight, the pain, the shame were mine alone. And my Father had left. Eloi! Eloi! Lama sabacthani! Why? Why have you forsaken me? I need you more than ever now!

Father, look at them – they have no idea what they are doing. Forgive them.

Into Your hands I commit my spirit! The victory is won! And I hung my head in death. The silence pressed upon me. It was as if no one were breathing in this whole great room. I could hear the weeping, the wailing of the women as they took my body down from the cross and carried me to my grave.
Paragraph separatorLater, I saw Mary walk slowly, hesitantly toward the tomb where they had laid her Lord. She had been crying. I stepped out where she could see me, but she didn’t recognize me. She fell at my feet confused, despondent. She looked at me with tear-filled eyes and asked if I knew where they had taken His body. I just smiled. And I felt that wonderful expectancy when a loved one is about to open a special gift that you know they are going to love. That moment of tension, wanting to prolong it just a bit longer in anticipation of knowing the joy that was about to come. I simply said her name, “Mary!” The shock, the surprise as she looked at me again, but this time she saw! She knew me!
Paragraph separatorThomas swore he would not believe I was alive again unless he saw me with his own eyes and was able to touch my wounds. So, I came and stood before him and gently held out my hands to him. In an instant, I watched as he recognized me. I saw the confusion followed by the fear. Then he fell on his face before me. I was filled with joy because this was right – this was exactly what Thomas needed.

In the same way, Jesus is watching you. He is studying you, hoping you will notice Him. He wants you to see Him, to respond to Him, to see you understand who He is and adore Him. May you see Jesus today. May your eyes be opened to Him more and more each day and may you bring Him great joy!


sacrifice clearer than worship and prayer

The extent of our sacrifice coupled with the depth of our joy displays the worth we put on the reward of God. Loss and suffering, joyfully accepted for the kingdom of God, show the supremacy of God’s glory more clearly in the world than all worship and prayer.

John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad, p. 232


do we not know what true worship is?

For thousands of people and pastors, however, the event of worship on Sunday morning (that is, the worship service) is conceived of as a means to accomplish something other than worship. We “worship” to raise money; we “worship” to attract crowds; we “worship” to heal human hurts; we “worship” to recruit workers; we “worship” to improve church morale. We “worship” to give talented musicians an opportunity to fulfill their calling; we “worship” to teach our children the way of righteousness; we “worship” to help marriages stay together; we “worship” to evangelize the lost among us; we “worship” to motivate people for service projects; we “worship” to give our churches a family feeling, and so on.

If we are not careful, when we speak of aiming at these things “through worship,” we bear witness that we do not know what true worship is.

John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad, p. 228-229


the ultimate outrage

Missions exists because worship doesn’t. The ultimate issue addressed by missions is that God’s glory is dishonored among the peoples of the world. When Paul brought his indictment of his own people to a climax in Romans 2:24, he said, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” That is the ultimate problem in the world. That is the ultimate outrage.

The glory of God is not honored.
The holiness of God is not reverenced.
The greatness of God is not admired.
The power of God is not praised.
The truth of God is not sought.
The wisdom of God is not esteemed.
The beauty of God is not treasured.
The goodness of God is not savored.
The faithfulness of God is not trusted.
The commandments of God are not obeyed.
The justice of God is not respected.
The wrath of God is not feared.
The grace of God is not cherished.
The presence of God is not prized.
The person of God is not loved.

The infinite, all-glorious Creator of the universe, by whom and for whom all things exist-who holds every person’s life in being at every moment (Acts 17:25)-is disregarded, disbelieved, disobeyed, and dishonored among the peoples of the world. That is the ultimate reason for missions.

John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad, p. 206


the greatest and best

God had respect to himself, as his highest end [or goal], in this work [of creation]; because he is worthy in himself to be so, being infinitely the greatest and best of beings. All things else, with regard to worthiness, importance, and excellence, are perfectly as nothing in comparison [to] him.

Jonathan Edwards, The End for Which God Created the World, p. 140
quoted by John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad, p. 204


three rights that define worship

Worship is right affections in the heart toward God, rooted in right thoughts in the head about God, becoming visible in right actions of the body reflecting God.


the call of God

God is calling us above all to be the mind of people whose theme and passion is the supremacy of God in all of life. No one will be able to rise to the magnificence of the missionary cause who does not feel the magnificence of Christ. There will be no big world vision without a big God. There will be no passion to draw others into our worship where there is no passion for worship.

John Piper, Let The Nations Be Glad, p43


missions exists because worship doesn’t

Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t. The Great Commission is first to “delight yourself in the Lord” (Ps. 37:4) and then to declare, “Let the nations be glad and sing for joy” (Ps. 67:4). In this way, God will be glorified from beginning to end, and worship will empower the missionary enterprise until the coming of the Lord.

John Piper, Let the Nations Be Glad!, p. 17