Category Archives: Worship

Songs and God’s Word

Open Bible on Table with Hymn Tune: How Firm a Foundation

This is the second post from my Theological Index of Music for Worship

Below is a list of psalm settings, hymns, and spiritual songs that teach on the doctrine of Scripture: Special Revelation. The songs are arranged under 17 theological statements, including one for which I have not yet found related songs  

If you have additional suggestions for songs related to the doctrine of Scripture that should be included in the index, please comment or send me a message.

Note: The songs are listed below by title and author. For more complete entries (including tunes and hymnal page numbers) see the page for Songs and God’s Word in the Theological Index of Music for Worship online. I will be updating the online Index with more songs and topics in the days ahead as I receive recommendations. 

If you missed the first post, you can read it here: Songs and God’s Creation.

Songs and God’s Word: Special Revelation 

1.  God’s Word is divine revelation, given by inspiration of God—it is God breathed

  • Father of Mercies in Thy Word (Anne Steele)
  • Forever Settled in the Heavens—Psalm 119:89–97 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Holy Bible, Book Divine (John Burton)
  • How Precious Is the Book Divine (John Fawcett) 
  • O Spirit, Now We Thank You (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music 
  • O Word of God Incarnate (William Walsham How)
  • We Have an All-Sufficient Word (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • With Grateful Heart My Thanks I Bring—Psalm 138 (The Psalter, 1912) 

2. God’s Word is our final rule of faith and life—it is our final authority

  • How Firm a Foundation (Rippon’s Selection of Hymns) 
  • Speak, O Lord (Stuart Townend / Keith Getty) 

3. God’s Word is infallible—it is incapable of error or failing

  • O Spirit, Now We Thank You (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music 
  • O Word of God Incarnate (William Walsham How)
  • Standing on the Promises (R. Kelso Carter)

4. God’s Word is inerrant—it is without error or failing

  • Ancient Words (Lynn DeShazo) 
  • Most Perfect Is the Law of God—Psalm 19:7–11 and 119:97 (The Psalter 1912)
  • O Spirit, Now We Thank You (Ken Puls) Ken Puls Music 
  • O Word of God Incarnate (William Walsham How)
  • Speak, O Lord (Stuart Townend / Keith Getty) 
  • We Have an All-Sufficient Word (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music

5. God’s Word is complete—nothing is ever to be added to Scripture

  • How Firm a Foundation (Rippon’s Selection of Hymns) 
  • O Word of God Incarnate (William Walsham How)
  • Sufficient Is the Word of God (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music

6. God’s Word is all-sufficient—it teaches all that is necessary for salvation and life eternal

  • God in the Gospel of His Son (Benjamin Beddome / Thomas Cotterill)
  • Sufficient Is the Word of God (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • We Have an All-Sufficient Word (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • With Grateful Heart My Thanks I Bring—Psalm 138 (The Psalter, 1912)

7. God’s Word is efficacious—it accomplished God’s purposes and does not return void 

  • Forever Settled in the Heavens—Psalm 119:89–97 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Lord, We Come to Hear Your Word (Ken Puls / Drew Hodge) • Ken Puls Music / Desert Springs 
  • Speak, O Lord (Stuart Townend / Keith Getty) 
  • We Have an All-Sufficient Word (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music

8. God’s Word is perspicuous—it is sufficiently clear upon essential matters of faith and practice

  • Most Perfect Is the Law of God—Psalm 19:7–11 and 119:97 (The Psalter 1912)
  • Sufficient Is the Word of God (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • Vast the Riches of God’s Word (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music

9. God’s Word must be illumined by the Spirit of God if we are to rightly understand and apply it

  • Blessed Jesus, at Thy Word (Tobias Clausnitzer / Catherine Winkworth)
  • Break Thou the Bread of Life (Mary Lathbury)
  • Father of Mercies in Thy Word (Anne Steele)
  • Lord, Speak to Me That I May Speak (Francis Havergal)
  • Lord, We Come to Hear Your Word (Ken Puls / Drew Hodge) • Ken Puls Music / Desert Springs 
  • O Spirit, Now We Thank You (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • Teach Me O Lord Thy Way of Truth—Psalm 119:33–40 (The Psalter 1912)
  • The Spirit Breathes upon the Word (William Cowper)
  • Vast the Riches of God’s Word (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • We Have an All-Sufficient Word (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music

10. God’s Word is its own best interpreter—the infallible rule for interpreting Scripture is Scripture itself

11. God’s Word is profitable for doctrine, corrections, reproof, and instruction in righteousness

  • Father of Mercies in Thy Word (Anne Steele)
  • Holy Bible, Book Divine (John Burton)
  • How Precious Is the Book Divine (John Fawcett)
  • O Spirit, Now We Thank You (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • Teach Me O Lord Thy Way of Truth—Psalm 119:33–40 (The Psalter 1912)
  • Twas God that Made the Ocean (George B. Bubier)
  • Two Voices Cry Out to Be Heard (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • We Have an All-Sufficient Word (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • Wonderful Words of Life (Sing Them Over Again to Me) (Philip Bliss)

12. God’s Word is Christ-centered—Scripture (the written Word) points us to Christ (the incarnate Word)

  • Blessed Jesus, at Thy Word (Tobias Clausnitzer / Catherine Winkworth)
  • Break Thou the Bread of Life (Mary Lathbury)
  • Father of Mercies in Thy Word (Anne Steele)
  • Holy Bible, Book Divine (John Burton)
  • Lord, We Come to Hear Your Word (Ken Puls / Drew Hodge) • Ken Puls Music / Desert Springs 
  • O Word of God Incarnate (William Walsham How)
  • Standing on the Promises (R. Kelso Carter)
  • Twas God that Made the Ocean (George B. Bubier)
  • Two Voices Cry Out to Be Heard (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • Vast the Immensity, Mirror of Majesty (Edmund Clowney)
  • Vast the Riches of God’s Word (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • Wonderful Words of Life (Sing Them Over Again to Me) (Philip Bliss)
  • Word of God, Across the Ages (Ferdinand Blanchard)

13. God’s Word is life-giving and powerful, able to defeat the powers of darkness.

  • A Mighty Fortress Is Our God (Martin Luther / Frederick Hedge)
  • Ancient Words (Lynn DeShazo) 
  • Speak, O Lord (Stuart Townend / Keith Getty) 
  • The Heavens Declare Thy Glory, Lord—Psalm 19(Isaac Watts)
  • The Spirit Breathes upon the Word (William Cowper)
  • Twas God that Made the Ocean (George B. Bubier)
  • Two Voices Cry Out to Be Heard (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • We Have an All-Sufficient Word (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • Wonderful Words of Life (Sing Them Over Again to Me) (Philip Bliss)
  • Word of God, Across the Ages (Ferdinand Blanchard)

14. God’s Word is a message for all peoples to be proclaimed in every tongue.

  • Lord, Speak to Me That I May Speak (Francis Havergal)
  • O Word of God Incarnate (William Walsham How)
  • The Heavens Declare Thy Glory, Lord—Psalm 19(Isaac Watts)
  • The Spirit Breathes upon the Word (William Cowper)
  • Wonderful Words of Life (Sing Them Over Again to Me) (Philip Bliss)
  • Word of God, Across the Ages (Ferdinand Blanchard)

15. God’s Word is the Sword of the Spirit, arming us for spiritual battle.

  • Lord, We Come to Hear Your Word (Ken Puls / Drew Hodge) • Ken Puls Music / Desert Springs 
  • O Spirit, Now We Thank You (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • Standing on the Promises (R. Kelso Carter)
  • We Have an All-Sufficient Word (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • Your Word Is Like a Garden Lord (Edwin Hodder)

16. God’s Word is our light and guide for how we are live and walk in this world.

  • Ancient Words (Lynn DeShazo) 
  • Every Promise (Keith Getty / Stuart Townend) 
  • God in the Gospel of His Son (Benjamin Beddome / Thomas Cotterill)
  • Holy Bible, Book Divine (John Burton)
  • How Precious Is the Book Divine (John Fawcett)
  • How Shall the Young Direct Their Ways? —Psalm 119:9–16 (The Psalter 1912)
  • O Spirit, Now We Thank You (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • O Word of God Incarnate (William Walsham How)
  • Sufficient Is the Word of God (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • The Heavens Declare Thy Glory, Lord—Psalm 19(Isaac Watts)
  • The Spirit Breathes upon the Word (William Cowper)
  • Two Voices Cry Out to Be Heard (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • Vast the Riches of God’s Word (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music
  • Word of God, Across the Ages (Ferdinand Blanchard)
  • Your Word Is Like a Garden Lord (Edwin Hodder)

17. God’s Word stands forever—it is eternal.

  • Every Promise (Keith Getty / Stuart Townend) 
  • Father of Mercies in Thy Word (Anne Steele)
  • Forever Settled in the Heavens—Psalm 119:89–97 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • God in the Gospel of His Son (Benjamin Beddome / Thomas Cotterill)
  • Speak, O Lord (Stuart Townend / Keith Getty) 
  • Word of God, Across the Ages (Ferdinand Blanchard)

The next post in the series will be Songs and The Trinity—One God in Three Persons.

For more complete entries (including tunes and hymnal page numbers) see the Theological Index of Music and Worship online:

Entry for “Songs and God’s Word”

TOC forIndex—Theology and Song

Songs and God’s Creation

Open Bible and hymn near an ocean at sunset

This is the first of what I hope to be many posts exploring the connection between music for worship and the study of theology. Below is a list of psalm settings, hymns, and spiritual songs that teach on the doctrine of creation: natural revelation. The songs are arranged under 16 theological statements, including 5 statements for which I have not yet found related songs.  

If you have additional suggestions for songs related to the doctrine of creation that should be included in the index, please comment or send me a message.

Note: The songs are listed below by title and author. For more complete entries (including tunes and hymnal page numbers) see the page for “Songs and God’s Creation” in Theology and Song: A Theological Index of Music for Worship online. I will be updating the online Index with more songs and topics in the days ahead as I receive recommendations. 

Songs and God’s Creation: Natural Revelation 

1. Creation affirms that there is a Creator—God created heaven and earth

  • All Things Bright and Beautiful (Cecil F Alexander)
  • Before Jehovah’s Awful Throne—Psalm 100 (Isaac Watts / John Wesley)
  • God, the Lord, a King Remaineth—Psalm 93 (John Keble)
  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Thomas Obediah Chisholm)
  • Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah—Psalm 146 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Hast Thou Not Known, Hast Thou Not Heard (Isaac Watts)
  • I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Isaac Watts)
  • Let All Things Now Living (Katherine Davis • Welsh melody)
  • The Spacious Firmament on High (Joseph Addison)
  • This Is My Father’s World (Maltbie Babcock)
  • Vast the Immensity, Mirror of Majesty (Edmund Clowney)
  • With Glory Clad, With Strength Arrayed—Psalm 93 (Tate and Brady’s New Version)
  • Wondrous King, All-Glorious (Joachim Neander / William Schaefer)

2. Creation glorifies God—all things exist for His glory and praise

  • All Creatures of Our God and King (St. Francis of Assisi / William H Draper)
  • All Glory to You (Steve and Vikki Cook) • Sovereign Grace Music
  • All People That on Earth Do Dwell—Psalm 100 (William Kethe / Thomas Ken)
  • All that I Am I Owe to Thee—Psalm 134:14–24 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Before Jehovah’s Awful Throne—Psalm 100 (Isaac Watts / John Wesley)
  • Behold Our God (Ryan, Jonathan & Meghan Baird / Stephen Altrogge) • Sovereign Grace Music
  • Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim—Psalm 135 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • For the Beauty of the Earth (Folliott Sandford Pierpoint)
  • From All That Dwell Below the Skies—Psalm 117 (Isaac Watts)
  • God, the Lord, a King Remaineth—Psalm 93 (John Keble)
  • Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah—Psalm 146 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Isaac Watts)
  • Let All Things Now Living (Katherine Davis • Welsh melody)
  • Of the Father’s Love Begotten (Prudentius / J. Neale / H. Baker)
  • Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Joachim Neander / Catherine Winkworth)
  • Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above (Jonann Schütz / Francis Cox)
  • The Spacious Firmament on High (Joseph Addison)
  • This Is My Father’s World (Maltbie Babcock)
  • With Songs and Honors Sounding Loud—Psalm 147 (Isaac Watts)
  • Wondrous King, All-Glorious (Joachim Neander / William Schaefer)

3. Creation testifies of God’s wisdom and design

  • All that I Am I Owe to Thee—Psalm 134:14–24 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Hast Thou Not Known, Hast Thou Not Heard (Isaac Watts)
  • Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Joachim Neander / Catherine Winkworth)
  • Vast the Immensity, Mirror of Majesty (Edmund Clowney)

4. The testimony of creation is insufficient for knowing the way of salvation.

  • Vast the Immensity, Mirror of Majesty (Edmund Clowney)

5. The testimony of creation leaves man inexcusable

  •  

6. God delights in creation—all things were made for His pleasure

  • All Glory to You (Steve and Vikki Cook) • Sovereign Grace Music
  • Vast the Immensity, Mirror of Majesty (Edmund Clowney)

7. God made all of creation and pronounced it good

  • I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Isaac Watts)

8. The world was spoken into existence by God’s Word.

  • I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Isaac Watts)
  • Of the Father’s Love Begotten (Prudentius / J. Neale / H. Baker)
  • Vast the Immensity, Mirror of Majesty (Edmund Clowney)

9. The world was created by God ex nihilio (out of nothing).

  •  

10. The world continues to be upheld and sustained by God

  • All Things Bright and Beautiful (Cecil F Alexander)
  • Exalt the Lord, His Praise Proclaim—Psalm 135 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Forever Settled in the Heavens—Psalm 119:89–97 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Great Is Thy Faithfulness (Thomas Obediah Chisholm)
  • Hallelujah, Praise Jehovah—Psalm 146 (The Psalter, 1912)
  • Hast Thou Not Known, Hast Thou Not Heard (Isaac Watts)
  • I Sing the Mighty Power of God (Isaac Watts)
  • Let All Things Now Living (Katherine Davis • Welsh melody)
  • Sing Praise to God Who Reigns Above (Jonann Schütz / Francis Cox)
  • With Glory Clad, With Strength Arrayed—Psalm 93 (Tate and Brady’s New Version)
  • With Songs and Honors Sounding Loud—Psalm 147 (Isaac Watts)

11. God creates all people—He is the One who gives and sustains all life.

  • All People That on Earth Do Dwell—Psalm 100 (William Kethe / Thomas Ken)
  • Let All Things Now Living (Katherine Davis • Welsh melody)
  • Praise to the Lord, the Almighty (Joachim Neander / Catherine Winkworth)

12. God created man (male and female) out of the dust of the earth 

  • Before Jehovah’s Awful Throne—Psalm 100 (Isaac Watts / John Wesley)

13. Man was breathed into a living being by God.

14. God made man (male and female) in His own image

  •  

15. God gave man dominion over all other living things on the earth.

  •  

16. God created the world in six days and rested on the seventh.

  • Today We Gather in This Place (Ken Puls) • Ken Puls Music

_______________

The next post in the series will be “Songs and God’s Word: Special Revelation.”

For more complete entries (including tunes and hymnal page numbers) see the Theological Index of Music and Worship online:

Entry for “Songs and God’s Creation”

TOC for Index: Theology and Song

Theology and Song

Guitar and Hymnal

Music and theology have always been closely entwined. Theology (in the broadest sense) encompasses what we understand to be true about God, His Word, and the world He has made. Music, as it comes alongside theology, helps the church say and celebrate in song what it believes and affirms to be true. 

God’s people have been writing music for thousands of years. Beginning with the rich wellspring of the psalms, music has served the church to carry the voice of God’s people in praise, prayer, and proclamation. Within the many settings of psalms, and numerous hymns and spiritual songs is an opulent banquet of truth. For those who are willing to search, there are many savory delights to be found.

Unfortunately many churches miss out on this feast of song. Some shy away from doctrinally rich lyrics and prefer instead those that are lighter and more subjective. Some, despite Paul’s paradigm in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, exhorting the church to sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, impose a more narrow interpretation: “only the psalms,” “only the old hymns that have stood the test of time,” or “only what is new, contemporary, and speaks to me today.” Some are content to sing a limited number of favorites. Others select music based on emotional appeal or a catchy melody, rather than theological soundness.

In this new series, Theology and Song, I hope to encourage pastors and musicians to think theologically about music in worship. Each post will focus on a specific theological topic and will feature a portion of my Theological Index of Church Music

I began the Index 26 years ago (in 1993) as a project for one of my PhD seminars when I was at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  The index listed 350 psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, and arranged them according to the theological truths that they highlight. It proved especially valuable in ministry for planning worship and selecting music that would underscore the sermon. You can read more about the Index in an earlier article: “Selecting Music for Worship—Know Theology.”

As I post this series on my blog, I will be updating and expanding the Index so I can make it available on my website as a resource for worship leaders. My list of songs will certainly not be exhaustive. I’ll be asking for your suggestions and adding songs (as well as more topics) to the Index in the days ahead.

Here is list of some of the upcoming topics: [updated]

Songs and God’s Creation (Natural Revelation)
Songs and God’s Word (Special Revelation)
Songs and the Trinity (One God in Three Persons)
Songs and Knowing God (God’s knowability and Incomprehensibility)
Songs and God’s Presence (God’s Immanence and Transcendence)
Songs and God’s Sovereignty
Songs and God’s Decrees
Songs and God’s Will

TOC for Index: Theology and Song

Lord We Come to Hear Your Word

Pulpit and Bible

When we hear or read God’s Word, we should always pray for understanding and wisdom. And when we have opportunity to gather with the church and sit under the preaching and teaching of God’s Word, we should pray for the pastor. Apart from God’s grace, all our efforts to worship and serve Him will be in vain.

Lord We Come to Hear Your Word

A Prayer for God’s Grace in Worship

Lord, we come to hear Your Word.
Shine Your light! Unsheathe Your sword!
Send Your Spirit forth in pow’r.
Come and bless Your church this hour.
We confess, our thoughts have strayed;
Minds distracted and dismayed.
On the Son fix now each thought;
Help us worship as we ought.

Lord, as we prepare to hear,
Wake each soul, unstop each ear.
Conquer every stubborn heart;
Mercy, saving grace impart.
We confess, without Your grace,
Vain our efforts in this place.
Send illumination’s light;
Open eyes and give us sight.

Lord, we lift up to Your care
Him who stands now to declare
Truth that teaches, warns, consoles;
Bless this feast to feed our souls.
For Your Word, O Lord, we yearn;
Empty, let it not return.
Come, accomplish all Your will —
Draw, convict, give life and fill.

For Your Word, O Lord, we yearn;
Empty, let it not return.
Come, accomplish all Your will —
Draw, convict, give life and fill.
Draw, convict, give life and fill.

Words ©1998 Kenneth A Puls

New Music and Arrangement by Drew Hodge ©2012 Desert Springs Church

Listen to this setting of “Lord, We Come to Hear Your Word” recorded at Desert Springs Church in Albuquerque, NM.

 

And download the music from band camp:

 

More Music on Bandcamp by Desert Springs Church

More Music on Bandcamp by Ken Puls

The Posture of Worship (Part 2)

Raised Hands

Last time in our series on worship, we began a study on what the Bible says about posture in worship.

So why is posture important? Why all the verses?

Why, in a day when we are called upon to worship God in Spirit and in truth, should we be concerned about our outward expressions of worship?

In our time together this evening I want to answer these questions.  We will first discuss the importance of posture and then conclude with a right perspective on posture.

I. The importance of posture in worship

1. God made us to be both body and soul.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being (Genesis 2:7).

God created our bodies, as well as our souls. He made us of dust and breathed life in us. He made us to enjoy Him, not only in our souls, but in our bodies as well. He demands our obedience, not only in our hearts, but lived out in our bodies as well.

Paul refers to our bodies as the temple of the Holy Spirit.

Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).

God made our bodies to glorify Him. Paul exhorted the church:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service (Romans 12:1).

He desired that Christ be exalted in his own life lived out to God’s glory.

For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death (Philippians 1:19–20).

We cannot separate body and soul. God has created us and wired us to be complete beings. What we do with the body affects the soul. What goes on in the soul is made manifest and expresses itself in the body.

Corporate worship of necessity involves the body.

  • We speak God’s Word.
  • We voice our prayers.
  • We sing with our lips.
  • We place our gifts and tithes in the offering plate.
  • We eat and drink at the Lord’s Table.

When we worship God, we worship Him in our bodies.

Oh, but some might say, “God is Spirit.” And we are to worship Him in Spirit and in truth. God is concerned with my heart and so what I do with my body is of little or no consequence.

It is true that we are to worship God in Spirit and in truth. But God informs us in His Word that He has given His Sprit to make us alive—in our bodies. His indwelling presence has made our bodies temples of worship. We are living sacrifices, dead to sin but alive unto Christ.

We cannot escape our bodies if we are to participate in the elements of worship. We can get into trouble and become imbalanced we disengage our body and soul. This can happen two ways.

  1. We become so withdrawn or introspective that we no longer value what is happening around us—or concern ourselves with how we are reacting to what is happening around us. We think that we can hold our faith on the inside—in the domain of the heart—without caring that it ever shows on the outside.
  2. We become so extroverted that we content ourselves with just going through the bodily motions and we disengage the heart. We think God will be pleased with our outward show of faith without caring that we really mean it on the inside.

Both of these dangers lead us down the road of hypocrisy. When God truly pierces us with His Word, it affects body and soul!

Truth rightly understood in the heart—on the inside—will compel us to live out truth and rightly apply it—on the outside.

Worship begins in the heart—in the mind (focusing and directing our thoughts), then the will (determining our actions), and our emotions (flooding and spilling out into our feelings). As the truth of God’s Word dawns in our thinking by the illuminating power of the Spirit, we are brought to sorrow and repentance over our sin—we are brought to joy and faith in the salvation and forgiveness of sin found in Christ. And we are spurred into action and obedience as the reality of God’s work on the inside is expressed and lived out on the outside.

We need truth, but we need the Spirit to quicken us and make that truth alive and active in our hearts and in our lives. Truth is not just for the mind—it is for the whole of our being.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

Truth has implications and demands on our hands and feet as well as our minds and intellect.

Known truth must be practiced truth. Doctrine must find its way to devotion.

[This excerpt is from a sermon entitled “The Posture of Worship (Part 2)” in the series Thoughts on Worship. Continue reading the full sermon text here.]

Read also “The Posture of Worship (Part 1)”

See more Sermons and Articles by Ken Puls

The Posture of Worship (Part 1)

Lift up the hands

The Bible has much to say about our posture in worship. This can be seen in two specific points:

I. The meanings of the two words, translated most often in Scripture as “worship” in both the Old and New Testament, refer to posture.

The Hebrew verb shacah in the Old Testament means to become low or to bow down as an act of reverence. It depicts a physical act that symbolizes what we do when we worship—showing reverence to God, acknowledging Him as the Most High, humbling ourselves, making ourselves low—in His presence. The term describes the worship of Israel at the dedication of Solomon’s Temple:

When Solomon had finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices; and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the Lord, because the glory of the Lord had filled the Lord’s house. When all the children of Israel saw how the fire came down, and the glory of the Lord on the temple, they bowed their faces to the ground on the pavement, and worshiped and praised the Lord, saying: “For He is good, for His mercy endures forever” (2 Chronicles 7:1-3).

And in the psalms:

Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
(Psalms 95:6)

In the New Testament proskuneo is the Greek term most often translated “worship.” It has a similar meaning: to bow down, become low or kiss toward.

It is the verb used when the wisemen came to Bethlehem to see Jesus after seeing His star in the East.

And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).

This is the term used in Matthew 4 when Satan tempted Jesus:

And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (Matthew 4:9–10).

It is the verb used after the resurrection when Jesus greets the women near the empty tomb:

And as they went to tell His disciples, behold, Jesus met them, saying, “Rejoice!” So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him (Matthew 28:9).

And before His ascension into heaven when His disciples worshipped Him:

Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, to the mountain which Jesus had appointed for them. When they saw Him, they worshiped Him; but some doubted (Matthew 28:16–17).

It describes the worship of the church on earth. Paul speaks of an unbeliever coming into a worship service and being convinced that God is truly present. He says of the unbeliever:

And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you (1 Corinthians 14:25).

This is a physical expression of worship—not just bowing down to God in the heart, but bowing down with the body.

Proskuneo describes the worship in heaven as well:

The twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne (Revelation 4:10).

It is the word (both noun and verb) used five times in John 4:20–24 where Jesus teaches:

But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

Some have interpreted Jesus’ words here to mean that God is only concerned about our spirit in worship—only interested in what is happening on the inside—the externals are of no importance or consequence.

I submit to you that this is a misinterpretation of these verses. Jesus was not teaching here that the body no longer mattered. He was teaching that our worship must be alive in the power of the Spirit and informed and in submission to the authority of His Word.

Truth must first be received and understood and grasped by the heart, but when truth grips us—when it really matters to us—when it really affects us—it will be borne out—visibly displayed—made apparent and lived out in our bodies.

What does it look like when we worship God? What should it look like? What affect should truth have on our physical expression—on our countenance—if we really get it? When we look into God’s Word, we see that He has much to say concerning our posture and expression in worship. He is concerned not only with what we are communicating directly to Him on the inside in our hearts—but also what we are communicating on the outside to those around us.

God alone is worthy of our worship. He alone is Most High. And we are to express our worship to Him in both body and heart. So how then can we know what is appropriate and fitting as we physically express our devotion to God in worship? Here the Scripture gives us a wealth of information.

[This excerpt is from a sermon entitled “The Posture of Worship (Part 1)” in the series Thoughts on Worship. You can read the full sermon text here.]

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Centering on Jesus in Worship

Look to the Cross

When you think about worship, what comes to mind? What do you look for in a worship service? What do you enjoy most? What makes a service rich and meaningful? When you think about the gathered worship of the church—what do you find most delightful and memorable?

There are many wonderful things about our times of worship: the fellowship we share together, opportunities we have to encourage one another, the singing of psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, the times of corporate prayer and intercession, the biblical preaching and teaching of God’s Word. But as needful and as meaningful as these elements can be, they are not the chief joy and end of our worship. We sing and preach and pray and engage in these elements as a means to another end.

So what is that end?

I want to propose to you—

The end that is our great delight in worship is Jesus Christ Himself!
His Person, His Work, and His glory!

We can have preaching and singing—even good preaching and good singing. We can have praying and fellowship—heart-felt prayers and sweet-caring fellowship, but if we miss Christ, we miss worship. If we lose sight of Christ and His glory, our attempts at worship may sound good and look good and feel good, but they will be empty and vain.

What we need most in worship is to center on Christ— to look for Him, to pursue Him, to see Him, to embrace Him and to commune with Him.

[Continue reading this sermon from John 12:20–26]

Affected by Truth

Shout to the Lord!

Truth has not captured us until it has conquered heart, mind, soul and body.

It is certainly true that truth must lay hold of our minds—that we must grasp the truth and understand it, as God is pleased to give us light. But we should never be satisfied just to see truth take root in our thinking—just to revel in understanding. God intends to conquer every part of us with His truth. And His conquest of our being is borne out in our affections, thoughts, choices and obedience.

Calvin asks the question in his Institutes:

“But how can the mind be aroused to taste the divine goodness without at the same time being wholly kindled to love God in return? For truly, that abundant sweetness which God has stored up for those who fear Him cannot be known without at the same time powerfully moving us. And once anyone has been moved by it, it utterly ravishes him and draws him to itself.”
—Calvin [Institutes 3.2.41]

It is not enough just to acknowledge truth in our minds or even just go through the motions of outward obedience with our bodies—God is concerned with our hearts. We need truth to penetrate us, capturing our will and laying hold of our affections—changing, sanctifying and delighting our whole being.

And so, when we come to worship, we should come expecting God to work in us—to change us, to affect us. We should come praying for understanding—and we should come, as well, praying that God would give us wisdom to make good choices, give us the courage and motivation to obey Him, and give us the passion that will captivate our hearts and keep us fixed upon Him in loving devotion.

[This excerpt is from a sermon entitled “Engaging the Emotions in Worship” in the series Thoughts on Worship. You can read the full sermon text here.]

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The Battleground of the Mind

Bible on Table

It is essential that we give attention to the mind and fortify our thoughts with God’s Word—continually keeping Christ and His gospel foremost in our thinking, so we can recognize evil—to stand against it when needed; to flee from it when needed—and so we can know the truth and embrace it and set the course of our life by it.

It is God’s will that we engage our minds in the spiritual battle and arm ourselves with knowledge and obedience to His Word. There is not one thought that crosses our minds that we can allow to go unchallenged. Paul reminds us:

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled (2 Corinthians 10:4–6).

We must bring the thoughts and imaginations of our mind before the rule of Scripture—setting them under its light and submit them to God’s revealed and holy will.

Why is the mind such a prize for Satan? Why is it such a battlefield for the soul? It is a prize because it is God’s. God has made us to be vessels, to be reflectors. He created us to reflect His glory—to ponder His attributes and perfection and wonder at His holiness and moral excellence. He made it to absorb and delight in truth and righteousness.

Paul tells us in Romans 8:29 that God foreknew and predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son. It is our hope one day to be like Christ. We read in 1 John 3:

Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure (1 John 3:2–3).

It is by God’s design that we are made impressionable. He describes Himself as the Potter and us as the clay. He is the One who has given us the capacity to learn and grasp and know. According to Genesis 1:26 we were made to bear God’s image. Part of being made in the image of God is our ability to know Him and love Him and serve Him with our minds. His has given us a measure of some of His attributes—an ability to understand, to create, to be just, to show mercy, to love, to be truthful and faithful…

We are created to bear His image and to reflect a measure His glory. But sin has marred that image and dulled that reflection. And so instead of displaying His praise, we are twisted out of shape and bent by the evil that is in us and around us. Instead of delighting in truth, we exchange truth for a lie and squander our thoughts in paths that are empty and godless. We must be concerned with the mind, because we need guidance, direction, prodding and shaping to be made into the person God desires us to be.

We are in a battle for the truth. All of us will conform to something—we will be shaped. Satan’s goal is to deceive us and destroy us by marring that shape with evil. The world is attempting to shape us—intimidate us, allure us or shame us into conformity. Our flesh is weak and ready to give in and drift with the flow. But God desires us to stand firm and resist and fight. And to do so we must engage our minds.

[This excerpt is from a sermon entitled “Renewing the Mind in Worship” in the series Thoughts on Worship. You can read the full sermon text here.]

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A Crescendo of Praise

Crescendo Wave

The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice;
let the many coastlands be glad!
(Psalm 97:1)

True worship is centered on God. We see this in Psalm 97 from the very first verse. We are to be glad and rejoice. Our God reigns! Our Lord is Sovereign over all. This knowledge should season every thought and flavor every prayer!

Notice that Psalm 97 begins with praise. The psalmist lifts his voice with confidence and joy starting with the very first verse. Not all the psalms begin this way. Many open with cries of distress or sorrow. The psalmist is afflicted, persecuted, facing suffering or weighed down by trials. In these circumstances, as the psalmist pours out his heart before God, you will find petitions, prayers and laments. But as you read the psalms, you will also discover that the focus doesn’t remain on the problems and difficulties and trials. Over and over throughout the psalms, the concern of the psalmist turns from his petitions and laments to God’s glory and praise.

Look, for example at Psalm 13. David begins the psalm in desperation:

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul
and have sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God;
light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”
lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
(Psalms 13:1-4)

But then David turns his thoughts to God’s love and there is a noticeable shift:

But I have trusted in your steadfast love;
my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD,
because he has dealt bountifully with me.
(Psalms 13:5-6)

Do you see the change in David’s focus as the psalm begins compared to how the psalm ends? As he meditates and remembers the God to whom he is praying, his heart is turned from sorrow to praise!

In fact, if you read through the entire book of Psalms, you will see a noticeable shift in its content. Early in the Psalter you find many petitions and laments, but as you grow closer to the end of the book, the petitions and laments grow fewer and fewer until from Psalm 145 to the end there is pure praise. The Psalms culminate in a crescendo of praise that builds to the last verse (Psalm 150:6) and resounds in the final command: “let everything that has breath praise the Lord!”

The Book of Psalms begins with a blessing. Psalm 1 tells us that we are blessed when we turn away from sin and evil, and we delight in the Law of God and meditate upon His Word day and night. Those who know God—know His name, His character, His promises, His salvation—those who delight in Him will be:

… like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
(Psalms 1:3)

The remainder of the Book of Psalms is a glorious testimony that this promise is true. In every distress and storm where the psalmist feared that he would wither or fall, when the psalmist looked to God and trusted in God and clung to God’s revelation of His character and promises and will, when he was confident that God would accomplish His purposes, then his focus turned from petition and lament to praise and rejoicing.

This is why Psalms is called in Hebrew a Book of Praises (Sepher Tehillium).

This has great implications for our worship today. If our desire is to have worship that honors God and enriches, encourages, and nourishes our souls, our greatest need to stop focusing on ourselves and remember God.

Think of this when we gather together for worship on the Lord’s Day. Think of this when we come together for prayer on Wednesday nights. As you voice your concerns and share your heart, honestly confess your difficulties and struggles, tell God your sorrows and troubles, but don’t stay there! Look to God! Our God reigns! Let your words dwell upon Him!

[This excerpt is from a sermon on Psalm 97 entitled “The God We Worship.” You can read the full sermon text here.]

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