Category Archives: Miscellaneous

The Purpose in Our Worship

About a year and a half ago, I heard about this approach to worship that revolutionized how our church did worship.  Since that moment, I have not found our service to ever be “in a rut.”  I can’t speak for everyone in our service, but I find a much greater focus since switching to this very simple and practical change.  Some of you may know this method, but it was brand new to me.  I don’t know what others call it, but I call it “The Isaiah 6 Method.”

Here is a quick idea of what this is:

First we see a praise or an awe of God.  “I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple,” (v. 1, ESV).  I try to quickly get through the welcome and announcements, and from that moment we are entering into worship and we seek to begin with the awe-inspiring song of God.  We sing to Him in order to praise Him.  Our first song is typically vertical in nature.  Singing to God rather than about God.

As we go we see that there is a calling to worship and an invoking of God’s blessing.  “Above him stood the seraphim.  Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew,” (v. 2, ESV).  These Seraphim—special angels of heaven—are standing at the ready in service.  They are always prepared to worship and serve, “And one called to another and said: Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory,” (v. 3, ESV)! Notice now that they are not singing or even speaking to God, but rather to each other.  They are calling each other to worship, reminding each other of who God is and what His attributes are.

In our calls to worship we generally read Scriptures that remind us of God’s majesty, beauty, strength, healing, and such.  We need to be reminded of the kind of God we worship.  And then we pray to this God asking that He bless our fellowship with each other and worship and fellowship of Him.  Then we sing a song about Him.

As a result of seeing the awe-inspiring God, and being reminded of who that God is there was a noticeable change in the atmosphere: “And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke,” (v. 4, ESV). Isaiah wept over His sin.  He made confession for Himself and His people.  “And I said, ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts,” (v. 5, ESV)!  And so next in our service is our time of confession.  We pray both as a local body of believers aloud and for our individual sins silently.  But God did not leave Isaiah to be broken hearted over his sin.  No!  What we see is, “Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar.  And he touched my mouth and said, ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for,” (vv. 6-7, ESV).  Hence every time we do our prayer of confession corporately and privately, we end it with a Scripture reminding us of the forgiveness that God has for us in Christ Jesus if we believe. And then we follow it up with a song of assurance.

We have our offering next, which is technically not in Isaiah 6, but the overall understanding of what an offering is part of is there. By giving we commit our money to God.  And so, during the offering we tend to sing a song of commitment.  We give ourselves to Him, all that we are.  Our money, our time, our talent, everything.  This idea is directly from Isaiah 6: “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’  Then I said, ‘Here I am! Send me,” (v. 8, ESV).  Commitment to God’s mission.

God then instructs Isaiah to preach.  “And he said, ‘Go and say to this people…” (v. 9, ESV). To be fair, the message that God gave to Isaiah to give to the people was not warm and fuzzy.  It was condemning.  But the idea of proclaiming God’s word to the people is in the text, and so next we have our sermon where God’s Word is proclaimed without shame.  Part of that sermon is the pastoral prayer.  Where the pastor prays for his own.  While this is not part of Isaiah 6, we see that in John 17 the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ prayed for His own, and we follow suit.

Finally, we end the service with a song of response.  This is not in Isaiah 6, but the idea is to give people a time to think over the sermon and respond.  I’m not big on altar calls, but I do think people need some time to consider that to which they’ve been called.

Obviously, there are other methods, but this one keeps the mind focused on each moment of our worship as we go straight through Isaiah 6:1-9.  In one sense, the music can be “plugged in” if we aren’t careful.  We just need to find a song to God, about God, assuring of salvation, and a commitment song.  That would be easy enough to do.  But that could be said about any method or order.  It all depends on the heart of those preparing to facilitate the worship of Almighty God.

Paul’s Perspective on Suffering

If anyone has suffered for his faith and faithfulness, it was Paul.  Who can forget the list that he gave to the Corinthians?  “Five times I received at the hands of the Jews forty lashes less one.  Three times I was beaten with rods.  Once I was stoned.  Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger of rivers, danger form robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure,” (2 Corinthians 11:24-27, ESV).  Most of us will never experience these moments in ministry (and those are just the ones we know of for sure as legend tells us how he died at the hands of Nero).

In one of the letters he wrote from prison, Paul made it clear that he was thankful to God for what he was doing in the Colossians lives.  Paul thanks God for the eternal things in life, not the temporal: “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel.” (Colossians 1:5, ESV).  How is it that man who has gone through what we read in 2 Corinthians, and a man who is currently in prison for his faith, able to stay so thankful and positive?  It is simply due to his perspective.  Perspective comes from Latin (per = through, spectrum = glass, lens, view).  Thus, Paul simply looked through a different lens than we so often do.

For most of us, we tend to look through the lens of the temporary.  Usually suffering comes from a lack of temporal objects, whether animate or inanimate.  Paul looked through the lens of eternity.  While the temporal things were wonderful tools to be used, they were no more dear to him than a broken set of pliers or a bucket with a hole at the bottom.  Paul could rejoice in his suffering because his suffering was temporary just as all other earthly tools. Yes, suffering was a tool. Paul rejoiced in his suffering because it was useful as a tool for the sake of the body—the church.  “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is the church, (Colossians 1:24, ESV; italics mine).

Our suffering is the tool for the body.  As part of the body, it may be used toward our growth and good, as is made abundantly clear in other parts of Scripture (cf. James 1:2-4, 1 Peter 1:6-7).  But it also has to do with those in your local body or those in the local church down the street or across the globe.  When our focus of suffering turns away from us, when our perspective (the lens we look through) turns away from us and toward others (God, Christ, the church, the lost, etc.) then we not only endure the suffering, but we can actually rejoice in the midst of it.

If you take a look at Colossians, you will find that Paul explains his outlook on life throughout the whole letter.  Its zenith comes in chapter 3 when he wrote, “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory,” (vv. 1-4, ESV).

Christian: look to Christ.  See Him.  Don’t lose focus on who He is and what His mission is.  Christians don’t get to go rogue.  Keep your eye, your perspective Christ-centered.

Christian: set your mind on heavenly things.  Everything else is transient.  It is here today and gone tomorrow.  All of life is a vapor.  In The Sound of Music, there is a cloud about solving a problem like Maria.  The question is asked in the song: “How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?”  That’s what so many of us try to do. We seek to try and hold on to clouds as if they could ever be held in the first place.  It’s all a vapor, a cloud.  Set the mind to that which is eternal: God’s Kingdom (souls, disciples, the Word, etc.).

Christian: Christ is your life.  The home, car, spouse, 2.5 kids: that’s not your life.  That’s the American dream.  We were not called to the American dream; we were called to Christ.  It is fine if we have those things, but we cannot confuse those things for that which we actually live.  Christ is our life.  We live for him.  As Paul wrote to the Galatians, “I have been crucified with Christ.  It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me,” (2:20, ESV).  Paul’s life was about Jesus.  He lived with Him in view, and so the suffering was but a tool that Jesus—the one who loved and gave himself for Paul (and us)—chose to use.

May God open our eyes to see suffering from the same perspective.