Daily Worship Guide: December 15-20, 2014

This daily worship guide for the 3rd week of Advent reflects the theme of Jesus as the redeemer who reconciles God and man from the sermon on 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 in corporate worship on December 14.  Using this worship guide will help us extend and deepen the focus of corporate worship over the course of a whole week.  (This guide can be downloaded as a PDF or Microsoft Word document file here.)

Key themes: God’s reconciling and uniting the world to himself and reconciling and uniting human beings to one another through the person and work of Jesus Continue reading

Daily Worship Guide: December 8-13, 2014

This daily worship guide for the 2nd week of Advent reflects the theme of Jesus as the revelation of God’s truth and grace from the sermon on John 1:1-14 in corporate worship on December 7.  Using this worship guide will help us extend and deepen the focus of corporate worship over the course of a whole week.  (This guide can be downloaded as a PDF or Microsoft Word document file here.)

Key themes: Jesus as the ultimate Word of God who provides us with (1) truth about our origin, meaning, and destiny and (2) grace to save us from the spiritual darkness of rebellion against God. Continue reading

Daily Worship Guide: December 1-6, 2014

This daily worship guide for the 1st week of Advent reflects the theme of spiritual warfare from the sermon on 1 John 3:7-8 in corporate worship on November 30.  Using this worship guide will help us extend and deepen the focus of corporate worship over the course of a whole week.  (This guide can be downloaded as a PDF or Microsoft Word document file here.)

Key themes: spiritual warfare, Jesus’ victory over the ultimate enemies that oppose his kingdom (sin, Satan, death) Continue reading

Celebrating Advent and Christmas

The seasons of the church calendar are designed to help us remember and live faithfully according to the story of Jesus’ life and his work for our salvation in fulfillment of God’s mission for the people of Israel and his plan for the whole world.  In other words, the church calendar helps us order our worship and life together as a church around the whole story of the good news (gospel) of Jesus.

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How Worship Renews the Church

If you ask any Christian about the practices that are most important for spiritual health and growth, almost all will put acts of worship at the top of the list. But why does worship “work” in this way? How does God renew us spiritually through acts of worship?

1.  Worship renews us because we meet God in a focused way. Two friends can experience one another side-by-side as they work together and face-to-face as they focus on relating directly with each other. Worship is spiritually powerful because it is most like the direct and focused experience of friendship in face-to-face mode. As worship scholar Josef Jungmann puts it, worship is “the life of the church with her face toward God,” and thus James K. A. Smith describes the practices of Christian worship as “hot spots where God’s formative, illuminating presence is particularly intense.”

2. Worship renews us because it engages our whole person. When we worship, meeting God is never just a purely “inward” matter of our thoughts or feelings but rather a tangible encounter through our whole person. With our ears we hear God’s word, which instructs our minds and kindles our imagination with a vision of the world from God’s perspective. With our lips we sing God’s truth, which engages the mind and moves our heart. With our eyes we see God’s people and visual symbols in art and architecture, which makes God’s word and worship visible. With our bodies we move to stand and even raise our hands to pray, to offer our gifts to God, and to embrace and serve one another in greeting and communion, which rehearses patterns of honor and love that train us to respond rightly to God and each other. Thus, James K. A. Smith writes, “historic Christian worship is fundamentally formative because it educates our hearts through our bodies (which in turn renews our mind).”

3.  Worship renews us because we learn the practices of the whole Christian way of life in God’s kingdom. In worship, God engages our whole person in order to orient our whole life rightly toward him. Good coaches or teachers recognize that we need a lot of practice in order to play well; indeed, we will only play as well as we practice. Musicians play scales and athletes field grounders or shoot jumpshots over and over so that they will be prepared to act skillfully in a performance or game. Likewise in worship God trains us to live all of life according to his story by engaging over and over in the practices that embody his love and truth in action. In worship, we train to become a people who answer God’s call, repent and confess our sins, listen to God’s instruction, welcome one another with the love of Christ, offer ourselves and all our gifts to the Lord as faithful stewards, give thanks in all circumstances, pray for others, and receive and give God’s hospitality at his table. In other words, in worship we practice the habits that will enable us to live according to the gospel of God’s kingdom all the time in every situation.

Reformation Day

This coming Sunday, October 26, is Reformation Day.  What was the Reformation?  On October 31st, 1517, the German monk and professor Martin Luther posted a list of 95 theses that sought to reform the beliefs and practices of the medieval Catholic Church according to the teachings of the Bible.  Luther’s ideas for reforming the church encouraged Christians all over Europe to seek major revival and purification of the church from traditions that distorted and corrupted the faith and pattern of life passed on to the church by Jesus through his apostles.  Reformation Day is a holiday celebrated on October 31st or the last weekend in October in remembrance of the Protestant Reformation.

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You Alone Can Rescue

During the month of September, the first part of the fall sermon series on spiritual renewal will focus on the gospel (good news) of Jesus as the foundation for our spiritual life.  At the 11:15 service, we will sing a new song, “You Alone Can Rescue,” to celebrate the work of Jesus that is the heart and hope of all spiritual renewal.  The Christian author J. I. Packer suggests that the core message of the gospel of Jesus Christ can be distilled into a very simple statement: “God saves sinners.” “You Alone Can Rescue” enables us to celebrate that core message in a way that is both simple and profound.  “When our hearts were far away,” God in Christ “came down to find us” and “led us out of death.”  Therefore, we confess to God with joy, “You alone can rescue. You alone can save…To you alone belongs the highest praise.” Continue reading