Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Heart of Worship

William wrote: I don't think that the "worship" part of our services is as important as we have made it out to be. It is critically important to surrender to God and praise Him, but did not Abraham do that when he sacrificed his son? What is worship? What will it look like in the future with the post-modern generation?


Brian Emmet said...

Hah--beat ya! One of our main problems has been the conflating of "worship" with "music/singing."
We need to help people see how all that we do in gathered worship--gathering, silence, singing, prayer, sacrament, preaching, welcoming one another, eating together, etc.--is ALL included in "worship." This might help us recapture the original meaning of "liturgy"--the "work of the people," or as Peterson put it, "the public works department". I like that a lot!

Jeremiah said...

William, I gotta say this is a great topic and one of my favorite things to dwell on. Now I'm going to do something that the older crowd loves. I'm going to define worship in terms of the etymological roots. (Oops my sarcasm slipped out) As near as I can tell Worship has the same root as Worth, or Work. I believe Work is creating value in the world and Worship is ascribing Value to something. I think that is a very simple very workable definition that is also consistent with (gasp) Webster's 1828.

I believe in a practical sense this definition leads to a lifestyle where all that I do is done out ascribing worth to JESUS. Every action will either indicate that I am valuing Who He is or that I am devaluing Who He is. I am either laying down all that I am to HIM or not.

My whole life is worship. Who am I worshipping is the question.

josenmiami said...

hi guys, good topic. I'll have more to say tomorrow probably...I just want to mention that one of our young couples who currently live in North Africa landed back in Miami today. He pointed out that he has been following along with our discussion but had not felt that he could process stuff fast enough to post a comment. He was of the opinion that a lot of people may be reading along with us who are not posting. Something to think about!

Patrick said...

Hey guys, we just finished school for the year down here, so I've been busy, but I'm back.

Good topic choice, Will! Thanks for working in postmodernism, ha! Brian and Jeremiah, you both have answered as I would have. Especially with the wholistic mindset, that worship is the total sum of everything we do.

I believe the Western church has a bad habit of worshiping worship itself. I'm sure you've heard that before, but it is true. Our western worship experience has become an addictive thing to the people who come to seek God. I think there is a healthy balance, but we've gone overboard. People go to church/youth group for an emotional fix instead of finding the presence of God. In the OT and NT, whenever there was a "worship service", His glory fell. We don't see that today as regularly.

I'd be interested to hear Jamie Johnson's take on this....if you're out there, Jamie!

I'll be back for more; I've got to run for now. But I'm especially interested in this crossing the PMs.

John M. said...

Good topic William. Presenting ourselves totally to him as living sacrifices (as opposed to the dead animal sacrifices of the Old Covenant, but no less radical). This is our reasonable service of worship. So I totally agree that our worship includes (or should include) the sum total of all our thoughts, actions and words.

Music, though, is a gift from God and an expression of His creativity. As such it is a wonderful tool to use in intentional, focused adoration of the Lord. The problem is that we have made it the sum total of worship rather than just one aspect of a many-faceted lifestyle.

steve H said...

Since John mentioned my name regarding the worship on Sunday matter, I want to make one comment on that. The tradition of meeting on the first day of the week to celebrate the resurrection also means celebrating the reality that the new creation and the new humanity and the new age of the kingdom have come and are still coming because "Christus Victor."

The first day of the week is also the "eighth day"; eight is the number of new beginnings. However, Hebrew days begin in the evening. It was quite common for the early Christians to gather for dinner and "the breaking of bread" on Saturday evening -- the beginning of the first day -- after the Jewish Sabbath had ended. Hence, the love feasts referred to in 1 Corinthians 11. (By the way I love Tertullian's description of this gathering. One tidbit -- Justin says you could tell how much "grape juice" a person had consumed by how well he did during the time when each is asked to stand in front and sing a hymn, either from Scripture or one spontaneously composed.)

If you haven't read the descriptions of the worship gatherings by Justin Marytyr and by Tertullian (in their respective "Apologies"), they are well worth reading.

One final comment, worship leader and song/hymn writer Ted Sandquist points out the the primary Hebrew word translated worship is "shachah" -- which literally means to prostrate oneself before, to bow before. It brings to mind the picture of eastern kings whose subjects prostrated themselves before the throne. "Shachah" is a word picture for worship as a life of submission and obedience -- life as a living sacrifice.

josenmiami said...

This from Jesus Creed...

Pentecost Sunday

Almighty God, on this day you opened the way of eternal life to every race and nation by the promised gift of your Holy Spirit: Shed abroad this gift throughout the world by the preaching of the Gospel, that it may reach to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. +

steve H said...

Correction: in sharing the comment by Tertullian, I had at first attributed it to Justin Martyr. Then when I corrected myself, I only corrected the first reference and not the second: it was Tertullian, not Justin, who made the humorous reference to singers who may have imbibed a bit too much.

In the same vein, Steve Clark from the Sword of the Spirit Community in Ann Arbor used to say that it was wrong to get drunk but that it was ok to get a "holy buzz" at the Lord's Day celebration. I'm not recommending drinking a bit too much because in our culture we tend to take things too far. It does, however, suggest that our worship really should include celebration as well as solemnity.

Imagine it: prostrating ourselves before our King and drinking freely to His health and victory in the same setting!

Jeremiah said...

The first comment I/Brian/Patrick/John M./Steve H. made (Brian where is the controversy?) refers to the personal form of worship. I want to go back a little (to some of the posts in the previous thread) and bring in how this should reflect into the corporate forms of worship. To go back to the candles analogy, if my little candle of a personal life of worship which is continuously laid at his feet in "Shachah" combines, in true unity, with others, then the flames are multiplicative and not just additive. In order for this to happen, we have to be living the way of the Cross. i.e. daily laying our lives down for others.

(As an aside, I believe that the way of the cross is the eternal way that GOD Himself, the Sacred Community of the Trinity, lives)

So to live with others, united in heart, each laying his life down for his neighbor in The Way of the Cross, is a very big part of a lifestyle of worship and is the part where the personal merges with the corporate. Indeed, it becomes impossible at this point to divide the personal from the corporate, personal Holiness/Worship really doesn't have an expression without others for it to be combined with.

Joseph, thanks for the warning that others maybe observing, better mind our manners.


Michael said...

Hey everyone. I have been one of those who has been reading more than writing. But here are some of my initial thoughts on worhsip:
I see worship as the confession of our faith put to music. The content of the songs are a reflection of what we believe about the Father. In a sense we sing our theology. To often worship songs have lacked content. That lack of content in my opinion is directly related to not having good and growing view of the Father. I think to often our worship songs have been to much about us and not enough about the Father. But on the flip side when our worship music is rich with the content of who the Father is I believe we can experience some of heaven on earth (God's glory). Our spirit aligned with His Spirit declaring in worship that He is Lord.

josenmiami said...

Michael: your comments on singing our worship reminded me of the central character of Charles William's novel, WAR IN HEAVEN, the Archdeacon who joyfully and lightly hums and sings the Psalms as he resists evil to defend the holy Graal. I have given my copy away...I'll need to order a new copy.

Brian Emmet said...

I'd like, if I may, to suggest we focus on the worship of a gathered community, and look at how the Spirit seems to be initiating some changes in our understanding and practice. I say this based on my strong agreement with you on viewing worship wholistically ("a life of worship") and also the importance of us ersonally being worshippers.
I don't know about you, but I find that I worship (not just sing) better in community...I pray better when I pray with others...I understand Scripture better when I hear and study it in community.
I'm pleased to see that we all understand ourselves as liturgical worshippers--each of our communities has a liturgy (note no quotation marks needed) that we use consistently when we gather corporately. Maybe we could reflect some on the different "pieces" of our liturgies. I want to continue to argue for understanding worship more broadly and inclusively than singing/music ("Wasn't worship great today?"). I also think we need to work harder on thinking about worship in terms of what God "gets" out of it, rather than hat we get out of it. Notice how often we evaluate worship along the lines of "that just didn't do it for me. I didn't sense God's presence."

Patrick said...

This has been a very fluent discussion on worship, teeming with life. WELCOME, Michael! It's good to have you in here. I'm sure in all of this worship, we've got to look at both examples of worship in Gen 22:5 and John 4:23, 24 as one and the same. I don't know how, but maybe one of you has that answer.

Corporate worship, as in a service, should effect the community of believers taking part in it. The time in worship bonds people together emotionally for one. What God is saying, or "revelation", must be a vital part of this time. This is expressed in a number of different ways, sometimes prophetically or in tongues, or just through the song lyrics.

A time of gathered saints singing together to glorify God should include a time of intercession for the world. I know this is probably a weird idea for worship, but when else can the body respond accordingly to God's cry toward the blind, deaf and lame? In a worship setting, people get close to God, and He changes and touches them. There is nothing closer to God's heart than people, and love for people, especially those who need Him. As we get closer, we sense this element, and it should lead to us crying out for those around us who so desperately need Him.

This might not happen every single time, but it cannot be overlooked.

Robert said...

We all have liturgy...I just happen to be involved in a church setting that calls it that intentionally. It is the "work of the people"...doing what we do when we come together. Liturgy is not worship but a facilitation and support of the worship people bring through the door into the assembly. The question seems to be what informs and defines our particular liturgy. In the Anglican tradition there is a rhythm that begins with inviting
God to prepare our hearts followed by reading the summary of the Law and reading of OT and NT scriptures. We then seek the Lord's grace in view of our obviously falling short. We then rejoice in God's mercy and provisions by singing some form of the Gloria. The thing I appeciate about a defined liturgy is there are elements that take me places I would not go if I am left only to my natural inclinations. I might want something that makes me feel good when what I need is something that helps me address that which I don't want to hear.

If any of us step back from our current practices, we will identify elements we do with regularity...order of service, body language, etc. It is what we do and why we do it. And that is not worship...just the scaffolding that supports the worship that is within us that needs expression in the corporate context...and we some have to enjoy some sense of order to do that. Some are working so hard at making it "not the same" that you have to re-learn...or re-invent worship every week. I love spontaneous worship...and I love ordered worship guided by worthy all belongs to us.

William said...

Jamie Johnson's thoughts on worship:

Last night I headed to a prayer vigil for the youth group where we continued in worshiping through music, prayer and ministry until around 2am. The little Hobbit-like Costa Rican house we wee in couldn't contain all of the 40 plus Costa Rican young leaders we had so I stepped just outside the front door as a typical Costa Rican soaking, constant rain began.

I have been a bit of a critic of the worship music movement of late in that for many young people the music is a soul-based, emotional experience above all else with even a bit of a sense of celebrity attached to the worship leader of the month. It just seems like the same thing the world is doing with rock stars, lighters lifted at concerts and the sense of solidarity in a crowd rather than what corporate worship is meant to be. This takes nothing away from the importance of corporate worship but is only to say that the enemy is attacking the area and throwing out quite a bit of subterfuge. The question is whether we are interacting with the Father corporately or interacting with the emotional/physical contact with loud, reverberating music and creative human personalities as an end in itself.

As I watched the rain last night, I sensed God speaking about how He loves...constantly, liquidly, touching the smallest nooks and crannies of our hearts. Rain doesn't fall in a big splash at once but in one rain drop falling after another. Sunshine, another gift of God, is the same way. Continuous rays of solar energy flow to us. I think this is how God loves. He is constantly paying attention to us and constantly focusing in on loving us. We don't do this so well. We are great at giving a gift, making a phone call, going out to dinner, a hug or a kiss as our way of showing love. We like to attend a service, a retreat, have a quiet time. Each of these have a beginning and an end. We give a "packet" of our emotional energy and then move back to our own thought life and self-referential life of ownership and control. You can see David (so clearly in the Psalms) and then, more perfectly, Jesus, constantly celebrating the voice of the Father through their obedience. He constantly speaks, constantly loves...nothing can seperate us from it.

What I realized is that music-accompanied, corporate worship times have been the only of breaking free from this "give-a-little-and-then-be- done" way of loving we are trapped in. For a half hour or even an hour or more, we are all together singing, focusing on Him, praying, praying in tongues, giving to and loving Him. We are "raining" or "shining" our love back to Him. Interesting that the gift of tongues doesn't come out in a word or two. He fills us with a gift that equips us to "flow" this rain-like stream of communication to Him. So I think that is a positive part of worship together.

Beyond that, you have all of the kind of corporate worship elements that guys like Bonhoeffer talk of in books like, "Life Together." I think Phillip is touching on that. I strongly agree with that. Give me an out of tune guitar and an earnest leader leading a group of people into a public and corporate proclamation of the the Kingdom. Wow! I don't understand all that happens but, like Phillip said, God likes it.

I do think the enemy has tricked us into seeing these worship with music times as the highest time of our relationship with Him. I would have to think Jesus' time alone with the Father, His constant walk in connection with Him in walking out into a world and letting the Father's love flow through Him through obedience and their times eating and sharing life together were all at least as high as us getting together and singing the next Chris Tomlin song.

Sadly, a byproduct of the enemy's distortion of the place of worship is that many of our heroes of the faith are guys who write songs and play guitars rather than people like Elijah, the disciples, and women who walked into a dying world and transformed it through allowing God to paint the Kingdom through their lives of obedience.

I think the Father is teaching us how to be loved and we have found a way in our "productivity is king" culture to get in on the flow of this during these music-centered worship times together. Great. I think that is great as a springboard to Him teaching us to open our hearts and receive His love through life in the Spirit more and more each day. Through fasting. Through suffering. Through obedience that costs everything. Through giving our lives daily to our neighbors. Through disciplining our kids. Through balancing our checkbook and paying our tithe. Through praying at 5 am when we feel nothing. Etcetera, right?

Love you all. We are learning to kiss him alongside one another.


John M. said...

Steve - I have a question from your post. When the early believers met on Sat. evening for an agapae feast, did they also meet on Sunday morning?

Robert - I like your comments about "spontaneous" worship and worship formed in ancient tradition. I think that much of our "free church" worship would be better informed and enriched and deepened considerably by drawing more deeply from the ancient creeds, prayers and responsive readings from the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions. I think many of us have erroneously assumed that these are merely dead tradition, when, if they are animated by the Holy Spirit and our own focus on Him, they have incredible anointing and meaning.

I used to "lead worship" which traslated primarily to the musical component of a public gathering. In the style that we worshipped (a charismatic, contemporary, free, worship style) I loved the sense of closeness and intimacy we usually exprienced with the Lord in that corporate setting. We often exprienced the intercessory burden and anointing that you mentioned Patrick. In my present context I miss the large corporate gathering and the opportunity to sing praise and worship to Him in that context.

But there were things that I was uncomfortable with in that setting: 1. The sense of comparison that Brian mentioned. It was almost like every week had to "top" last week in it's intensity, intimacy, and emotional release. I'm not referring here to the style or volume of the music, but to the emotional/spiritual experience. 2. This feeling/experience was very plesant -- on the edge of addictive (I can think of worse addictions!). It had a definite coming down feeling afterward. Many time as the leader I had a real let down, sometimes an emotional crash that was like coming off a chemical high. I still have trouble evaluating the appropriateness of this, but it was real in experience. 3. There was a sense of "failure" if this high peak was not reached in a given instance. 4. Everything focused on the leader, the musicians and the stage. Try as I might to eliminate it, there was a definite "persormance" aspect to what we were doing. 5. The dynamic that we appreciated so much was dependent on musical gifting and technology in addition to spriitual gifting. 6. The size of the group definitely affected the dynamic of the worship. There was a certain critical mass (in terms of numbers) that seemed necesssry to acheive a maximized worhip experience. (I have seen expceptions to this in small groups, but crowd dynamics undeniably played into the "effectiveness" of our worship.

Those are personal observations. You may or may not have anything to say about them. Although I would like to hear your observations. Some of the things above continue to be enigmatic for me.

Here, though, is what I want to bring up for discussion.
I Corinthians 14:26 says "...When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of insturction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church."

Observations: 1. Corporate, gathered worship not only ministers to the Lord, it also strengthens the church. So worship is a relational affair. We minister to Him; He ministers to us. He is as eager to give back to us as, hopefully, we are to give to Him. 2. In the instructions given here for gathered worship, we are told that "everyone" should have something to contribute.

I have many times had the expreience mentioned in number one at large gatherings, but number two seems to limit the size of the group. It clearly says that everyone present should contribute, with a song, a word of instruction, a revelations, or an exercise of spiritual gifts. (Based on the context, I'm not sure we should limit this to just tongues and interpretation, but that is probably another discussion.) So which is the better representation of corporate worship, the theater/concert model that most churches have adopted, or the small group model that I Cor. 14 seems to indicate?

I could say more (imagine that!?), but this is way long already so I'll let someone else pick up the discussion.

William said...

Robert, I love the spontaneous worship and the orderly worship worthy of tradition as well.
I love the infiniteness God and how he can be part of everything. Old and new...of course, I guess it isnt Old and New to Him since he is eternal.

Along the lines of Brian's post, I see a shift from a modern church building mindset to smaller more relational communities that push and enable us to live a life of worship. I think this is evolving because of the Post Moderns...

Also worshiping and thinking about it in terms of what God "gets" out of it. We are priests and ministers to God, so what does He get from our praises?

Jamie's insight on a continual flow of our love and worship to God is good.

steve H said...

John -- as far as I can tell those who gathered on Saturday evening were gathering on the Lord's Day -- the begining of the 1st day. Some may have gathered again later in the day (i.e. the morning but I don't know about that.

Also, concerning 1 Cor 14.26 -- to what degree does that passage speak to worship toward God and to what degree does it describe the members of the body ministering to one another? Is there a difference?

John M. said...

I didn't see Jamie's post until after I posted. I'm tracking with you Jamie.

John M. said...

Steve - So in the Hebrew understanding of when the day begins, by meeting on Sat. evening they were actually celebrating the beginning of the Lord's day? Interesting then, that their corporate worship time was around an actual meal. Goes along with Acts 2:42 and 46. Interesting, too, that our traditional Lord's day time is about 12 or 14 hours "late"!

Regarding I Cor. 14:26, it seems to be "both/and" to me. He says "when you come together..." For me the church is a family, and when we come togther, we worship, we eat, we pray, we may or may not sing, we pray for one another, we are instructed in the scriptures, edified by others' experiences etc. So I would say "all of the above". And the "all" may not happen in one given gathering, but cumulative, over time.

This brings up another question. The Lord's Supper (Commnion, Eucharist, The Lord's Table). When does that happen? It seemed to happen at each gathering in the N.T. (Is that a correct assumption or am I wrong about that?) Why do many churches today only practice it occasionally?

Brian Emmet said...

Patrick, I find nothing weird, and everything approporiate, about intercessory prayer, especially for the world, being an integral part of corproate worship. This is an example of pushing our definition of worship out beyond singing.
I appreciate the ways in which Robert's points about the Anglican tradition's intentional liturgy gives others of us the opportunity to look at the liturgies we actually use (even if we identify ourselves as non-liturgical). The Anglican liturgy has us recapitulate God's salvation story every time we do it, and there is powerful value in that.
And I'm grateful for the ways in which I see us all affirming the absolute centrality of worship to the life and work of a local congregation. Jesus, quoting Deuteronomy and in the context of defeating Satan's temptation, said, "You shall worship the LORD your God and serve him only." Worship must precede, undergird, shape and inform ou service. Worship is the single most important, most practical, most necessary thing we do. It may not be confined to the weekly assembly, but that weekly assembly is more important than perhaps we have realized.

Robert said...

A quick quote from "Christ Plays.." which is actually a quote by Peterson of Garrison Keillor...
"Sunday feels odd without church in the morning. It's the time of the week when we take our bearings, and if we miss it, we're just following our noses." He is refering to our corporate context where we re-enact the great themes of redemption..."worship in a structure and place and time that enable our participation. When we walk out of the place of worship we walk with fresh, recognizing eyes and a re-created , obedient heart into the world in which we are God's image participating in God's creative work." (Christ Plays...pp.112-113)

Whatever our approach, it is about corporately celebrating the great themes of redemption that help us to refocus upon those things that are really important. Our daily lives tend to pull us toward those things which get that out of perspective. If we are in the world but not of it, we need regular occasions that support the "not of it" part.

Robert said...

I suppose the previous post has to do with "why" we worship rather than "how."

Question...what does worship look like if we do not have the support systems...electronics, recordings (tapes or CDs),overheads, etc.? Sometimes it seems that technology drives what worship looks like. For some who come into an environment where worship is simple, it is not appealing because because it does not push sensory buttons that have been conditioned to expect a certain kind of experience.

John M. said...

Can worship and weekly assembly be as simple as two or three gathered around Jesus?

Did Jesus establish the most basic unit of his Church when He made the "two or three gathered" statement.

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus met Jsus, broke bread with Him, and their hearts burned within them as he explained the scriptures to them.

Sherwood said...

I don’t know a whole lot about worship except what I have learned about myself over the years. Of course we all know that being in the Kingdom of God is not a place, but is the activity of allowing God to govern our choices 24/7. Bob Mumford refers to it as “preferential Choices.” We prefer God’s way over our own. Those choices are made whether we are in a community meeting or driving done the road with someone tailgating us. Worship seems to me to be making an increasing amount of choices away from self and toward God. I believe that is what maturity is really all about.

Many times I see community meetings as praise meetings as opposed to worship meetings since they seem to be oriented toward self and personal feelings. But let me quickly add that only the Lord knows the motivations of the heart. I am not even sure of my own motivations many times and sometimes I am aware of them, to my own sorrow.

In the end, any configuration that brings us and others closer to the Lord and effects a change in us, and causes us to live more His way, is wonderful. The Holy Spirit is at work in every situation for those that Love the Lord Jesus and desire to please Him. The Mechanics/Methods are not really that important. The important thing to me would be; Is the Lord pleased with us and what we are doing?

I have been in a number of different settings and whether Catholic, Orthodox, Baptist, Free Church, and so on. It is pleasantly surprising to me that many touch and worship the Lord in their own form of liturgy and get to know Him very well.

Worship is really our deep interpersonal relationship with the Lord.

josenmiami said...

Hello Sherword! Welcome to our discussion. I really liked what you said, especially your quote of Mumford about the kingdom of God as ‘preferential choices.’ I am going to add that to my list of metaphors for the kingdom.

William, I liked how you expressed the ‘modern church building mindset’ in a way that does not cast it as traditional. As Robert has often pointed out, we don’t want lose our appreciation for ‘tradition’ as in historic heritage…but some ‘modern’ mentalities may to be altered in order to reach postmoderns. I like the way you describe that as ‘relational communities.’ That is actually where our movement started out. When I first heard about the shepherding ‘community’ in Lancaster (where Dennis Coll currently serves), it was called ‘hope community.’ As a hippie who had just planted several communes in New England, it lit the fires of my imagination…I remember telling John M. “I didn’t know Christians could do that!”

Robert: on your question about the influence of electronics and other aspects of modern technology on worship. Excellent question! I remember being in a little Mayan Indian church in Guatemala once, with about 12 to 15 people attending. The amplifiers were each bigger than me…when they cranked up the “worship” I could actually feel my internal organs vibrating! That’s when I started rethinking some things...

(my post has 4 or 5 more paragraphs with an interesting story about George Patterson, but to save space…I will post the whole thing over on my blog: )

steve H said...

I don't consider myself an expert on early church fathers and the practices of that time. However, the evidence that I've seen shows that the Lord's Day gatherings were around the eucharist -- and appear to have often also involved a meal.

Of course, as you know Acts 2 speaks of taking meals and breaking bread together daily from house to house. Later, even it Scripture times the pattern may have developed to meet on the Lord's Day -- Acts 20.7, 1 Cor 16.2.

josenmiami said...

I personally like the emphasis on breaking bread and praying daily from house to house. That tends to be our experience in our community.

John M. said...

Joseph - Do you see breaking bread from house to house as also including the Eucharist as part of the meal (or sometime during the meal-time period)?

Sherwood - I like your comments.

It seems that we have two ideas going. We all agree that worship encompasses our whole life and should be expressed through every area of daily life. We also keep touching on the community gathered. Should we make a distinction between the overarching aspect of a lifestyle of worship and the intentional worship gatherings of the community?

Keith said...

Since Will first posted this topic on worship, I have been pondering my own criteria.
Three things and the third will probably undo the others.

Joy is an element/result of worship for the Christian. Touching the eternal, glimpsing what is beyond us is a gift from God to us. When I worship, really worship, my Joyspring is tapped.

Related to this, and yet different, is a sense of adventure. Out of worship often comes a calling to do what is beyond ourselves. Worship calls us out of our limits into the infinite.

Now, going a little deeper, is a sense of mystery. Derek Prince, who studied philosophy with an emphasis on definitions, said once that some things that we know best cannot be defined. Defining, by definition, limits. God allows himself to be known but not defined. Worship touches the One who is eternal mystery. I believe that He will eternally be revealing Himself to us.

Joy, adventure (calling), mystery: I do sense an increase in all of these things when we touch God's presence corporately.

steve H said...

Worship is a way of life.

Worship toward God, just as other aspects of loving God, also include community. We can't love God unless we also love one another, and also our neighbors outside the community of believers.

Gathering in community to break bread (eucharist); share meals together; read and expound upon Scripture; sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; minister to one another by means of the Spirit's gifts -- all of these and more are a part of that worshipping way of life.

Neither worship as a way of life nor worship in the community gathered are complete -- and perhaps not even real -- unless they are part of the fabric of one life of living sacrifice unto God.

steve H said...

Keith, You sound somewhat Orthodox in the eastern sense. "A God who is comprehensible is not God," said the Greek fathers. Bishop Kallistos (Timothy) Ware writes, Advancing on the Way, each finds that God grows ever more intimate and ever more distant, well known and yet unknown -- well known to the smallest child, yet incomprehensible to the most brilliant theologian." From "The Cloud of Unknowing": "He may be well loved by not thought. By love can he be caught and held, but by thinking never."

Thus the Orthodox say that we can say more clearly what God is not than to define what God is. Thus Ware writes, God's " ...absolute transcendence Orthodoxy safeguards by its emphatic use of the 'way of negation', of 'apophatic' theology. Positive or 'cataphatic' theology -- the "way of affirmation" -- must always be balanced and corrected by the employment of negative language. Our postive statements about God -- that He is good, wise, just and so on -- are true as far as they go, yet they cannot adequately describe the inner nature of diety."

Just a glimpse of the beyondness and the mystery of our God and King -- well, what can I do? It's beyond words. Thank God I can verbalize worship in tongues with the Spirit's help!

John M. said...

"The church needs to be able to 'be the church' with an acoustic guitar (or no guitar) on the top of a Mexican mountain, or to use powerpoint and multimedia with 20,000 people in Chicago or LA without one or the other being more correct or more 'church'. The church also needs to show up, and be visibly present in the midst of darkness among the tribal vampire people at Stick & Stein’s in Homestead when my daughter is bar-tending. That is why I try to always take 'one or two' with me."
From Joseph's post on his Faith and Reason blog.

Joseph you have hit on two really important issues in the quote above. It is vital that we see two or three gathered just as much "real church" as the mega church whose building is bigger than the local airport; which is actually the case here in Lexington. We have a mega church whose building is larger than the terminal at Bluegrass Field, Lexinton's commercial airport! Pretty cool, huh?

When it came time for High School, my son, who had been in a small, low-tech, Christian school all his educational career, said, Dad, I want to go to a "real school" -- meaning that he wanted to go to the local public high school that had a large, new building, losts of programs, large and competitive altheletic teams etc. After two years at the "real school", he asked to go back to Lexington Christian Academy and graduate there.

Your second comment is a profound observation on the topic of our last thread. What you are doing is a "corporate" witness that is doable and not nebulous. It puts feet to theory and it is a powerful discipleship method. Those you take with you will grow and deepen in their faith more in one evening at Stick and Stein's than in hours of theoretical discussion and teaching -- not to mention the seed sown and those who will be drawn toward and maybe into the light of the Kingdom!

Brian Emmet said...

I know I'm going to get into trouble for writing this, but this string is still about a quart low in the controversy department, so--

We are tending to use the term "worship" in ways that are alien to Scripture. We seem to be buying into the contemporary mindset that "worship" is primarily about my experience of God--it becomes primarily focused on what we do rather than on who God is, what God has done, and what God is doing (reconciling all things in heaven and earth to himself through the death of his son). That's why we tend to get lost in the details of size, format, music--worship becomes a car we drive, and we're just shopping for the best options.

"Worship" in Scripture almost always refers to the gathered people of God. It is true that we can experience something of God while walking in the woods, standing by the ocean, sailing the seas--but I'm not sure that it's worship. Of course we must also be individually worshippers; I just don't see the Scripture focusing on that.

Here's an example of why this is so critical. I would offer the hypothesis that if the doctrine of the Trinity were suddenly, somehow declared to be "null and void" (don't ask me how this might happen), it would make absolutely no difference to the life and practice of a vast number of Christians (who tend to be conceptually trithesists and functionally serial unitarians). This is a worship issue; it is also a teaching issue, but it indicates that, whatever we call what we do in "worship" and whatever we feel we're "getting out of it", we are deficient in our knowing of God because our lives are not engaging and being conformed to God-as-he-has-revealed-himself, that is, as Trinity.

We're taking the wrong starting points in this conversation, starting with what makes sense to postmoderns, to moderns, to us, instead of asking what makes sense to God, who is Father, Son and Spirit.

OK, I've provided you with a big fat bullseye and lots of ammo. Have at me!

josenmiami said...

very good points Brian. I tend to agree with you, if I understand you correctly.

This discussion is rocketing quickly to 100 despite the fact that it is a "quart low" on controversy. Welcome to Keith! I have a hunch you are related to our young intellectual friends, Patrick and William?

Brian Emmet said...

Sheesh, Jospeh, it's a holiday! What are you and I doing in here? It's a beautiful day--GO OUTSIDE.

I add my welcome to our various newcomers--everyone adds something flavorful to the stew!

josenmiami said...


actually, we have been invited to go to a cook-out with one of the families of the tribal vampire people at 6:00 PM.

Your point was excellent Brian. I don't think it is contradictory to be able to consider cultural contexts while at the same time keeping foremost in mind that our worship is primarily about pleasing him. I just sent out some relfections from PDL chapter 13 today to the university and tribal crowds..."Worship that Pleases God."

Warren makes the point that our worship must be "accurate" not idolotrous.

Michael said...

I agree with your comments. So let me ask this, what good is worship if it doesn't in the end impact the way we relate to others and how we go about living in this world (our family, work etc..)?
And if our worship is not doing just that, is it our forms of worship that are messed up or the people who trying to worship?

Travis said...

Hello everyone. I am William and Patrick's friend. Glad to join the discussion.

I believe everyone's familiar with Matt Redman, the worship leader from England. A while back their church began "worshipping the worship" so much that the congregation decided to not have musical worship for a season, I believe a whole year. At the end of this season, Matt Redman wrote the song The Heart of Worship.

I am not necessarily suggesting that musical worship be put down for a season until true worship can arise, but this may well be the case.

I have to agree with Patrick's previous comments that we must include revelation, the prophetic, and ministry with the gifts of the Spirit in corporate worship. If we just come together and sing, we are denying the Holy Spirit the ability to use other rivers of oupouring (tongues, interpretation, prophecy, healing, miracles, etc.).

More than anything, we have to leave a corporate worship service with a desire to have an experiential knowledge of God outside of meetings. We have to have a burning in our spirits to be with Him even when it's hard (praying at 5 a.m. like Jamie talked about). Our experience with God in the secret place is what's going to shape us. That and community. Bonhoffer says in Life Together that you cannot be in community unless you know how to be alone and you cannot be alone unless you know how to be in community (pardon me if it's not exactly word-for-word).

Then, like stated previously, worship will become a lifestyle that will adjust the atmosphere around us.

Brian Emmet said...

Welcome, Travis! Pull up a chair and count yourself in. Anyone who bring's "Life Together" into the conversation has much to offer.

One way that an awareness of our history offers to us is deliverance from the narrowness of the now. The problem with musch modern worship is its constriction to the activities that make us feel better--we're all about the joy, our awreness of God's Presence, the gifts of the Spirit operating powerfully. All good things!

But worship is broader, and wider, and deeper. We need some external channels to make sure that we're are regularly visitng ALL of Scripture, praying it, moving out onto more of the fullness of God, including all those aspects of God, and of life in God, that make me uncomfortable: "Surely you are a God who hides himself...the darkness is my closest friend... how long, O Lord, how long..." I daresay it's been a while (and correect me if I'm wrong) that any of us has preached, or heard, a message on, for example Psalm 88. We tend to evaluare worship emotionally--if it's "intense" it's good worship; otherwise, we missed the Spirit. I honestly think this approach is closer to baalism than the worship of God.

And yes, Michael, the purpose of worship is to make an impact on the way we live the following six days--and not just "an impact," but the formative, determinative, transformative impact that reveals Christ to me, forms Christ in me and expresses Christ through my life. And not just me alone--it's Christ revealed to us, formed in us, expressed though us--anything less is less than genuine worship.

John M. said...

I really like what Keith and Steve H. were talking about regarding the mystery, the hideness, the total otherness of God.

Could it be that our contemporary worship breeds an unhealthy familiarity with God?

I think Brian's comments about Trinity factor into this aspect of the discussion.

Perhaps the main point of this discussion will be that all of us will come away feeling rather inept, not expert at this work of worship. Perhaps we will be more aware of the awesomeness and terribleness of our God. Perhaps we will know less about the subject than when the discussion started. Perhaps we will find ourselves totally humbled, flat on our face, before Father, Son and Holy Spirit, in awe and wonder. Perhaps we will begin to understand why many worship traditions repeat the phrase "Lord have mercy" a lot.

Brian Emmet said...

Amen. After John's comments, does anyone have more to say? (I'm not trying to end this discussion.)

josenmiami said...

I think this is one of our most fruitful discussion, despite the low level of controversy. It is enriching my thoughts... ditto to what John said.

Just a quick update: we had a delightful time with the tribal vampire people last night. In fairness, they are not all tribal-vampire...but all are blue-collar, cigarette smoking, "F___" this and "M__F___" that ex-bouncers, part-time fighters, bar-tenders type people. They all seemed to like us (thank God).

Tonight we are invited to dinner with two of my fellow history Ph.D. students: one, a southern girl studying piracy in the caribbean (I am not kidding) and the other a gay Cuban guy.

It seems our time is filling up with secular, new age and unchurched type people. Deb and I are curious to see where this takes us: it is not something we are trying to make happen, but rather like riding a raft down a gentle river... we will keep you posted.

I am looking forward to the day that I can begin to share with them about worship that pleases God.

Patrick said...

Well, in spite of our best efforts, we can't seem to dig up any controversy about worship. Maybe that's good. I think we'd all agree that all this singing and music stuff is no good if we don't have hearts to serve Him and others on the outside of the building. Trying to discuss this issue anymore would be beating a dead horse. So allow me to resuscitate this horse before we continue.

What about Bono? I think his version of worship is so much richer than the worship I so often bargain for. The following stanzas depict a type of worship, true worship. And I would dare say that our friend Jose N. Miami has been practicing this very thing, in reaching out to the vampires, homosexuals and all. And doesn't the first couplet sound like the stereotypical Western church? Enjoy it before the steed breathes his last.

Isaiah 58:
"Why have we fasted, and You do not see it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and You take no knowledge of it?"
Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. ...

Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. ...

Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share our bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; ...

Then you shall call and the Lord will answer; you shall cry and He will say, "Here I am."
This type of worship is what I think God is after.

Sean said...

Hey all - I'm here! Just reading through everything before I respond...


josenmiami said...

ah!!! so if I am at Duffy's drinking Guiness under the express commission of the Lord to undo the bands of oppression in my young friend's lives...then I am engaging in a form of worship?! Ditto with the cook out with the tribal vampires... No wonder it is so enjoyable!

I read some stuff by Peterson this morning on worship that was really good, but unfortuneately I left the book in the car...I'll bring it here tonight when I get home. Got a busy day today on the run!

by-the-way, I had some weird dreams last night and was unable to sleep much... I was walking through a snow covered field in my dreams being watched by some strange people who did not seem to happy with me. Deb felt that it might have been a heads-up for some spiritual warfare.

John M. said...

Hey everyone, let's cover Joseph in prayer. He's out there on the front lines more than anyone else I know. "Jesus, deliver my brother from the evil one and let him not fall into any temptation or snare of the enemy, in the power of your name, Amen."

William said...

Amen John, and we are praying Jose.

This has been the discussion that I have learned and pulled the most from. Rich.

I was going through a Hymn book the other day and one of the songs is "The way of the Cross leads Home". I have never heard it, but it definitely leads away from the emotional evaluations that Brian mentioned and into the reality of who we are, what we are doing here, and how a great God deserves our lives.

I was reading "The Heavenly Man" about one of the foundational pastors in the Chinese Church, written by himself (an excellent book, extremely challenging if you have not read it). The man was talking about the songs that they sang, the content of which had: peter being nailed to the cross, prophets being sawed two, martyrs burning at the stake, paul being beheaded, etc... Not very "feel-good-let-me-get-back-to-my-life" type songs. But definitely songs that challenge, encourage and refocus on God and our purpose.

Brian Emmet said...

Well, brothers, I guess it's confession time: I'm not sure I could name a Bono song if I had to... I know he's big and famous and Christian ("It's a Beautiful Day"--am I close?). I never knew that Bono was the author of Isaiah 58 (wink wink).

I understand that this lets me out of any and all conversations about, well, everything we've been discussing... where do I turn in my secret decoder membership ring?

boy with a ball said...

So some controversy, eh?

So Brian, I have learned from you over the past years as you have directed things over and over again toward the corporate as the focus rather than the individual.
It always makes me appreciate how healthy your heart is and how I long for the settledness and maturity you have. I just read your words for instance reminding us that the Bible speaks of worship most often in terms of "the gathered."

There may be something in the "raised athiest" side of me that has seen so many televised worship services of huge denominational churches or masses where everyone is together but in a way that does not seem related personally to knowing or following Jesus. They go out of tradition or out of routine. This really scares me for some reason.

I think this is the reason that some post-moderns like myself keep clanging the individual relationship cowbell.

I hear your words and realize the great confidence you have in the Lord to direct His flock. It seems to be a "pastoral" optimism that the prophetic side of me sometimes misses.

I have to admit that I believe very deeply what you believe as far as this being about us...not just our individual, self-referential lives. (We were called out of that egotistical cage and into this marvelous light of His.)

But it makes me wonder about the place of the corrective prophetic? Is that time over? Bonhoeffer does a great job of attacking our soulish attacks on the church and I repent every time I read that in Life Together. But I also think about how the pastoral/teaching gifts reign these days with little emphasis on the prophetic, the evangelistic and the apostolic.

All this to admit that I get scared when we just start talking of the corporate as if it is a given that it will be healthy. This drives me to focus on pushing each individual believer toward an intimate connection with the Father with the hope of "making sure" that the whole is the real deal...not just a bunch of lemmings.

Then I read your words and repent...but wonder why it sometimes seems that without the prophetic/apostolic/evangelistic side the church sometimes seems to be a bit lobotomied? Without some teeth?

So is this just post-modern angst that needs to melt away? Do I need to just grab onto your great confidence that the corporate should be the focus with the individual part taking care of itself?

Is any of that making sense?

Teach me great ones.

josenmiami said...

hmmmm....I think I wait this one out a bit and wait see what the responses are... ;-)

Brian Emmet said...

So I get to hang onto my secret decoder ring a bit longer, even though I'm Bono-deprived and culturally clueless?

What I like about this discussion is that we all have opportunity to function out of our gifts and strengths. Whatever my gift-mix may be, it desperately needs the balance and addition of the rest of you, ESPECIALLY those who at first feel like "polar opposites" to me. I need you more than I need the folks who just happen to be more on the same page with me.

I started into Hirsch's "The Forgotten Ways" and find myself reacting almost paragraph by paragraph! It is just very hard going for me... and I think I may actually be starting to get some of it, so maybe older dogs can learn... hope so!

I've got 20 or so years left of "active work" (I'm 55). Twenty years is a long time (if God grants)...but is less than half of what I've already lived, so I'm aware of a pivotal point in my life: I know what I know...and what I know may be inadequate for the way ahead. This is of course true for us all, whether 55, 85, 25 or 5, but there are some of us in this blog who are feeling the weight of our years, the limitations of our wisdom, and the shortness of the time ahead. (This can actually be quite lberating, so I'm not asking you to weep over me!)
I want to see you prophetic/apostolic/missional/evangelistic guys get going, and don't want anything I say or write to hinder you--do what God gives you to do and I'll do all I can to walk with you. You know lots of things I don't know, and you know some things that you don't yet know you know: "the LORD was in this place and I knew it not," says Jacob at Peniel (Peniel means "the face of God").

I'm aware, too, that I'm not responding to the same things as some of the rest of you. Jamie, I'm sure we share the same response to what we see on our televisions on the christian stations... but I never really came up through or out of that, so it feels like a distraction to me: none of us is advocating for that.
When I talk about the "gathered community at worship," I'm thinking of my congregation, Joseph and the vampires (sounds like a band, eh?), you in the precario, John in his 7th grade classroom--sure, not each one of those may be a "gathered community at worship," but every one certainly contains the seeds of such a community--that's what I'm after with all the rest of us.

Shoot, I've rambled and wandered in excess, and repent in dust and ashes. Thanks for bearing with/putting up with me!

John M. said...

Jamie - everyone on the blog is so humble you may never get a response after that last line!

But as an old-not-so-great one, I identify with your angst and share it. Sometimes I feel downright schizophrenic (or bi-polar?), I deeply believe in the corporate, and I'm almost always edified when I worhip with other believers, yet on Sunday mornings I send my wife out the door with our Mom's (age 86 and 88, who live with us) to a "worship service", while I hang out at the kitchen table with a cup of coffee, and cacoon with Jesus. Hmmm. He didn't say where one is "gathered"...Ah, but I bring all of myselves! Seriously I do meet with other blievers each week, but it's around the kitchen table at a meal, not in a "corporate worship service". I'm not confused, not confused, not confused...

steve H said...

Like Brian, when I think or talk about gathered community I am thinking of peopled called by God and joined together by God to manifest His kingdom by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Come to think of it that pretty close to our community's mission statement: "Winchester Covenant Church is a people called and joined together by God to know and to love Him, to learn to live His way, and to manifest His Kingdom through our words and deeds."

Do we get it right all the time? No way. But we are on the journey -- on it together!

Since God is One and Many -- Three in One -- we are created in His image and who have been recreated in Christ and are being transformend into His image must image him both individually and also corporately. The two must be held together to the best of our ability, but ultimately by his covenant love, grace, and power.

I may not write much for a while after tomorrow. I'm scheduled for surgery on Thursday -- to have an abdominal hernia repaired again. Hopefully it can be done laproscopically and recovery won't be such a big deal.

josenmiami said...

OK, I’ll chime in now.

Brian, I am probably having a much easier time reading “Christ Plays” than you are with the “Forgotten Ways”. I find Peterson’s pastoral and teaching gift delightful and uplifting. I especially like his critique of Christian idealism and utopianism.

Here is a disclaimer for everyone (Brian correct me if you disagree), Brian and I have found that we are on the opposite ends of a wonderful and scriptural polarity, and it revolves around Jamie’s points about the five-fold equipping gifts. After a lot of communication, we discovered a common heart but different perspectives based on our grace and callings. I think we found some exciting unity in our freedom to embrace diversity. I am reading a pastoral book, he is reading a missional book. We need each other.

Having said that, let me strongly agree with a comment Jamie makes and then offer a qualifier:

JAMIE: “But I also think about how the pastoral/teaching gifts reign these days with little emphasis on the prophetic, the evangelistic and the apostolic.”

I think this is undoubtedly true. The scales in the New Testament tip overwhelmingly toward the apostolic…one can just count the contrasting frequency of the occurrence of the words “apostle(s)”, “apostolic” and compare it to “pastor(s)”, pastoral. The New Testament church was an apostolic church in every sense of the word. Today, what we have is a church (in general terms) that is heavily tilted toward the pastoral/teaching side.

Even more so in some ways in our movement. We were started by the five “teachers” to be a “shepherding” movement. We really have not yet (this is a point especially for you Jamie) discovered what it means to be apostolic. We have NOT been very good at apostoling…(IMHO).

Now the qualifier… Brian, is possible that some of your reaction is not so much to the genuine apostolic, but to so much misapplication of it? Everywhere from the apostoling and intense prophetic that has gone awry within our movement and has often produced change for the sake of change (i.e. instability) to the some of the idealism and utopian thinking that passes occasionally for apostolic? You and I talked about some of the problems of “apostles” in the local church.

And regarding evangelists, I don't think we have ever been strong in that area, although Erick certainly became a evangelists and I am a "wannabe".

Anyway, I am glad that you are reading Hirsch’s book, and I am reading Peterson’s book. We will have some really good conversations with common ground.

I am also at a pivotal point…there is no more time in my life for utopianism or quixotic crusades. Whatever I do next, it had better be real. I am also an old dog…trying really hard to learn some new tricks. And, talking with you this past month, and reading your man, Peterson, is giving me a much deeper appreciation for genuine shepherds.

I am also grateful for Jamie and the fresh model for the apostolic-missional approach he and his home boys bring to us and to a new generation.

Steve: we will pray for you.

steve H said...

Thanks for praying.

I see a possible topic change may be beginning -- from worship to community and/or leadership. The leadership issue touches on an earlier discussion, doesn't it?

The further I have gone in the journey the less I think we understand much about the five-fold gifts (or four-fold, depending on how one reads the Greek dealing -- is it pastors and teachers or pastor-teachers?).

We have altogether too much of a tendency to overemphasize titles and positions in a way that distorts the ministry and the Kingdom ethos. As you know, Ephesians 4 we are told that Jesus gives these gifts to "equip the saints for the work of the ministry", i.e. service. Should we read the next part ("for the edifying of the Body of Christ") as an appositive, that is as a restatement of the matter of equipping the saints? Or do the two statements present two different objectives of these gifts?

I think it can be read something like this -- Jesus the ascended Head of the body gives these giftings to his body in order to equip his people to do his work in the world and to bring his body to maturity -- that the body may with the Head present him as is really is.

Too much emphasis on these giftings in and of themselves leads to a focus on individual ministry rather than on the work of God in and through his redeemed community -- or as Peter wrote through "a holy nation," through "a people" who had formerly not been "a people."

God is not just after people (individuals). Rather he is joining people into "a people."

Sean said...

Hey all - I tried to catch up as best as I could - there's some really important things said.

Our church culture (not necessarily the Kingdom culture), has recently defined worship in the most narrow of terms. Thanks for those of you who pointed that out already.

Capitalism nurtures this idea of music=worship, worship=music; it nurtures this idea because you can commodify music - you can sell it and make millions of dollars off of it. You can't really commodify one's entire life of worship.

When I think of worship, I think of Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof - his little snippets to God about various things - on the one hand - and his whole demeanor and outlook on life on the other. He is living life in Anatevka, and God is a part of it. Torah mattered to him. For those of you who have not seen FotR, you might want to check it out.

Thought it might be an interesting illustration.

Patrick said...

Wait, ok, I'm sorry. I know this is a little late, but, Jose, do you mean vampires as in vampires? Real, practicing vampires? Do they look like the stereotypical vampires?

(Brian, you got that U2 song right! You can keep your ring!)

Jeremiah said...

unlike you guys I took a break over the weekend and had to pay the prece of wading through tons of stuff. :) All good stuff. I think I would say that true biblical worship is a corporate celebration of the mysteries of GOD centered on the Eucharistic feast which produces action for the Kingdom of GOD. All of these points were made at various times by variuos authors and all were agreed upon by "all y'alls
" I don't really have anything to add and I didn't come up with anything new, I just put together all that was said after the fact. Maybe we ought to go back to our other threads and produce some type of similar "summation" based on the things we agree upon.

You know, just thinking about it here, if we are really after preparing a Bride w/o spot or blemish, we ought to be working to come into unity on these topics. I think the controversy is good, but out of the iron sharpening iron, we should look for consensus. Let me give an example.

I lead a small group in my Church, affectionately called a L.I.F.E group. our groups are relationally based entities designed to multiply. The pattern I've used successfully is that there is a leader and coleader, two new coleaders are picked. The four leaders pray about how the group will split and produce "lists" which they compare of who they see the two new groups comprising. People that are agreed upon are set to the side, people that are not are then prayed over again and the process is repeated enough times until unity is reached. We then ask the people in the group to pray and tell us which group they hear GOD saying they should be a part of. I've yet to have one case where the people came back with something different than what the leaders agreed on.

I'm not saying this really to talk about my small groups as much as to suggest a process which is probably generic enough for us to use to come to consensus on these issues.

what say you?

Sean said...

Jeremiah, I agree with the consensus idea. I think the Holy Spirit brings everyone into a consensus within a body - which is really defined, I guess, by being in agreement with the Holy Spirit. We, then, have to be prepared to be flexible because the Spirit of Christ will challenge us to lay down our microcosmic perspectives at the feet of the cross.

The process of this should prove exhilirating given this group!

Shalom cyber-ecclesia.

josenmiami said...

hi all -- super busy to Ohio tomorrow but I am tracking with you.

Jeremiah...the unity of faith only comes with the bonds of relational love and communication (Eph)...we have only been talking for barely a month. Give a couple years...and some face-to-face gatherings over cigars....lets enjoy the process and not try to hurry it.

On the other hand, some kind of index or summaries to pull together what we have shared here would be awesome...I tried to do it on a word document but ran out of time. We were up to 130 pages in the last thread.

Patrick: they are hurting people (from divorce, abuse, etc) who were black and are fascinated by vampire mythology. Some of them (not all) have fake vampire teeth and contact lenses that they were on certain occasions for fun...kind of like trekies...

The oikos (relatinal primary group) are not all into vampires...but they all have tattoos that are called "tribal." thats why I call them the tribal-vampire group.

I started watching VAN HELSING, and BLADE and some other vampire movies to look for redemptive analogies I can use with them. I also orderd Ann Rice's latest book, "Christ the King" but have not had time to read it yet (I wonder why?)

I have already found one anology: if God had allowed Adam and Eve to stay in the garden after gaining access to the tree of knowledge, and have allowed them access (without redemption)to the tree of life: Adam and Eve might have become something like vampires...immortal without redemption and God's life. The life is in the blood.

John M. said...

Joseph - Are any of them into actually drinking human blood? I saw a CSI show once (I know, I know) about a vampire group (these were middle, upper middle class caucasions) who not only were into the mythology and the dress, but also were into drinking blood. Of course eventually a murder was involved in the show, but most of them didn't kill anyone, just shared one another's blood. I have heard that at least the original CSI is based on actual cases or composites of actual cases. So I wondered if their representation of that subculture was accurate.

I'm having a bit of trouble following the Adam and Eve analogy. But I guess if they understand it, that's all that's necessary.

Brian Emmet said...

I'm going to be away for a few days--heading to NC for our eldest daughter's wedding! Carry on in my absence as best you're able... but a few final parting thoughts before I jet off to that happy occasion:

John M--when I write about "gathered worship, corporate worship", it can certainly happen around a kitchen table. I think where the people of God gather together to worship God, attend to his Word, pray, and participate in the Table (on some kind of regular basis), worship is occurring. I am concerned that some micro-ecclesias are going to struggle to stay on the rails doctrinally, having to do with the separatist tendencies we've already discussed.

Steve, thanks for your wise engagement with us, and my prayers for a good surgery, quick recovery, and a long-term fix!

Joseph and I are in agreement on everything, including the places where we disagree. Seriously, his summary of our sidebars was on the money, except he graciously makes me come across better than I am. I do take his point that, in a way similar to the way in which some of you are reacting to institutional Christianity as currently practiced, I may be reacting against some weirdness from the apostolic/prophetic side of things. OK, I'm over that now!

Patrick, thanks for letting me hang on to my decoder ring, and double-thanks for asking Jose about the vampires..I was scared to!

Sean, "Fiddler" is a great show--few better pictures of surfing the edge of chaos than a "fiddler on the roof"!

Jeremiah, has anyone ever used the word "intense" when referring to you? It's a real good itensity, and I gain much from you, even if no one else has ever noticed this about you (smile-wink). As for pulling together some kind of written document from all this--whom do we think might want to read it?

I continue to like Jose's suggestion of a Miami meeting over the winter, and I might just come all by myself... seriously, I would welcome the opportunity, especially given the fact that I wouldn't recongize most of us if we bumped into one another at the mall. I know the logistics and expenses are daunting, but let's keep hoping/dreaming, and maybe even praying...

OK, when I get back on Sunday, I'll probably be three posts and 358 comments behind the rest of you, but don't slow down on my account!

"I thank our God every time I think of you!"

John M. said...

Joseph - I just realized that you meant that the "vampires" wear black. I originally thought you said they "were" black -- quite a difference. I guess you can say one thing and hear another even in cyber space.

John M. said...

Brain - Anyone who thinks Jeremiah is intense in blogsville, should meet him in person and have him stare into your eyes while he says a couple sentences that "read your mail..." We love you Jeremiah and we need you.

OK Since I'm talking about you, Jeremiah, let me talk to you. I share your desire for unity among brothers and sisters in Christ. But I would say beware when you think you have obtained it with any given group because it will soon disappear and you will be disappointed or crushed or...whatever.

What I think we should strive for and value beyond measure is unity of spirit (produce by unity of the Spirit) and unity of heart. Yes, we have the mind of Christ, but we see through a glass darkly and we run whatever we do see through the filter of our inculteration (ouch I almose used the "C" word), our education, our mental wiring, and our spiritual gifting. This creates great diversity of thinking, opinion and interpretation on just about any topic brought to the table. If we shut off our "reactors" and listen carefully we may, in fact, get a more clear view of the big picture, but we have to bite our tongues a lot and be willing to not have to be "right" all the time.

Let me quickly qualify. We defitely can agree on the major core doctrines, but even on those there will be a rainbow of preceptions and interpretations when it comes to the nuances -- just try throwing out the topic of "the inspiration of scripture" or "the humanity of Christ", and listen to the range of understanding you get among those who "agree". For example I have a friend who is a "totally orthodox" (some would disagree) brother in Christ. He is a mature, sincere follower of Jesus, who believes so strongly in Jesus' total humanity that he believes Jesus had a human sinful nature. Now, technically from historical orthodoxy, he may (depending on your opinion) be a heretic, but he and I are in unity in spite of some pretty intense discussions over the issue. He also has done research on the college level, read some 19th century theologians, and written a 20 some page notated paper for a class to support his views. So, he didn't just casually pull his idea out of the air. I would counter that he didn't read second, thrid and fourth century theologians. But the 19th century ones he read had done that themselves.

My point. It depends on what kind of "unity" you're talking about. Unity of heart and spirit, absolutely. Unity of theology, mental belief, interpretation -- not going to happen -- at least until the "not yet" comes and we "see face to face". So that's my opionion on the matter. Can we still be brothers?!!? :)

josenmiami said...

good points, Brian and John.

Jeremiah...I agree with something you said many posts back, there IS something special we are experiencing in this discussion forum. It is a God-thing...I will look forward to see the good things God has in mind from our fellowship.

since we are talking about U2, let me share the refrain from my favorite U2 song:

One love, One blood, One life, You got to do what you should

One life, With each other Sisters and Brothers

One life, But were not the same, We get to carry each other, Carry each other.

Patrick said...

(Ok, so I was going to try to stay away from this, but Jose brought it up.) That U2 song, "One", is excellent. And when John M. stated that we won't find that unity in "theology, mental belief, interpretation" it reminded me of another U2 song. In "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" Bono states that while he believes certain things, the world is not perfect yet. In a commentary he stated this specifically alluded to unity and hunger/AIDS and justice. (I included the lyrics at the bottom for reference.)

Before I, or this blog, gets lambasted for quoting U2 more than the Bible, or turning a good "spiritual" discussion into a U2 fan promo club, I would dare say that these points that have been brought up are worthy of discussion. far should we go in trying to find it? Denominations...are they healthy to have? ok, here's the last one, and it's a yes or no: Will the Christians unify as one before Jesus comes back? Will His bride be without spot and blemish on this earth?

I believe in the kingdom come
Then all the colors will bleed into one
Bleed into one
Well yes I'm still running

You broke the bonds and you
Loosed the chains
Carried the cross
Of my shame
Of my shame
You know I believed it

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for

josenmiami said...

RIGHT ON! Patrick. That is my "other" favorite song by U2.

I just visited Scot McKnight's blog and he is reviewing the Pope's new book on Jesus:

"What did Jesus mean by the kingdom of God according to Pope Benedict XVI? In my judgment, the whole mission of Jesus is summed up when one clarifies what “kingdom of God” means, and there are many who talk about kingdom but don’t take the time to work through the Gospels to see what Jesus meant by it. Here’s Benedict’s statement:

Notice this: “The question about the Church is not the primary question. The basic question is actually about the relationship between the Kingdom of God and Christ. It is on this that our understanding of the Church will depend” (49).

There are three basic views of kingdom today: the christological view (Jesus is the kingdom himself), the mystical view (the kingdom is in our hearts), and the ecclesiastical one (the kingdom is the society God wills).

He sketches the Liberal view of Harnack (individualism, moral behaviors), the eschatological view of Weiss (imminent and apocalyptic), and the “regno-centric” or secularistic view (justice and peace).

The problem of the last view: God disappears. (And he’s right on this; too often God does disappear.) Kingdom for Jesus is about God — not just peace and justice.

Again, he christologizes: kingdom is found in and through Jesus."

(JOSEPH AGAIN) I'm off to Ohio, I'll try to check in as often as possible.

Jeremiah said...


Yes, I have been told that I am intense. There have been times when I liked that about myself and times when I didn't. now I'm mainly neutral about it and just try to carry it without blowing up other people. One of the Mysteries of Christ I worship HIM around is the fact that He is the All Consuming Fire and at the same time doesn't break a "bruised reed."


First of all I thought Josephs point on what Ephesians says is excellent. The relational aspect comes first "The bonds of peace" As Steve H. has said in other settings (I really am listening to you SH) "I have never seen an organization founded on 'Principles' last, it is only when I've been apart of something based on the relationships" Along with this is the caveat that Jesus Christ (of course) is the central relationship all others are held in the context of. (which is basically, I think, the point Joseph is making regarding what the Pope said). Regarding the question of "Will it happen and if so when?" that depends on how we believe the Father will respond to the Sons request of "...I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" I know that there is considerable unbeilief around this issue. If we can't believe for the unity of the entire Church, lets just believe for unity of our local church. If we can't believe for unity of our local church, lets just focus on our family. If we can't focus on our family, lets just get this blog straight :) (I just made a funny) Whatever the case, lets focus on what we have faith for, and ignore the other areas which may beyond our "pay grade"

In battle it is often most effective to just strike at the enemy where ever he is with whatever you got. (At least Winston used to think so)

Kingdom of GOD

Joseph if what you are saying is that When Jesus said "your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" That He is saying, quite simply, He wants Heaven to come to earth. And since Jesus is preeminent, His wish is then my command Then I agree 1000 percent.

josenmiami said...

actually, that was Pope Benedict XVI. I was quoting Scot McKnight, who was quoting the pope, although I think I agree (sorry, just got off an airplane in Cleveland -- not much sleep).

Have any of you been to my humor blog to see the video of the lion charging the morons who were shooting at it? pretty wild stuff.

Sean said...

Guys, I'm in Nashville - obtained internet access in the hotel.

So now I can try to keep up. The important word here is TRY. Succeeding is something completely different.

I don't know what to say. I think the posts have really fed me. I really don't have anything to give you all except my thanks.

I think my wife and I may have found an apartment to live in Nashville. Lord willing.


josenmiami said...


I'm in Cleveland....

where is everyone else? I am under the impression that Steve and Brian are also traveling.

John M. said...

Joseph - Steve travelled to the hosp. this morning for surgery. I talked to him a while ago. He is in a lot of discomfort, but the Dr. was very pleased with how the (hernia) surgery went. If you all would, pray for his recovery and that he will be ready to go home tomorrow.

Sean - Why don't you share with these guys why you're moving to Nashville? Hope Eliza got a job interview.

Brian - Congratulations on your Daughter's wedding. I hope it's a wonderful weekend.

Jeremiah - Yes I believe that Jesus' prayer will be and is being answered. I just don't know anymore how it will happen or how it will look... I used to... Now I just believe and trust...

Patrick - I like your questions. I have some ideas (are you surprised?) but I'm going to refrain for now. I would like to hear from some others. Thanks for the U2 lyrics. I pulled up "Joshua Tree" today and listened to 'I still haven't found..." about 10 times while I packed up my room at school for the summer.

Robert said...

Observation...the current string involves references to contemporaries in every area mentioned. The Pope, U2, Scott McKnight, reflections upon the ascenscion gifts from a contemporary perspective, office versus function...all worthy of respect. Absent has been any reference to Church fathers from the first six hundred years of the undivided Church, the major councils or those who preceeded the Reformation. Can we adequately address the issue of worship without considering those who have gone before, especially those who were handed their mandate from the foundational apostles? Their not to be interpreted as having the authority of apostolic teaching...but must be worthy of note. In our current processing it seems that we make quantum leaps from the contemporary to a brief visit to the Reformation and then a huge leap to apostolic foundations. We have fifteen hundred years from there to the Reformation and then five hundred years to our present inclinations. Beneath the dialogue, I hear a quest for an understanding of the true nature of worship, what it means to be the community of faith gathered and living the life of faith in the current cultural context. It is all good. If we don't recognize the voices of dead men speaking then it seems that we are presuming that we get it better than they did. We are part of one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church...the communion of the saints of all ages who, if they had computers, would have their own blog we could observe. They did not have that technology, so we can only observe what they left in their records. The last century has witnessed a significant morphing from Fundatmentalism to Neo-Orthodoxy to Evangelicanism to Charistmatic movements to what is now a post-Christian and postmodern understanding of the Church. And that is only one hundred years. What do we do with the other nineteen hundred years. I just got a brain freeze and will go to bed....

Jeremiah said...


since we are all travelling... I'm headed to Lancaster (for Daniel Immels wedding )for about 36 hours and won't have any Internet aggghhhhh!

John, I wasn't aiming that last post at you, I tend to reach beyond my "pay grade" and have to keep reminding myself to reign it in.

Sean, Nashville isn't so far from Cincinnati...

Robert, I don't know, but I wish Steve was here because he could answer you. I agree, but am largely ignorant (although I've got 20 odd books written by those guys).

Ok back to work

Jeremiah said...

Sorry, one more...

John, as I thought about it, I realized maybe my last post came across as much more critical than I intended. You said something a while back on this thread or the last that really impacted me. You commented on having a heart for generational transfer and then for the last 10 years your assignment has been teaching middle school. You have also referenced having had a vision etc. and your ideas or what you saw came up empty. It seems to me you are describing one of the guys out of Hebrews 11. Remember what Sam and Frodo discussed in Mordor on their last leg of the journey. To summarize, they stated that the guys in the adventure never think of it as an adventure, its just dirty hard work with no gaurantee of succes. Biblically speaking, when you've done everything else, just stand. You have done and are doing this. The vision is tested in you and you are coming up with a pass. I respect you a lot and admire your faithfulness and loyalty.

Robert, I know it isn't the 6th century but do Tolkien and Winston count as not being "contemporary"? LOL

josenmiami said...

very good points Robert. I probably have benefitted the most from St. Patrick (5th century) and his prayer. Deb and I prayed his prayer for protection every day for about 9 months while she was going through chemo-therapy. It is very powerful. Don't know if I have it here...if I can find it I will post it.

Here is Origen (around 184-254ad) on worship:

-Origen distinguishes adoration from worship, because sometimes a person adores an idol or a man against his own will, while worshipping means subjection of the whole man - inside and appearance - in the action.

The text goes on to say, "You shall not adore them nor worship them" (Exod. 20:5). It is one thing to worship, another to adore. One can sometimes adore even against his will, as some fawn to kings when they see them given to fondness of this kind. They pretend that they are adoring idols when in their heart they are certain that an idol is nothing. But to worship is to be subjected to these with total desire and zeal. Let the divine word, therefore, restrain both, that you may neither worship with desire nor adore in appearance.

John M. said...

Jeremiah - I didn't feel "aimed at", but was just responding to what you said. Thank you for your last post. It is encouraging and deeply appreciated. Please keep your idealism as long as you can. A generation will come (maybe yours?) that will realize the ideal. And when it happens, we'll all eat the fruit.

Robert - Your points are well taken. The modern/post modern church is suffering from amnesia, and we are all infected with the short memory that the digital age produces -- "anything that is more than five years old can't be as good as what we have now" -- true of most technology, but not true when it comes to ideas.

I may be out for a bit. I have to leave this lap-top with the tech guys at school. It may take me a little time to get linked up on my PC at home.

Patrick said...

This is going to sound like John has an echo:

Jeremiah, I hope this is not beyond our pay grade to discuss. Regarding Jesus' prayer of unity, do you think the Father is looking to answer that prayer for this age, or is that prayer for the age to come? If it is for this age, then could that possibly mean denominations will disappear, or can they remain and still have perfect unity?

Robert, I apologize for our lack of diversity in the quote pool. I am going now to study our brothers from long ago that I may speak for them.

In Mobile, AL, we have a wedding this weekend. Tim Heath (Micah Heath's brother) is marrying a girl from the Covenant network.

josenmiami said...

morning everyone! how were the weddings?

if any of youseguys are interested in church planting, check out my posting from my 2003 paper on faith and reason...

I would appreciate any thoughts or comments. In the covenant movement, we have not done much reproducing.

steve H said...

Hello, brothers.

I got home from the hospital about 6:30 Saturday evening. I had expected to be home Thursday night or Friday morning. Since going in to the surgery there was good reason to hope it could be done laproscopically--in spite of scar tissue/adhesions from 5 previous abdominal surgeries--I had expected it to be no big deal,comparitively speaking to the other surgeries. Ha! Was I ever wrong!

It was done laproscopically but it was not the breeze I had expected. They made 11 incisions in my belly--2 or 3 for working, and the rest to staple in the mesh. They pumped me full of gas to expand the abdominal cavity. While it was expanded they dissected adhesions as well as inserting mesh. I have found that the gas alone is quite painful. Today I've finally started passing gas and some has been absorbed slowly by my body.

This morning my surgeon, who has become my friend, wrote,

"Steve: Dr. Kearney here. Just checking on your progress. Sorry that I missed you yesterday. Please remember that you have small holes but a big operation. Take the time to recover and do not rush. Don't force yourself to eat. Increase your food intake as your appetite returns. Email or call if you have problems. Paul"

God has blessed me with a surgeon who cares enough to take the initiative to write such note on a Sunday morning when his wife is battling with one of the most serious types of brain tumors.

That is cause to worship our Lord!

I don't have the comfort level and energy yet to engage the big discussion except to say "AMEN!" to Robert's questions and concerns about jumping over history the way most of us "evangelicals," or whatever we are, do these days. We need the benefit of "including them in the conversation" as our brothers in the Eastern churces would say.

I will probably not be writing much for a few more days; however, I'll be glad to be worshipping along with you all in the Spirit since we can't come together in one place.

John M. said...

Hey Everyone,
Steve - Glad you're home! It was good to see you yesterday afternoon.

Joseph - I just read your email summary of the worship stream. I think Robert was speaking of the Partristic period of Church History (the first 500 years or so) rather than the Mideival period. Do you want to comment on that Robert?

Regarding Music and Worsip - I am reading through Psalms this month in my daily Bible reading guide. The introductory material mentioned that the majority of the Psalms were written to be sung to the accompniment of instruments. It motivated me to get my guitar and sing to the Lord for awhile. I remembered that when I do that I experience His presence and feel His plearsure. I also remembered Eph 5:19 that says that a result of being filled with the Sprit is that we "speak to one another in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord in our hearts." That's probably why most worship communities sing when they gather.

Jeremiah said...


Thanks BTW for the quotes from Origen, I appreciated the distinction between worship & adoration.

John M & Patrick,

Idealism is funny. I think there are two parts, what you expect and when you expect it. I think most of us who get disillusioned get it over the "when". Something GOD has shown me is that in the City of Living Stones, all of the stones have fractures that go all the way through. It is only HIS Grace and Blood that make any of the stones hold weight. But these fractures make for a slow building process. If we are to construct, by the Grace of GOD, a Bride without spot or blemish, A Shining City of Living Stones, it is going to be slow work. Obviously GOD isn't in a hurry, HE has been at it for 6 odd thousand years now. all of this brings things down to generational transfer which is why, I suppose, the command was "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and..."


Glad you are home from the hospital, it was good seeing your daughter, son-in-law and grandson this weekend.


Thank you for pulling us towards the early fathers. The tree only grows as high as its roots are good for...


What relationship is there between worship and authority?

josenmiami said...

Steve, welcome home. It was nice to see Andrea at the wedding. By-the-way, Steve, I read a passage that would interest you in chapter 3 of Pope Benedict's book on
"Jesus of Nazareth" about the secular meaning of "evangelion" I think you would agree with him.

John, Robert mentioned the 1500 years from Christ to the I just lumped the whole thing under Medieval rather than distinguish between the first 500 years and the following 1000.

Jeremiah, I was hanging out with Josiah and Johnthemusician tonight (Columbus) name came up fondly.

worship and authority? hmmmm. don't know...I am tired. The only that occurs to me is that the Hebrew is to "bow down before" ...the picture is submission. Whatever you bow down to, you give authority to.

Debbie was "fearing" cancer, or bowing down to it, and she surrendered authority to cancer until we realized it and she repented.

Brian Emmet said...

I'm back. The wedding was wonderful, even better than it should have been... but I'm feeling a wee bit bereft today: my eldest daughter is leaving and cleaving to her new husband; my wife and second daughter are on a 3-day drive to Denver; my son and his fiancee are getting ready to launch on July 14, and for the next few days, it's just me and the dog at home. I'm definitely suffering from an embarrassment of riches!

I see y'all have somehow managed to keep the dimly burning wick of conversation going in my absence...! It sounds/"feels" like we may want to leave authority-related discussion for a fresh new direction? Any suggestions? Sean, as the resident brainiac-theologian in our midst, perhaps you have a topic to propose?

Patrick? Jeremiah? Sarah? William? Sherwood? Keith? Travis? Anyone? Anyone?

I'm in the midst of two "way" books--Hirsh's "The Forgottten Ways" and Peterson's "The Jesus Way." I'm just about done with the latter and just starting the former, so it will be a while before I'll be able to save you the trouble of reading either by bringing thhe definitive reviews of both. You might want to read them anyway, before I spoil 'em for you!

John M. said...

Joseph - Thanks for the clarification re Robert's comment. I should have re-read it before I posted. I let memory serve me and it failed! Right on regarding worship and authority. What we worship has authority in our life.

Brian - Congratulations! These transitions leave us feeling nostalgic, but they are good and important milestones. The generational expansion of the Kingdom.

Jeremiah - I liked your comments about idealism and the living stones. I agree with you. If we can keep the set open instead of bounded, then there's plenty of room to fit in the vision God has given us. It's when we think we're going to see it all before we die, that we get disillusioned.

Sean said...

John M. suggested I share wtih everyone why I'm moving to Nashville. Well, I've been accepted into Vanderbilt Divinity School for the fall - to start a Master of Theological Studies and then hopefully onto the PhD. Eliza is currently looking for employment, particularly at Vanderbilt. Please pray for us. We have found a nice townhome in an apartment complex in which to live.

My goal is to do research in some area of theology or biblical studies - maybe having something to do with the Jewish origins of Christianity. Not sure right now.

Vanderbilt is extremely liberal in their program. But it will be fun. I learn better when I'm in an environment like that. Anyways, there it is.

I haven't had too much time to process the current dicussion. But I'll try to find time today or tomorrow...


josenmiami said...

hi Brian,

does the dog like cigars?

I just started reading "Jesus of Nazareth" by Pope Benedict XVI...pretty good so far especially his chapter on the kingdom of God. He says some things that Steve said earlier...

back to the worship + authority question... I was not very clear last night.

In my opinion, worship and "fear" are closely related. We are to "fear" the Lord and him only... Peterson talks about this in 10,000 places (sorry Robert, I have no references from the Medieval or the Patristic period...although undoubtedly there are some).

Whatever we "fear" is what we worship....the Hebrew for worship is to "bow down in reverent awe" ....we submit to what we worship....cede authority.

That is why it is not a good thing to "fear" anything other than God.

Steve: I saw Andrea and her kids at the wedding! It was good to see her. Hope you are recovering ok.

John: np.

Brian, how did you like the Peterson book? "The Jesus Way" you said?

steve H said...

I'm recovering -- more slowly and painfully than I anticipated but still recovering. Thanks be to God.

I still can't be on the computer much. I get jittery and pain sets in -- perhaps God's way of enforcing rest.

The comment on fear / worship / authority reminded me of the emphasis on fatherhood back in the late 70s. It was stated by several that we fallen human beings have a hard time receiving love and authority from the same person. In fact, on guy wrote a book to men calling us up to be "Men of Velvet and of Steel." Our tendency -- mine surely is -- is to be hard when we should be gentle and to gentle when we should be hard.

God is authority and God is love -- there is no discrepency in him. Just as God is absolutely just and absolutely merciful and it doesn't even make him sweat to be both at the same time.

Thus God can be loved and feared and these are not contradictory. However, even after all these years I still sometimes have a difficult time doing both at once.

Brian Emmet said...

Peterson has a very helpful take on the fear of the Lord in "Christ Plays..." He connects fear with attentiveness and responsiveness to the Lord. The Hebrew term does not begin with "fear" and then add 'of the LORD' as a modifier--not fear + of + the + LORD, but fear-of-the-LORD. we fear-the-LORD whhen, in every situation and circumstance, we are attentive and responsive to thte Lord, instead of to all the other things thhat so easily catch our attention and demand our response.

josenmiami said...

yes, I just read that, and took some notes.

I cannot remember the Hebrew for worship, but it means to "bow down" if I remember correctly.

Fear seems to me to be a way of bowing down to something other than God, a kind of reverse faith.

I can see how Fear-of-the-Lord is a necessary part of worship...we bow down to him who is God over all gods, including death and cancer.

Also, we will tend to become like whatever we worship.

John M. said...

Sean - Thanks for sharing with the brothers what you will be engaging.

Everyone - I hope you guys will "get up under Sean" in prayer as he enters the world of academia.

The-fear-of-the-Lord - In 7th grade Bible we describe it as "awe, respect, reverence". I use the analogy of two magnents. There is both attraction and repulsion depending on how they are aligned. If we have the fear of the Lord it is like a magnent in our heart that is attracted to God and repelled by evil. The f-o-t-L will cause us to run toward God and run away from evil.

Jeremiah said...

FOTL is used over and over again in Psalms. I suppose we probably all agree that this is the Bibles "guide to worship". This actually is a point I wanted to make about 40 posts ago but forgot when I was making some other point. And I agree with all of you on what you have said and would only add that I think true worship that brings us into the presence of GOD pulls us into the FOTL. Every time an Angel encountered a human in the Bible the first thing they said was "Fear Not". This is, I think, the biggest problem with contemporary worship in the west. The litmus test for whether or not it is a "good" service, is generally NOT that I fell down in mortal panic and cried out for the mercy of GOD to cover me before the ALL CONSUMING FIRE consumed me. I would love to be in a worship service like that! BOY OH BOY could you imagine if the FIRE OF GOD fell on a place in such intensity that we stood bare in HIS PRESENCE? I mean that is where you really know mercy! When I am so convicted of sin that I know, in the insides of my bones, that I ought to be cast in to hell, but I'm not, and not only am I not, but I'm completely loved and accepted instead, well, that is when mercy means something! and that is where true worship takes us, right into the center of the mystery of GOD. Judgement and Mercy. God's grace and my powerlessness.

Jeremiah said...

...and just so Robert doesn't think I'm completely illiterate and bound to this culture, I think the EF used to say that the All Consuming Fire of God is both a warm light of comfort by which the redeemed found mercy and the harsh fires of hell in which the rebellious were tormented. I'm sorry, I don't have a reference for that, maybe Steve H. or Joseph know, I probably should look it up.

ok, done now and off to bed. Sean we will pray for you, you are definitely headed into a place of testing.

josenmiami said...

EF? Not sure I know who that is.

steve H said...

EF -- probably the eastern fathers but might also refer to the Apostle EF as presented by Robert Duvall.

Brian Emmet said...

Knuckleheads, "EF" refers to the "EARLY Fathers"! Sheesh.

Brian Emmet said...

Seriously, is this thread fraying? Are we ready to strike out in a new direction, or is there still lots to chew on in the current conversation, to mix my metaphors? Any suggestions, proposals, bright ideas?

Patrick said...

I think we should wait to start a new thread until we hit at least 100 comments. Then it's done for sure.

Here's a joke:
A string walked into a bar. When he asked for a drink, the barkeep said, "We don't serve strings here." So he went and sat down, offended and confused. In a couple of minutes, he got back up and walked up to the barkeep and boldly asked for a drink. The bartender looked at him and said, "I'm sorry, we don't serve strings here." He returned to his seat, discouraged and thirsty. As he sat down, he had an idea. He looped himself around a couple of times and tussled his hair. He then walked back up to the bar, looked the bartender in the eye and asked for a drink. The barkeep looked at him closely, then said, "Say, aren't you a string?" Without flinching, the string quickly replied, "Nope, I'm a frayed knot."

Jeremiah said...

Ok here's another joke and the 100th post... and an idea.

The Joke

What do Eskimos get from sitting on the ice too long?


The Idea

What about if you "old guys" shared your biggest mistakes and what you learned form them so that us young guys don't repeat history.

josenmiami said...

hey, since we are telling jokes, have any of you been to my kick-butt humor blog yet?

I just posted one about the Irishman who walks into a bar in Dublin...

and another about how to reduce your blood pressure quickly...


steve H said...

I want to suggest a possible blog topic. What is the “sound” that this generation needs to hear.

Some of you will remember the song we used to sing “I hear a sound coming from the mountain; I hear it clearer each day… I see the King standing on the mountain; I see him clearer each day…”

Back in the late 60s and the 70s, many of us heard a “sound” stimulated by the Holy Spirit. I think some secular “prophets” heard snippets of the “sound” ahead of many Christians; consider, for example, Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” – which by the way is playing as I write.

The sound we heard was indeed the sound of the King and his Kingdom of which most of us had little or no understanding. The sound included related emphases such as the Holy Spirit, the gifts of the Spirit, the Body of Christ, community, covenant, spiritual authority, discipling, equipping, training, fatherhood – the things some of us have sought to live out in the decades since. The things in which some of us failed miserably at times – we were idealistic; we were ignorant; we were carnal. Like Joseph we received the word of the Lord and word tested us (Psa 105.19). But some of us were captured by the sound; sometimes walking, sometimes stumbling, sometimes dragging our feet, occasionally even running we are still wrestling with how to understand, live, and proclaim what we have “seen and heard.”

That “sound” spoke to the deep needs in our generation. With the sound was mixed not only our own carnality but ideas that were not consistent with the sound. An example is that most of us were convinced that the world (at least as we knew it) was about to end.

Even many “unsaved” people shared this conviction as exemplified by Barry McGuires’ “Eve of Destruction.” So when we heard that Jesus was coming back soon; that Israel’s re-establishment as a nation in 1948, meant the Second Coming was about to occur and then the Kingdom would come. The “sound” of the Kingdom for many of us was interpreted as the sound of heaven and immortality.

For some of us, it took a while before we began to see that the “sound” was really to see the kingdom come to earth – to see God’s will done on earth as it is in heaven. But, we are still hearing it and we are still moving toward the Kingdom by the grace of His Grace Jesus the King.

The elements of the “sound” we heard are every bit as vital in this generation! For the last 10 years my ears have been pricked. What is the specific “sound” that God has prepared for the younger generations now? What is the “sound” that we are to proclaim as the King’s emissaries – the “sound” that the Spirit will make though us to awaken and mobilize these younger generations? Is it already being sounded by the Spirit? Are there secular “prophets” of this generation who have caught it ahead of us?

Personally, I am convinced that us old guys have been wrestling with Kingdom realities that are, if possible, more needed “for such a time as this.” How do we get tuned in? How can we be a part of what God is most actively proclaiming and doing in this day? How can we sow in what has been sown in us?

steve H said...

After leaving my last post, the topic suggestion -- I went walking. I was humming, as best I can in this weakened state, Gerrit Gustafson's song "I Hear a Sound." It struck me that I left off the punchline when referring to it previously. The sound we heard was the King saying "Prepare you the way of the Lord."

That's how I our generation's work -- largely that of doing work necessary to prepare the way for the rebuilding (as in Isa 58.12; 61.4; Ezra and Nehemiah)that the Lord wants to do in the younger generations now and who knows how long into the future.

Robert said...

Steve...hearing a sound from heaven was everything in the late sixties...and it did not come from a book or a was God's soveriegn move. The outpouring and ingathering was not man generated. We would go to meetings and it was thick in the atmosphere...palpable.

We could not have defined the "word" we needed to hear, but it came from the throne. I could speculate as to what it might sound like...ancient/future...manifest power in worship...whatever words might be used, it will have to be a visitation...not by might, not by power but by my Spirit says the Lord. Everything else sort of looks like us trying to make something happen by technique.

Try this on from Alexander Schmemann..."in Christianity two religions coexist in many ways opposites of each other. The religion of Christ fulfilled in the Church, and the religion of the Church, or simply religion. In the second, Christ is, so to say, created, defined, seen, heard only inasmuch as He Himself submitted to a "religious feeling," to "churchliness," etc. And people...students for instance...are divided into these categories. Someone who belongs to the second type..."religious, churchly"...can study theology for three years, but his treasure is not in the truth about Christ, but in something else. Such a person is impenetrable." (Journals, p. 172) Sometimes I wonder if focus on technique and style falls within what Schmemann is addressing.

John M. said...

Robert - Are you saying that Steve is asking a technique and style question, which we shouldn't try to discuss, or are you just cautioning that as we discuss it, that we be careful to acknowledge God's soveriegn revelation rather than our own strength and understanding?

Steve - I have been asking the question you are asking for several years. What is the "sound" that resonates with the current generation. It's like having this particular frequency in your heart and when you pick up the same frequency it draws you toward it. I have also wondered if our generation was more monolithic and therefore we think of "a sound". Perhaps with all the diversity in the present emerging generations there will be many sounds instead of just one?

Does any of this strike a "chord" in you younger guys? Or is this just a bunch of old guys rattling around about what is "ancient" history to you.

As Robert was saying, we obviously can't create the sound. It has to be soveriegnly broadcast from the throne. Does anyone hear a sound, or should we interceed that the Lord of the Harvest begins to radiate it to the emerging gnerations? Even the song Steve referred to was itself kind of mystical. If you were hearing the sound, it made sense; if you weren't, it was kind of like, "what...?"

steve H said...

John -- I took Robert's remarks as positive. Looking for better techniques -- whether for worship, for evangelism, or for anything else -- is no real answer.

The issue I'm raising and that I believe Robert was addressing and that Schemmann wrote about in his journals is getting past the "stuff" of churchiness and religiosity to the reality of KNOWING God and experiencing Him in the stuff of daily life. We need to have ears to hear what HE is saying from the throne in these times and hopefully the grace to be included in his sovereign activity. (Hope I didn't misread you to much, Robert. If I did not, please blame it on the fact that I still not free of the effect of the narcotics given for pain.)

At this point I only know to live as faithfully as I can to the sound I have heard, to the content that has been made at least somewhat clear -- but I want my ears open....

In that posture, I'm asking what, if anything, are you guys seeing and hearing that may be the sound now coming from the throne calling forth the younger generations?

William said...

"old guys"-From what I can see and from what I have heard from God, I think one of the "sounds" he is sending out is Unity. Unity in the small communities, but also in the larger communities. There are a few streams that are flowing and they appear to have nothing in common, except GOD, and I think HE is going to bring these together.
Community is also huge. Bill Johnson, pastor in Redding Cali, said:

God is about to bring something fresh and new that requires your absolute love and dependence on the people around you.

I see that increasing in all of God's people around the world, large groups and small groups.

I think these are part of the "sound" you guys heard in the 60's of "Prepare ye the way of the Lord"

The Holy Spirit is the center part, and thus, walking in his giftings and with HIM is the key.

Guys feel free to add on to this. This is just what I see, and the more I think about it, I could probably come back and add some more later...

John M. said...

Awesome William!

What about social justice?

josenmiami said...

hearing a "sound" ... that does not seem like a 'modern' way of thinking or processing--not linear or expositional but more poetic and musical.

I feel that I have "hearing" bits and pieces of a sound in secular music lately, not what you men are talking about above, but perhaps the dewdrops before the outpour. U2 has a couple of songs with bits and pieces of this (one life, one blood, one love...I still have not found what I am looking for).

The other day we were driving to a difficult oncologist appointment and Deb was feeling discouraged. As I reached to turn on the radio, I had the distinct thought that God was going to speak to her through whatever song came on. What came on was "Wherever you go, whatever you do, I will be there, I will be watching you..."

the very next song said, "trust me, you gotta have faith" (don't remember the artist)

And then the next three songs in a row...all secular rock songs came alive with the word of God and spoke intimately and specifically to her(our) situation. They were all songs we had heard before -- they never spoke to us before but they did that morning.

Made me want to say "how does he do that?"

Jesus said if you have "ears to hear, then hear"....

I wonder if there is a critical mass, a tipping point for a generation to suddenly have their ears opened to hear the song that was always there?

May we older men continue to have our ears opened to hear as disciples (Isa 50), and to hear the new sound that God is already singing...

steve H said...

Yes, William, unity is part of it, I think also.

No energy to write about it now, but the 70s I thought we were seeing the beginnings of "unified" body because of ecumenical activity and ecumenical relationships.

My wife and I challenged at first but soon realized we were priviledged to be part of an ecumenical covenant community -- one of a number that had been born in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. I became the first protestant elder (coordinator we called them so as not be divise) in that group at the unelderly age of 30.

I'm seeing clear signs of another move toward unity.

John M. said...

Have we started a new thread? Can someone articulate and frame what we're touching here. I think it is important.

Michael said...

Sometimes I think the sound we begin to hear is born out of our hunger or disatisfaction.

Joseph, I agree with you, that we have to ask the Lord to "dig out our ears" every morning so that we can hear His voice.

The comments I read made we thinkg of what Isaiah wrote,
"behold I do something new, now it will spring forth, will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness and a river in the desert."

The question asked, I think is, can we see the roadway or the river? Will we be aware of it?

It seems kind of crazy but I think at times the sound we begin to hear is born out of time spent in the wilderness or the desert. I am sure all of us could share stories about those experiences.

I did a brief study once of prayer in the book of Acts. One of the things I noticed is that pivitol events (new things, unexpected moves) in the life of the church followed times when prayer was taking place.
What was Peter doing prior to being sent to Cornelius?
What was the church doing in Antioch before Paul & Barnabas were set apart.
The Uppper room?

If it is new, I thinkg it will catch us by suprise, it might even rub us the wrong way. Who knows?

Brian Emmet said...

New post up that attempts to frame a new conversation... see you "over there."

josenmiami said...

one last comment in response to Michael (maybe I will post it in the new thread as well).

We visited Phillip and Josie Petrie last night. I was thinking about the fact that they have recently started attending a CMA church, rather than a "Covenant" church (there are none in Cleveland). I was also thinking about another situation that was slightly disappointing for me. I was grappling with trying to "understand" where God is taking us.

As we turned onto their street, God clearly spoke to me "behold, I am making all things new" ... and then a moment later, he repeated it and said "old things are passing away, I am making all things new"

I was struck by Michael's verse, and it brought that back to me.

Robert said... got my point. Styles and techniques can't be produced which become the end we serve...they serve as an arena of access to what is truly important...Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

josenmiami said...

Hi guys, sorry to post back-to-back. I just went over to Jesuscreed and found that McKnight is reviewing a book by James B. Torrance, Worship, Community & the Triune God of Grace, that deals with the topic of our previous discussion thread, worship, and “What is it?”

Basically, Torrance outlines three models: the Unitarian, the Existentialist, and the Trinitarian models of worship. In his first post from yesterday, McKnight starts out with chapter 1, the Unitarian model. According to McKnight, Torrance points especially to Adolf Harnack and John Hick as primary examples of the Unitarian model.

In his 2nd post on the book today, he examines what Torrance calls the Existentialist model of worship, which is more ‘human experience’ oriented, and cites Bultmann and the early Barth as primary examples of this model of worship.

I suppose that tomorrow he will examine Torrance's views on Trinitarian worship.

David said...

just stumbled over this blog. i will say that as someone who left a covenant church for one of the eastern orthodox churches - i was surprised about how often some orthodox writer or orthodox understanding came up in this thread.

i'll keep reading. thanks