What Is Worship?

3 11 2009

“For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s UniversityEssentials Online Worship Theology Coursewith Dan Wilt

After watching the DVD “What Is Worship?” I am keen to reflect on the idea of the direction of our worship. Who or what do we as humans worship? In a society that increasingly claims to not believe in God, it is evident that other things are claiming people’s attention and in turn their worship, things other than the Triune God. Dan Wilt suggests that it is important to consider these big questions of worship as we “become like that which we worship.” 1 Louie Giglio makes a crucial statement about tracing our actions to the source, to discover some answers.

“So how do you know where and what you worship?  It’s easy: You simply follow the trail of your time, your affection, your energy, your money, and your allegiance.  At the end of that trail you’ll find a throne, and whatever, or whoever, is on that throne is what’s of highest value to you.  On that throne is what you worship.” 2

Often we do not stop to consider our priorities in life, even when we accept verbally and in our hearts that there is a saving God of grace who deserves our worship. We fail to actually consider what worship means in our life. In the Old Testament for the Israelites under God’s covenant, worship was a fundamental consideration to all aspects of their living. We need to revisit our understanding of worship regularly. Definitions of worship are numerous and often complex but Wilt gives this definition and in light of Giglio’s comment it is quite important.

“Worship is the ascription of ultimate value and worth to a person, place or thing by the focusing of all activities of the human spectrum on that object’s value and honour” 3

Now as a Christian it is easy to nod and agree but what would be the response of a person who is not a Christian to this definition? Often I think our society places worship only within the religious realm. It is an idea for the followers of a particular faith but not relevant to all other members of society. After all, some countries and societies adhere to the separation of church and state as an essential value. It is not difficult then to understand why so many would not equate how they live their life, with the term worship.

This is also a huge challenge for Christians. If we are considering that our lives reflect what we worship then how we live is a huge witness to society, but more importantly a huge statement to the God we worship. God is described as “enthroned as great sovereign King” 4 by Don Williams in the DVD. This God would obviously call us to evaluate our worship, calling us to direct more of our lives to Him through the Holy Spirit.

The idea of compartmentalizing our life of worship is also explored in this DVD. The Jewish culture saw worship as holistic. This nature was questioned through the idea of the sacred/secular dichotomy in philosophical thought. This has led to a huge divide between these two ideas, impacting not only our society’s view of worship but also the church’s view. Although a number of theologians and leaders (such as Dan Wilt and N.T Wright) are calling Christians to reconsider this view, the prevalence of this thought has influenced the global church dramatically.

“Acts of worship spring from the overflow of a life that is already given over to His worship” 5

A true worshipper should be on the trajectory of living life coram Deo – that is a life in the presence of God. This means that they are attempting to offer to God all their acts of life as an act of worship. There will be no consideration of certain acts being worship and other acts being non-worship. This dangerous mentality is what society’s view of worship is.

We also have to realise the draw of life’s things on the way we live. That is the things of this world that draw us away from worshipping God. Perhaps drawing us to worship created things and not the Creator, as Paul writes in Romans 1. If we are to really consider the influences of other ‘gods’ on our life, we need to consider seriously what our actions, time and thoughts reveal about who or what it is that receives our worship. If, as Dan Wilt reminds us at the conclusion of the DVD, worship is the all-of-life response suggested in Romans 12, we must consider how our life is played out. Dan Wilt concludes the DVD with this reflection:

“What then is worship? ‘Worship is a whole life response to the all surpassing love of God’” 6

 

 

(1) Dan Wilt, What Is Worship? (Vineyard Worship Resouces, 2006), DVD

(2) Louie Giglio, The Air I Breathe: Worship As A Way Of Life (Multnomah, 2003), p.11

(3) Dan Wilt, What Is Worship? (Vineyard Worship Resouces, 2006), DVD

(4) Don Williams, What Is Worship? (Vineyard Worship Resouces, 2006), DVD

(5) Dan Wilt, What Is Worship? (Vineyard Worship Resouces, 2006), DVD

(6) ibid





essentials*blue 09 Creative Project – Jesus Is Alive

18 02 2009

“For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s UniversityEssentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

One amazing outcome of completing the Essentials Blue: Studies in Worship Theology & Biblical Worldview Course has been my desire to become a Salvific Storyteller. Dan Wilt summarises this clearly by saying that:

“Our job as human beings is not to save, as though we as Christians could accomplish the work that only God can do to rescue the whole of humanity from its plight (though many Christians have seen this as their primary co-mission with Christ throughout history). Rather, our primary mission is to tell the story of salvation, from original creation, to fall from relationship, to restoration through cross and resurrection, to complete and universal new creation.” 1

In my most recent song, Ancient One, I tried to tell the grand biblical narrative and I found myself attempting to do something similar with this song. The major difference is I wanted this song to have a much stronger focus on The Saviour – Jesus Christ. Regarding Jesus and the cross, Wilt states:

“In the suffering of Jesus on the cross, we see the love of the Father manifest in the most stunning and profound of ways – the complete self- giving of His only Son. If you only write one song, or create one expression, related to the work of the cross, focus on this reality – that God so loved, that God gave, and gave and gave of Himself.” 2

Well this was definitely a challenge for me! Although this song doesn’t quite capture God’s giving and giving and giving of Himself, it does create a salvific story. My aim was to write a celebration song about Jesus. The title – Jesus Is Alive, came to me quite quickly. I then set out to highlight these ideas in each section:

Verse 1

– Jesus’ life and ministry on earth.
– God sending His Son from heaven to earth as the rescuer and healer
(N.T. Wright puts it this way, “With Jesus, God’s rescue operation has been put into effect once for all.” 3)

Chorus

– Proclamation that Jesus lives
– Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father
– We are forgiven and set free

Verse 2

– New life in Christ
– Holy Spirit sent to guide us
– Leading creation’s worship
– God’s kingdom has come

Bridge

– A response to this story
– We must worship Him for who He is – Saviour & King

So this was my song story. A rough version of the song as it exists at the moment can be heard by clicking on the mp3 link below and there is also a link to the chord chart. Please leave a comment below about the song and feel free to use it at some stage (if you like it!!). I will leave you with one last challenge from the course:

“Augustine understood that God is about restoring, re-creating, redeeming, reconciling and
reclaiming His world. As those who are rescued, he recognized that we who are “saved
storytellers” have a vital responsibility and role to play – we call others to become fully human through the redemptive, atoning and saving work of Christ.” 4

Let’s do it!!

(1) Dan Wilt, essentials*blue: Online Studies in Worship Theology & Biblical Worldview – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies), p.32
(2) ibid, p. 19-20
(3) N. T. Wright, Simply Christian (London: SPCK, 2006), p. 79
(4) Dan Wilt, essentials*blue: Online Studies in Worship Theology & Biblical Worldview – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies), p.33

Jesus Is Alive PDF

Jesus Is Alive mp3





The True Story

7 02 2009

I’ve Been Thinking About A Christian Worldview

Essentials Blue 09

“For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s UniversityEssentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

 

“People live from the stories that shape their identities. Those of us who call ourselves Christians are shaped by the Christian story. The Christian story, however, includes more than just the biblical narrative…. Unfortunately, too many Christians are almost completely ignorant of the continuing secondary narrative of God’s work with his people  – the Body of Christ – after the biblical narrative ends.” 1

 

 

One of the tasks we were asked to complete in the course I have been studying was to write a brief biblical/Christian worldview statement. My attempt at this task is written below. I found this a difficult yet fantastic challenge. Dan Wilt claims that:

 

“The world of theology will become a world with which you are familiar, and fresh terms will become handles for you – handles on which you can hang the most beautiful ideas of the Christian story, the human story.” 2

 

As a worship leader it is vital that I can articulate my faith and Christian worldview and this course has helped me to develop fresh language and insight into God’s salvific story – the true story of all things!

 

 

This is the story….

 

God!!! The creator existed, exists and will forever exist. Before there was anything there was God…existing…in three persons – Father, Son, Spirit. Existing in relationship, the perfect relationship. The creator creates, by His word all things come into existence. God creates the pinnacle of this creation…humans. Created in the image of God, the likeness of the Creator. The crown of creation. The creature who leads the worship of the created order – humans. The creature who is given dominion over all creation with a mandate to subdue it and rule over it – the stewards of God’s creation.

 

God relates with these created beings. He walks with them. But humans choose to disobey God. They turn away seeking after that which has been forbidden. Humans sin, corrupting the good creation. The relationship between Creator and created is broken by their choice.

 

God seeks after humans. Seeks after them to restore this broken relationship. He establishes covenants and promises with His people. But people continue to make the same selfish choices, seeded in the earlier disobedience and multiplied throughout time. God is still present. Heaven and earth are inter-locking spheres of the same creation.

 

God seeks after a people and calls a race His own – Israel. A nation with which God makes covenantal promises. A people called to proclaim God to the nations. God is their King and continues to reveal Himself to His people. The people respond in worship and praise. Israel continues on the path of its ancestors, continually turning away from God. God sends messages and messengers to remind His chosen people of their promises. But they ignore God. He promises that a Saviour will come – Messiah. The One who will save and restore the broken relationship between God and humans – once and for time eternal.

 

God sends His Son, Jesus Christ the rescuer, to put the world to rights. The One who was there at the creation of the world, the firstborn over all creation. The Word through whom all was created. Jesus lived on earth, fully God and fully man – the sinless Servant King. Jesus’ life demonstrates for all time what it means to be human. God’s Kingdom has come. Heaven and earth meet. Jesus heals the sick, forgives sins and displays a passion for justice, grace, love and mercy. He was crucified on a cross and rose again on the third day. The first born of the New Creation. New Creation has begun in Him. A sacrifice of atonement for those who have faith in Jesus to be restored – the sin issue is fixed. Jesus commissions His followers to go to the ends of the earth to announce His Kingdom. Jesus ascends to heaven and is now seated at the right hand of God. The promise is given that He will return to gather His people.

 

God sends His Spirit as the seal and deposit. One who will guide and teach those who have accepted Jesus as Lord. The Church is formed as a living community who gather as united members under God’s grace. A community who are formed to live as new creations in the realization that God’s Kingdom has come but will fully come when Jesus returns. A Kingdom now, but not yet. A chosen people, who are called to worship God and to love their neighbour. A people called to walk as Jesus walked in justice, love, grace and mercy – servants and salvific storytellers. This is where we find ourselves taking our place in the story.

 

God promises a new heaven and a new earth when Jesus returns. A place of eternal living as New Creations, for those who have accepted Jesus as Lord. A world renewed and restored. The dwelling place of God is now with people and He lives with them – the old order has passed. God Himself will be with them and He will be their God. He will wipe away all tears and death will be no more. The story continues…

 

 

 

(1) Roger E. Olson, The Story Of Christian Theology (Downer’s Grove, Ill.: Intervarsity Press, 1999), p.11

 

(2) Dan Wilt, essentials*blue: Online Studies in Worship Theology & Biblical Worldview – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies), p.6





The Dignity of Humanity – What Is Our Value?

31 01 2009

I’ve Been Thinking About The Nature Of The Human Being

Essentials Blue 09

“For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s UniversityEssentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

“What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?” 1

 

 

This week I have been considering the nature of human beings. After considering the nature of God in last week’s post it is quite a contrast to consider humanity with all our ambiguities and paradoxes. Dan Wilt suggests that humanity is an essential component of worship. We often negate the role of humanity in worship with statements like “it’s all about God” and although this is important to remember, we may be surprised by Wilt’s statement about worship when he claims that, “worship is not all about God alone. God has seen fit to make worship about Himself, and us.” 2

 

Wilt also suggests that, “theologians throughout history have sought to understand that strange mix of beauty and brokenness that is the human person.” 3 It is a struggle at times to see our own beauty and value (individually and as a race) when we are constantly reminded of our fallen state. When we look at the world around us historically and in the present and hear the cries of injustice we question the integrity and the dignity of humanity. This is also an interesting discussion in the face of the First Point of Calvinism – Total Depravity. Although it is a slightly different idea, a term like this (for me at least) sheds a negative light on humanity. It then takes some hard work to see humanity in a positive light. Not that we need to see these ideas as opposites and that may well be the paradox.

 

The opening quote of this post from Psalm 8, closely follows the Psalmist’s focus on the greatness and grandeur of God: “O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” 4 It then continues to unpack the value of man, claiming that God, “crowned him with glory and honour.” 5 We are valued creations. Yes, we are creatures, not The Creator, but we are valued. Nevertheless we are the crowning point of creation, the flower of creation and the only part of creation that God breathed His own breath into, creating us in His image.

 

Through Christ, humanity becomes the touch point between heaven and earth. Followers of Christ, the first born of the New Creation are in-dwelled by the Holy Spirit and thus embark on the rest of life’s journey as New Creational beings with a value that has been paid for by Jesus Christ, God’s Son. We are now the temple of the Holy Spirit, the place where heaven and earth meet – an amazing idea that continues to shape the value of humanity.

 

Another strong characteristic of being human is relationship. In fact the ultimate human – Jesus Christ, is the focal point of God’s great story and we have a shared experience of humanity with the very Creator of all things, a Creator who desires relationship with human beings. We are “God-chased.” This must mean that humans have value, if their very Creator seeks after them. One can’t help but be reminded of Peter’s words:

 

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 6

 

The promises and statements about the characteristics of humans who are in Christ, give a genuine insight into what a New Creation human looks like (and hence their value). Eugene Peterson states this eloquently in the Message by writing’, “it’s in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for.” 7 This is what it means to be fully human, alive in Christ, a New Creation.

 

Human beings (we) are also designed to be responsible for worship. As Dan says,  “human beings take their place as the lead worshippers of the created order.” 8 I also found N.T Wright interesting on this subject. He states that:

 

“One of the things that the church is called to do is that it is called to make articulate the praise of all creation and creation is praising God by being who God has called it to be and we humans are given a mind and words to sum that up and present it before God.” 9

 

Apart from the idea of our summative role in worship I am blown away by the simple idea that creation is being what God has called it to be, doing what it was made to do. Are we as the designated leaders of creation, doing this? We need to discover and be what God has called us to be. More importantly we need to encourage others in this too, particularly if we are in a leadership role in our community. I love the idea that we are the voice of creation. Wright goes on to say that, “it is my duty as a human being to gather up the praises of creation and present them before His throne.” 10 This is an interesting idea, particularly in the light of Jesus being our High Priest and in effect doing this with our praises.

 

So it is important to be reminded of humanity’s dignity. A dignity that sees humans as highly-valued by the God who is Creator, King, Trinity & Saviour. A dignity that is accompanied by a specific role to voice creation’s worship, to lead all things in worshiping an all-deserving God and a role of looking after and being responsible for God’s good creation.

 

 

(1) Bible, New International Version (International Bible Society, 1973, 1978, 1984), Psalm 8:4

(2) Dan Wilt, essentials*blue: Online Studies in Worship Theology & Biblical Worldview – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies), p.26

(3) Dan Wilt, essentials*blue: Online Studies in Worship Theology & Biblical Worldview – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies), p.26

(4) Bible, New International Version (International Bible Society, 1973, 1978, 1984), Psalm 8:1

(5) ibid, Psalm 8:5

(6) Bible, New International Version (International Bible Society, 1973, 1978, 1984), 1 Peter 2:9-10

(7) Eugene Peterson, The Message: The Bible In Contemporary language (Colorado Springs: NavPress 2002), Ephesians 1:11

(8) Dan Wilt, essentials*blue: Online Studies in Worship Theology & Biblical Worldview – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies), p.26

 

(9) N.T Wright, Scriptural Resources For Worship (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies), Video

(10) ibid





God, God, God!!!

24 01 2009

I’ve Been Thinking About The Nature Of God

Essentials Blue 09

“For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s UniversityEssentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

 

“First God. God is the subject of life. God is foundational for living. If we don’t have a sense of the primacy of God, we will never get it right, get life right, get our lives right. Not God at the margins; not God as an option; not God on the weekends. God at center and circumference; God first and last; God, God, God.” 1

 

It is amazing that God has revealed Himself to us. As Eugene Peterson puts it in the above introduction to the Book of Genesis in his Message translation, “God is the subject of life.” God is the subject of life for everyone and everything. It is so vital that everyone comes to a realisation of who God actually is!!

 

So many people in this generation say they believe in God, but when questioned can’t actually describe the character of this God. N.T Wright claims that:

 

“many people today have only the sketchiest idea of what Christianity has said about God. Sometimes, when people are asked whether they believe in God, they picture an image that few sensible people could believe in if they tried for a week: an old man with a long white beard (as perhaps in some of William Blake’s remarkable drawings), sitting on a cloud, looking down angrily at the mess we humans are making of the world.” 2

 

People need to be presented with and reminded of the amazing nature of God. Dan Wilt has suggested four theological snapshots of God’s character as revealed in Scripture. These are:

 

1.      God As Creator

2.      God As King

3.      God As Trinity

4.     God As Saviour

 

These four attributes when considered in their entirety have libraries of material outlining various views and perspectives. Nevertheless we humans have been given so much information about God’s character that we are without excuse when it comes to describing God. At least in more detail than the above quote from Wright suggests.

 

Another interesting idea concerning God is the idea of heaven, earth and how they relate. Often people consider God as being distant from earth and not involved in its proceedings. People often think of heaven as being a far-off place. Scripture passages in Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 for example, give evidence that heaven is much closer than people would think.

 

When talking about Jesus role, Wright says, “in Jesus of Nazareth heaven and earth have come together once and for all. The place where God’s space and our space intersect and interlock is no longer the Temple in Jerusalem. It is Jesus himself.” 3 Jesus as the first born of the New Creation (Colossians 1) and as the one who brought heaven and earth together in such a physical way is a strong reminder of God’s Kingdom being here. The idea that heaven is “God’s dimension of the cosmos” 4, reminds us that God’s kingdom is present and near. Thus through Jesus we see His Kingdom

 

Wright also clearly points out the work of the Holy Spirit in New Creation:

 

 “The Spirit is given so that we ordinary mortals can become, in a measure, what Jesus himself was: part of God’s future arriving in the present; a place where heaven and earth meet; the means of God’s kingdom going ahead.”  5

 

We are given the Spirit to guide us as we walk in God’s Kingdom – a Kingdom that is ‘now but not yet.’ A Kingdom that has come through Jesus and which will be fully revealed through Jesus when he returns.

 

It is vital that contemporary Christian leaders paint vivid pictures concerning the grandeur of God’s character, nature and presence so that those they lead and guide come to a full understanding of who God is, particularly in the light of the four attributes mentioned above. Wilt puts it like this:

 

“’We become like what we worship,’ someone has wisely said. If our view of God is small, we will be small. If our view of God is passionate, joyful, expansive and creative, we will tend to be the same.” 6

 

Let’s have a passionate, joyful, expansive and creative view of our Great God and His Saving Love through Jesus Christ! Let us proclaim boldly with Peterson: 

“God, God, God!!!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

(1) Eugene Peterson, the Daily Message (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 2006), p. 1541

(2) N. T. Wright, Simply Christian (London: SPCK, 2006), p. 50-51

(3) N. T. Wright, Simply Christian (London: SPCK, 2006), p. 81

(4) ibid, p. 81

(5) ibid, p. 105

(6) Dan Wilt, essentials*blue: Online Studies in Worship Theology & Biblical Worldview – Online Course Text (New Brunswick: The Institute Of Contemporary & Emerging Worship Studies), p.8

 

                       

 

 

 

 

 

 





Justice – Putting The World To Rights

16 01 2009

I’ve Been Thinking About The Story In Which I Live

Essentials Blue 09

“For: The Institute of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s UniversityEssentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt

 

The theme of justice has grabbed my heart in the last few months. In the text for my essentials*blue Course, Simply Christian, N.T. Wright outlines the idea of “the echo of a voice.” 1 This idea relates to different themes that are important for Christians, themes that we are often reminded of through various aspects of life. The echo is a hint of God’s deeper reality, one that maybe shaded by society or even worldview. These echoes include the celebration of creation, the longing for justice, the magnetism of relationships and the hunger for spiritual reality.

 

Wright phrases the echo of justice as the idea of ‘putting the world to rights.’ 2 This echo has been running around in my head and genuinely challenging me. Where does one start to seek for justice? How does one live a life with justice as a central theme? In this global neighbourhood how do I respond to the weight of statistics out there related to child death in poverty? Wright states that, “we all know there is something called justice, but we can’t quite get to it.” 3 It seems like the presence of such overwhelming information almost freezes me like an animal caught in a car’s headlights, unable to move or make a decision about the next step and how to respond!

 

Wright claims that, “a passion for justice, or at least a sense that things ought to be sorted out, is part of being human and living in the world.” 4 The current state of our world can often lead to big questions related to God’s place in the middle of such injustices. Wright goes on to give weight to the hope for Christians when talking about a passion for justice by stating that, “in Jesus God himself has shared this passion and put it into effect, so that in the end all tears may be dried and the world may be filled with justice and joy.” 5 This should be a great source of strength and motivation for all.

 

This thread of justice and theological thought relates directly to the process of leadership in worship. Are Christians singing songs about justice in their gatherings? I have already mentioned compassionArt in a recent blogpost and recently finished reading a book called The Art Of Compassion (definitely worth a read if you are passionate about justice) released at the same time as the CD. In this book, worship artist Tim Hughes writes:

 

“The simple truth is that we have a tendency to become blind to the truth. We somehow miss the fact that issues of poverty, justice and money are all over the Bible. We forget that while idolatry is the most common theme in the Old Testament, poverty is the second. We look blankly at the fact that one out of every sixteen verses in the New Testament tackles the subject. In the first three Gospels poverty crops up every ten verses, while in the book of Luke it’s there every seven. We read the Bible and somehow all this just passes us by.” 6

 

Sorry for the long quote but those figures are astounding!!! If we are intent on leading our church theologically as a worship artisan (a great new term used by Dan Wilt for worship leaders) then surely this can’t be ignored when looking at our song choice. This has definitely been my personal challenge in the last 6 months. Does my life reflect one that could lead such songs. Honestly….I feel no!!! But this is exactly why we need to introduce such songs into our churches and question where we sit (or stand) in response to this ‘echo’. Let’s allow God to use us as we seek to put the world to rights.

 

As a worldwide church I feel we have a great repertoire of songs that reflect God as Creator and the beauty of His nature and works. We also have a number of songs that reflect different ‘echoes’, although some themes have a surprisingly thin repertoire. The catch I think is this question:

 

How comfortable are we to choose to lead songs in church that paint a full picture of the echoes mentioned above?

 

In some communal gatherings it is difficult to choose songs of lament or maybe even songs that hunger for spiritual reality. This could be because church leadership in some cases aren’t keen on their church singing this type of song, preferring happy or uplifting songs. The challenge is to incorporate songs that reflect the many characteristics of God (I guess the varied ‘echoes’ that Wright talks about) so that those we are leading aren’t just singing about a one-dimensional God. He is so much greater!

 

 

(1) N. T. Wright, Simply Christian (London: SPCK, 2006), p. 3

(2) ibid, p. 3

(3) ibid, p. 3

(4) ibid, p. 9

(5) ibid, p. 11

(6) Craig Borlase (Ed.), The Art of Compassion – Stories Of Music & Justice (London: Hodder & Stoughton, 2008), p. 94