Friday, August 11, 2017

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, August 13

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, August 13
Sermon Text: Isaiah 63:15 – 64:12
Songs of worship include: Great Are You Lord, Before the Throne of God Above, Sweet Hour of Prayer, Give Us Clean Hands

“Look down from heaven and see, 
from your holy and beautiful habitation.” (Is 63:15)
“Our holy and beautiful house where our fathers praised you 
has been burned by fire,
and all our pleasant places have become ruins.” (Is 64:11)

Isaiah uses the words “holy and beautiful” to describe shared distinctives in two very different places.  Alec Moyter helps us see the significance of these shared distinctives: “the former (Is 63:15) is inviolable in holiness and beauty; the latter (Is 64:11), given into the charge of his earthly people, is caught up in the disaster caused by their sin.” (Isaiah By The Day, p. 306)

God desire and design if that his people would reflect his character in our lives, in our fellowship, in our worship.  “The Lord’s earthly people are themselves the temple in which he lives by his Spirit, the locus and display of his holiness and beauty.” (Moyter)

But Isaiah is lamenting the fact that this is not what he sees when he looks at himself, and when he looks at God’s people.  What we in this week’s passage is a deep mourning over sin and desperation in seeking the Lord for healing and restoration. 

That is what we should see in our lives – in our prayers- as well.  “Well may we mourn that our sinfulness, divisiveness, our failure in biblical distinctives, and our manifest lack of holiness have marred the image.” (Moyter)

As I prepare for worship this passage makes me deeply aware of this reality in my life.  I wrote these words in my journal this morning: “My awareness of this reality, this sin-sickness, should drive me to seek You diligently, to draw near to You with a holy desperation.  For only in You will I find healing and wholeness.”  “Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually.” (Ps 105:4 

This Sunday we will sing this song when we gather.  May it be the desperate prayer of our hearts.

We bow our Hearts; We bend our knees;  
Oh Spirit come make us humble.
We turn our eyes from evil things
Oh Lord we cast down our idols.

So give us clean hands, Give us pure hearts
Let us not lift our souls to another.
Give us clean hands, Give us pure hearts
Let us not lift our souls to another.

And God let us be a generation that seeks
That seeks your face Oh God of Jacob.
And God let us be a generation that seeks
That seeks your face Oh God of Jacob.

I look forward to seeing you and worshipping with you this Sunday. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, July 30

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, July 30
Sermon Text:  Isaiah 63:7 – 64:12

Martin Luther said, “None can believe how powerful prayer is, and what it is able to effect, but those who have learned it by experience.”  The Bible is filled with examples of men and women who learned by experience the power of prayer.  This week we see the example of Isaiah. 

Isaiah has already shown us God’s call for intercessors:  On your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent.   You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth. (Isaiah 62:6-7)

This Sunday we will see and hear Isaiah himself step up (or kneel down) in response to this call.  Through his example Isaiah not only instructs us in how to pray as we should, but also opens our eyes to the biblical realities that are foundational to true intercession. 

Paul reminds us that on our own we do not know how or what to pray (Romans 8:26).  This week’s text is a clear answer from God to this predicament. 

For instance, in Isaiah 63:7-14 we see the foundation of prayer, which is the character of God.  Simply put, biblical prayer begins by talking to God about God (Is 63:7-14)

It begins with the character of God, specifically his goodness & love (v7), his gracious salvation (v8), his care and presence (v9), his purposeful discipline (v10-14). 

As you prepare for worship I ask you to do the following:  Take time to carefully read the sermon text.  Then ask God to help you remember specific examples of his goodness & love to you, his gracious salvation in your life, his care and presence in your life, and even his purposeful discipline that has proven his love for you.  Write them down, and then tell them back to God.  Tell God how faithful and good he has been to you! 

Taking time to do this will fill your heart with praise and thanksgiving and deepen your desire to love and worship him.

10,000 Reasons is one of the worship songs we will sing this week.  It describes the joy and blessing of praying this way. 

Chorus: Bless the Lord O my soul, O my soul; 
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before, O my soul; 
I’ll worship Your Holy name

The sun comes up it’s a new day dawning; 
It’s time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass and whatever lies before me, 
Let me be singing when the evening comes.

You’re rich in love and You’re slow to anger; 
Your name is great and Your heart is kind;
For all Your goodness I will keep on singing, 
Ten thousand reasons for my heart to find.

And on that day when my strength is failing, 
The end draws near and my time has come;
Still my soul will sing Your praise unending, 
Ten thousand years and then forevermore.

I look forward to seeing you in church this Sunday. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, July 23, 2017

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, July 23, 2017
Sermon Text: Isaiah 63

A robust understanding of God’s wrath should lead us to worship.  Let me explain.

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son” is a biblical truth we stand on, rest in, and gladly share with others when given the opportunity.  But there is more to God than just his love and mercy.  Much more.  God is more complicated that that. 

John 3:16 is followed by John 3:18 where we read, “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.”

In Romans 1: 18 Paul says the gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes”.  The next paragraph declares, “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.” (Rom 1:18)

There is a dark side of the gospel.  The Bible is consistent in declaring the truth that men must be saved. But saved from what?  For salvation to actually be salvation requires that we must be saved from something.

We see the answer throughout scripture, but nowhere is it clearer than in Isaiah 63.  Salvation is rescue from the certain wrath of God against sin and the enemies of God’s purposes and people. 

The idea of God’s violent wrath and the vision of a warrior rescuer with the blood of his enemies spattered all over his clothing is foreign to our modern sensibilities, maybe even embarrassing.

But God’s wrath is not embarrassing to the writers of the Bible.  DA Carson wrote,   The biblical writers are not embarrassed when they treat the theme.  This is surely because, for them, the wrath of God is an entirely just and therefore admirable display of holiness as it confronts sin.  To be embarrassed by what Scripture so clearly and repeatedly sets out as belonging to the character of God when He deals with rebels is not the stance of sophistication and moral superiority.  Rather, it is the stance of arrogant disbelief.  What right does the creature ever have to be embarrassed by the Creator?  To disown the theme of judgment is to slouch toward the very first reported instance of doctrinal disavowal–the insistence of the serpent, “You will not certainly die” (Gen. 3:4).  Far better and wiser is it to see that the theme of God’s wrath provides, inter alia, another angle into who God is, into the blinding brilliance of His holiness (cf. Isaiah 6).  And this must end in worship.

How does the truth of God’s wrath lead us to worship? 

There are many ways this is true, but here are two for your consideration and worship preparation. 
First, the reality of God’s wrath and our careful consideration of that wrath will lead to a reverent fear of God.  God’s wrath is to be feared because each one of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), and because of that sin we are justly condemned apart from Christ (Romans 5:1).  God’s wrath is to be feared because God promises eternal punishment apart from Christ (Matthew 25:46).

Closely related to this is a second reason God’s wrath should lead us to worship.  That wrath is satisfied in Christ.  This is the ultimate good news!  “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15).  Because of Christ, God can rightly call sinners justified (Romans 3:26).  God has done what we could not do, and he has done what we didn’t deserve.  Through faith in in Christ we are rescued from the wrath to come.  Charles Wesley rightly rejoiced in this good news in his hymn And Can It Be:
And can it be that I should gain 
An interest in the Saviour’s blood?
Died he for me, who caused his pain! 
For me, who him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be 
That thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

Careful, prayerful reflection on Isaiah 63:1-6 will fill us with praise and thanksgiving for God’s grace that saves us from his just and holy wrath against sin. 

Careful, prayerful reflection on Isaiah 63:1-6 will fill us with love and heightened urgency to pray for and reach our family, neighbors, friends and community with the good news of Jesus – the only one who rescues from the terrible reality of God’s wrath. 

I am praying for you and I look forward to seeing you in church this Sunday. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, July 16

Worship Preparation Guide for Sunday, July 16
Sermon Text: Isaiah 62

This week’s worship preparation guide is simple and straightforward.  It contains scriptural text and the text of an old hymn. 

As you pray and prepare for worship this Sunday, I would ask you to read Isaiah 62.  As you do, understand that the words you read are coming from Jesus and they describe his zeal and love for his church.  In Isaiah 62 you hear Jesus say, ‘I will not stop praying and working until you are radiant and glorious.’  We hear him say “I delight in you and rejoice over you.’  We hear him say ‘I will always protect you.’  We hear his say, ‘this is who you are: “Holy”, “Redeemed”, “Sought Out”, “Not Forsaken”. 

“For Zion’s sake” is a description of the passion and vision Jesus has for his church.  “For Zion’s sake” is also an invitation for us to share this vision and passion.  “For Zion’s sake” is an invitation for us to pray, serve, give and go with a passion that stands in sharp contrast to a “me-first”, church-hopping, go-to-church-if-there’s-nothing-else-to-do kind of church involvement.  Isaiah 62 describes the zeal and delight Jesus has for his church.  He wants us share in this zeal and delight.

As you prepare for worship consider what Ray Ortland wrote concerning Isaiah 62 in his commentary on Isaiah: Maybe you need to re-embrace Christ by re-embracing his church.  If your relationship with your church is ambiguous and sporadic and subject to convenience, the problem is not in your relationship with your church.  Your problem is your relationship with Christ.” 

Sharing Jesus’ zeal and delight for the church is what Timothy Dwight describes when he wrote the lyrics to I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord.  Timothy Dwight was the president of Yale and a leader in the Second Great Awakening.  Read and listen to these lyrics.

I love thy kingdom, Lord, 
the house of thine abode,
the church our blest Redeemer saved 
with his own precious blood.

I love thy church, O God. 
Her walls before thee stand,
Dear as the apple of thine eye, 
and graven on thy hand.

For her my tears shall fall; 
for her my prayers ascend;
To her my cares and toils be given, 
till toils and cares shall end.

Beyond my highest joy 
I prize her heavenly ways:
Her sweet communion, solemn vows, 
her hymns of love and praise.

Sure as thy truth shall last, 
to Zion shall be given
the brightest glories earth can yield, a
nd brighter bliss of heaven.

I am praying for you and I look forward to worshipping with you this Sunday.