Thoughts on Worship

December 4, 2008

Thoughts on Essentials Red Project

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s University, Essentials Red Fall ‘08 Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt.

 

During the first week of the Essentials Red course, as we studied the Language of Time and Space, while reading the discussion posts of the other class members, I realized that each individual has had their life shaped in Christ through significant times, places, and events.  I was reminded of the second verse of the hymn, Come Thou Fount, where it says, “Here I place mine Ebenezer,” which are moments of remembrance where you realize God moving in your life.  As I read scripture, I am struck how God moves at just the right time.  He moved in the lives of the Israelites at the right time, Jesus’ birth was at the right time, His death and resurrection timed perfectly and His second coming will be in the fullness of time, all according to God’s plan and purpose.

Although I’m not a songwriter, I wrote the song, “In the Fullness of Time,” not as a congregational song, but as one to be used for special music, or to be sung during an altar call for salvation.  It tells of God bringing His salvation in the fullness of time and is roughly based on Ephesians 1:1-10.

Chord Chart In The Fullness of Time

In The Fullness of Time mp3


 

The project also includes a daily Bible study for the Advent season.  This came about during the one hour early morning prayer time the pastors host each Sunday morning at our church.  I like reading “succulent chunks” of scripture during this time and chose to read the final chapters of Isaiah a week ago.  As I was reading, I realized how these chapters seem to reveal God’s promises when Jesus comes again. Our celebration of Advent this year is tending to focus on expectantly anticipating (is that too redundant) His second coming. Therefore, I divided the passages from chapters 59 through 66 into fairly equal-length daily readings for the 2008 Advent season; allowing for divisions in seemingly logical places.  The person doing the study is asked to write down main themes they find as they read, what they believe the Holy Spirit is revealing to them as they read and a prayer for the day.  At the conclusion of the study, they are to write what the Advent season has meant for them this year.  

Advent Bible Study pdf

November 28, 2008

Thoughts on Advent

Filed under: Uncategorized — fredblom @ 5:51 pm

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s University, Essentials Red Fall ‘08 Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt.

I have been a member of one church for 20 years.  In all that time, I have heard the word “Advent” uttered once in the church service.  I mentioned it last year.  This year we are about to do something that has not been done in the Sunday service since I have been a part of this congregation.  

Each Sunday we open with a call to worship or a familiar hymn followed by a devotional given by one of the elders, or myself (worship pastor), or the associate pastor, or the head pastor.  For the four Sundays of Advent, I will give the devotional with scripture to help us as a congregation prepare for the Christmas season. The pastor will then base his sermons on the same scriptures looking at people from the Christmas story and how they anticipated the coming Messiah.  The children’s Sunday school program will also be about how the church has historically celebrated Advent.

In preparing for this time, I was challenged by the thought of Advent being the beginning of the church year.  How often do we begin new things, adding them to our already busy lives, without ever laying something down; allowing something to come to an end?  “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!” I am personally challenged in this and will offer several moments during each devotional, where time of quiet reflection is given for us to ask God what should come to an ending so He can begin something anew.   I believe the new year will be a most exciting year for the church.

We are bombarded with holiday frenzy; hoping that this holiday will “save the economy.”  And then we hear news of a Wal-Mart employee being trampled to death in this feeding frenzy. Has this celebration of Immanuel (God with us) been diminished to nothing more than an economic celebration?  I feel part of my responsibility as a leader in our congregation is to help refocus our attention on the One we celebrate. And even if this 50 year old, Pentecostal rooted congregation has not formally used the period of Advent to prepare in the past, I think we need it now more than ever.  Imagine how Mary’s life changed.  Imagine how Joseph’s life changed.  How does my life change because He came?  PREPARE YE THE WAY during Advent.

November 21, 2008

Thoughts on Sign-Acts of Worship

Filed under: ICEWS eb 2008,Liturgy,Sacraments,Traditions,Worship — fredblom @ 2:54 pm

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s University, Essentials Red Fall ’08 Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt.

In most Christian worship services, the spoken word (reading of scripture, public prayer, liturgical responses, the sermon, singing) is the primary expression of our faith.  But humans seem to have a need to express their beliefs in ways other than the spoken word; specifically, through actions (sign-acts).

Historically, the church has been a center of creative arts which express the story of the Christian faith.  Examples of architecture, painting, sculpture, music, and other art forms are found throughout church history.  Craftsmen and artisans have used their talents to glorify God in beautiful, and often awe-inspiring ways to tell the story of religion.

How do us “mere mortals,” who have little in the way of artistic abilities, get to express our worship in ways other than words or art?  How can we portray our beliefs, our telling of the story?  The church has developed traditions, which over time, help us to remember what God has done for us, and when we partake in these traditions, a spiritual communication seems to take place between the individual and God and among the community of believers who share in the traditions.

What does the tradition, or as some feel the sacrament, of sharing in the Lord’s Supper mean?  It is not my intent to define the many doctrinal positions on communion (Eucharist).  As a Christ-follower, what does it mean to you?  In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34, the apostle Paul tells us to examine ourselves, so I find the action of communion to be one of repentance remembering that  Jesus gave up His life, His flesh and blood, for the forgiveness of sin.  He died with my sin poured out on Him.

The Bible tells us to give honor to whom honor is due.  For me, partaking in communion demonstrates my honor for Him.  And, I also enjoy pledging myself anew to Him.  I remember the Hebrew betrothal banquet when the bridegroom places a cup of wine for the “bride to be.”  He then waits to see if she will accept his offer of marriage by picking up the cup and drinking from it.  When I take the cup, even without speaking a single word, I am saying to Jesus, “Yes, I am yours.”

Taking part in traditions, in ceremony, in celebrations, in sacraments allows us as believers to give action to what is in our hearts.  If the individual’s heart is not engaged in the tradition, the motions are meaningless and it would be better to not take part. We are approaching the season of new beginnings in the church as we prepare for and celebrate the incarnation at Christmas.  It is a season where we can be lost in and overwhelmed by the traditions, or we can engage with them.  When engaged in them, we may find a new spiritual beginning, a new spiritual communication with God and with the community with which we share the traditions.

November 14, 2008

Thoughts on Public Prayer

Filed under: ICEWS eb 2008,Liturgy,Prayer,Responsive reading,Worship songs — fredblom @ 3:54 pm

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s University, Essentials Red Fall ’08 Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt.

This week’s discussion question evoked great response on how public prayer and reading of scripture in a worship service give language to our worship.  The prayers found in books of worship used in many churches give rich, Biblical vocabulary and focus to the worship.  Using these prayers helps eliminate the opportunity for individuals to preach their little mini-sermon under the guise of prayer.  These prayers are focused usually on a single theme or idea, and their reading keeps all on the same thought in the worship. But, from personal experience, they can lose their meaning when used week after week after week in the same manner.

It is my thought that it must be a very difficult task for a church’s leadership to keep the use of these prayers fresh and meaningful to the people.  An example I will offer is our way of creating a public prayer meeting around the Lord’s Prayer.

Four times a year, usually on a Friday night, we have a worship/prayer gathering. Our worship singing offers one or two songs for each of the themes of the Lord’s Prayer (Luke 11:2-4) followed by individuals to come to the mic to pray on that specific theme.  Our elders facilitate the prayer time with the pastor closing the meeting.  These are the themes we pray within:

“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name”  

“Your kingdom come”  (Here we pray for our community and community leaders and for the church of our community and for governmental leaders)

“Give us each day our daily bread” (Provision for the advancement of His kingdom and small group prayer for individual’s needs)

“Forgive us our sins…” (A time of personal and corporate repentance)

“And lead us not into temptation” (Strengthening of us as a church body, asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us)

Celebratory worship singing, declaring again who God is, and celebrating what He has done, what He is doing, and what He will do.

The pastor then brings us all together with a prayer for unity.

November 7, 2008

Thoughts on Time and Space

Filed under: Biblical worldview — fredblom @ 11:39 am
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For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship StudiesSt. Stephen’s University, Essentials Red Fall ’08 Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt.

Reading through the class responses to the Week 1 Essentials Red discussion question, I noticed how many classmates grew up in the church.  As we all recounted times and places that we have realized how God has shaped us as worshippers, I began to think about those individuals who Christians would call “unsaved.”  What are their times and spaces where God shapes them?

I believe we, as Christ-followers, are critical to their times and spaces.  The apostle Paul reveals that to us in 2 Corinthians 5:11-21 that God has given us the ministry of reconciliation and that we are Christ’s ambassadors through whom he makes his appeal to the world.  We remember that many times and spaces in our lives shape our life as a Christian.  Let’s not forget that as we become part of others’ time and spaces.

August 6, 2008

Thought About Responsive Reading As Worship

Filed under: ICEWS eb 2008,Liturgy,Responsive reading,Theology of worship — fredblom @ 7:17 pm

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt.

Declaration of Worship

For the final Essentials Blue’08 course project, I developed a responsive Declaration of Worship to be read between the worship leader and the congregation. It declares that we worship God, the Creator, the Sovereign Lord, the Triune God, and Savior based upon our study of the ways God reveals Himself in Scripture as One who creates, rules, fellowships, and saves.

If I were to poll our congregation, asking, “What is worship?,” the majority of the people would respond to the time we spend in a service singing songs. This despite monthly newsletter items which I have written over the last six years and two to three sermons I give each year trying to teach that a lifestyle as described in Romans 12:1-2 is our spiritual worship. It is my intent to introduce this declaration as we transition from singing our worship to the sermon on a Sunday morning in hopes to intentionally bring a new expression of worship to the congregation.

Many responsive readings in liturgical settings have the congregation responding with a simple phrase while the leader articulates the substance of the reading. In my own experience, the congregation tends to blindly respond this way without ever having attended to or perceived the substance of that which has been read. In this declaration, the worship leader introduces the thought with the congregation articulating the substance. The responses are based upon Scripture, even quoting Scripture in many places.

This declaration, “We Worship The Lord!” is linked here in PDF format and as a PowerPoint slideshow. Please feel free to use it if applicable to your situation.

We Worship the Lord! PDF declaration_worship1

We Worship The Lord! Powerpoint slideshow we_worship1


July 30, 2008

Thoughts On A Worship Manual

Filed under: ICEWS eb 2008,Theology of worship,Worship songs — fredblom @ 12:50 pm

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt.

One of my favorite Psalms is Psalm 96. During the week as I was preparing for Week 5’s assignment, I was drawn back to it along with Revelation 4 and 5. To me, its seems as if these 3 chapters in the Bible, not exclusively, but generally, provide us with a manual for leading worship

Psalm 96 encourages God’s people to sing; sing a new song unto Him and declare His greatness and His marvelous deeds and proclaim His Salvation daily. What an encouragement from God’s Word to musically tell the Story of His plan to redeem and reconcile a fallen world!

God’s people are also encouraged to ascribe to Him all glory and praise because He is worthy; to worship Him because He is holy and to tremble before Him. He even robes us in the splendor of holiness as we worship

Because He rules with justice as Sovereign Lord, we can join all of creation in praising Him in gladness and joy. Our worship speaks to the culture around us [nations] “The Lord reigns!” His judgment is just and all of creation sings for joy.

Revelation 4 and 5 gives a picture or model, if you will, of worship around the Heavenly Throne of God. The four living creatures cry out day and night, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” They are worshipping Him for what He has done, what He is doing and what He will do. We also can do that in our worship services to remind ourselves of His worthiness. The praises are gathered up by the twenty-four elders as they declare, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

In Revelation 5, the ones before the Throne (the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders) bring their music [harps] and their intercession [bowls] before God and fall before Him singing praises to Jesus, the Lamb who was worthy, the Lamb who was slain for the forgiveness of sins. He has been resurrected from death to heaven to rule and reign forever.

The heavenly worship is truly one of celebration and victory, and all creation sings in gladness and joy to the Everlasting King.

July 25, 2008

Thoughts on My Theology

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt.

Defining, fleshing out and writing my theology this week proved to be challenging. Frankly, it is not something I am asked to do in my daily life. My personality is to simply live what I believe rather than to formalize it in writing. I do see a great advantage to formalize it now that the assignment has been completed.

I am not a quick processor of information. I find that I must write, rewrite, verbalize, and edit my writing to fully bring my thoughts forward to my own understanding. Often, as I verbalize, new clarity comes and needs to be expressed.

Be that as it may, I consider this description to be a work “in progress”. Even now as I re-read it and reflect on everyone else’s writings, I find thoughts that I want to add. I will, however, leave it as is and will revisit it in the future because I have found it an extremely valuable exercise.

For me, to express my ideas in light of Scripture rather than in the vocabulary from the readings and videos is more valuable. Yet I, as an educator, understand that the use of such vocabulary provides evidence of concept development and understanding and completion of course assignments. Therefore, I have tried to use some of that vocabulary. But, after completing the assigned readings and videos, I actually spent more time searching the Scriptures this week, and that can’t be a bad thing.

As our church elders and deacons met last night, I listened to one of the elders share how, in his vocation, he is realizing that more and more people in our small, rural, historically churched community have no grid for the Bible, no knowledge of the Gospel, no knowledge of Jesus. We are realizing the culture of our community has quickly changed in the last 10 years and how important it is to engage the culture, as Dan Wilt shares in the “What is Worship?” DVD, Chapter 13. As a church, we are purposefully moving out into the community to build relationships with people in order to minister the Gospel to them in real, tangible ways. Our vision as a church is developing beyond our four walls.

I began to reflect on how important this assignment was for me to concrete-ize my theology in my own mind. And I now realize how important it is for us, as Christians, to bring God’s story of hope, redemption and reconciliation to our communities in our everyday, walking around lives.

My understanding of the Kingdom of God as here, now, and in the days to come has been enlarged because of this course. It has brought new purpose to my vocation as worship pastor at a time when I was in serious doubt about what I was doing.

I am a story teller of the greatest Story there is. I creatively bring the Gospel to those who are here in church each week, but also to the community who watches our services each week on local access cable TV. I bring about an environment where people can encounter the Living God. What an awesome vocation God has given me!

Here then, is my first attempt to define my theology.

Note: All Scripture references are New King James Version, © 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc,

God the Lord, is One; Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Out of nothing He created the heavens and the earth, the visible and invisible. He created human beings in His own image, male and female, and breathed His life into them. The Triune God, Creator, is the Sovereign Lord. He is before all things and in Him all things consist. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20) The Creator rules His creation. Human beings bear His image. We are sub-creators and He has chosen us to partner with Him in relationship as vice-regents, as ambassadors, as stewards of His Kingdom.

Through the disobedience of one human, the relationship between God and human beings was severed. We became alienated from the Triune God and became His enemies. “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:4-5) He made a way of rescue through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, reconciling “in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight” (Colossians 1:22). “That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9)

God created one sacred world, though now fallen as the result of the fall of mankind. Jesus’ birth ushered in His Kingdom. His own words from Mark 1:15 say, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” We, as believers, are citizens not of the world, but of His kingdom (John 17:14-16). The kingdom of God is within us (Luke 17:21). We are given the active mission to declare the Good News; that He is restoring all to Himself; that the rightful Lord is Jesus Christ; that He makes all things new.

As His Church, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4) We must not isolate ourselves from the culture since we are in the world. We are to bring His justice, His love, His truth, His word, His beauty, His desire for relationship, His hope and promise of rescue to that which has fallen; our families, neighbors, and communities. He has placed each church strategically in a community, as “His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

…that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 2:10; 3:10). And we will rule and reign with Christ and then the first heaven and first earth will pass away and all things will be made new in the new heaven and new earth. And God will dwell with us there. (Revelation 20, 21)

July 16, 2008

Thoughts on Unity

Filed under: ICEWS eb 2008,Theology of worship,Unity — fredblom @ 9:27 am

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt.

Psalm 133 (NIV)

1 How good and pleasant it is
when brothers live together in unity!

2 It is like precious oil poured on the head,
running down on the beard,
running down on Aaron’s beard,
down upon the collar of his robes.

3 It is as if the dew of Hermon
were falling on Mount Zion.
For there the LORD bestows his blessing,
even life forevermore.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer stated that our community of believers begins and consists “solely in what Christ has done to both of us.” As we come together to worship, we offer our praise, our thanksgiving, and our lives to the Almighty One. We remind each other through the reading of Scripture, through prayer, through singing and other creative expressions what God has done for us through the death and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. The imagery in verse 2 and 3 of Psalm 133 is rich with ideas.

The priestly anointing oil was made of fragrant oils and spices (Exodus 30:23-25). It was used to anoint the tabernacle and everything in it and the ark of the Covenant. It was poured on the head of Aaron, the priest in order for him to minister to the Lord. When we as believers live in unity, it allows us to minister to the Lord. It is fragrant for all to perceive; believers and non-believers. It covers us from the head downward. It doesn’t stay in one place. Unity will flow from the leaders in a church to its members. This blessing flows from God to his saints; from one saint to another; and from the saint to others with whom they have realtionship.

Mount Hermon is north of the Sea of Galilee. It rises to almost 10,000 ft above sea level and is covered with snow most of the year. Each day the sun’s rays melt some of the snow in the heights of that mountain and fill the air with mositure. In the evening, this moisture covers the ground in the lower elevations as heavy dew. This dew of Mount Hermon is heavier than anywhere else in this part of the world.

In 1867, one writer wrote these words about the dew of Hermon. “It penetrated everywhere, and saturated everything. The floor of our tent was soaked, our bed was covered with it, …dewdrops hung about everywhere. No wonder that the foot of Hermon is clad with orchard and gardens of such marvelous fertility in this land of droughts.” In the natural, the dews of Hermon cause a fertile land of fruit and flowers. God tells us our living in unity causes a spiritually fertile, fruitful land.

July 8, 2008

Thoughts on the Liturgical Calendar

Filed under: ICEWS eb 2008,Liturgy,Theology of worship — fredblom @ 7:36 am

For: The Institute Of Contemporary And Emerging Worship Studies, St. Stephen’s University, Essentials Blue Online Worship Theology Course with Dan Wilt.

Growing up in a large liturgical church, in a large city, in a family serving as faithful church members taught me many things. Serving the local body was evident in my parents’ actions as they were involved on committees, the church council, women’s and men’s serving groups, and my mother as church secretary. My siblings and I were in Sunday school every week, sang in the children’s choir and attended confirmation classes to their completion. Yet, I never recall being taught what the liturgical calendar was about. Not that I wasn’t taught about it, I just don’t recall being taught.

Advent meant Christmas was only 4 Sundays away. Lent meant mid-week services, which we never had other times of the year, and plays about characters from the Bible or movies about Jesus, which were pretty cool for a youngster who was more visual in his learning style than auditory. The colors of church decorations and the pastor’s robe decorations changed occasionally, but I did not know what they meant or why they were used. Each Sunday, we heard Scriptures from the Old Testament and New Testament, but I had no clue why those Scriptures were chosen, nor who made the decision to use them on that Sunday.

I have been a member of the congregation, for which I now serve as worship pastor, for 20 years. In my time here, I cannot recall any reference to the liturgical season of the year in our worship services. Nothing is said of Advent, Lent, or Epiphany. Pentecost is welcomed, not as a season of the year, but as a major empowering event in the life of the New Testament church. But in the past few years, I’ve begun to wonder what we as a church could learn from the liturgical calendar in our worship services.

The seasons seem to remind of us of who Christ is, why He came, how He loved, how He suffered and died, how He arose and is alive today, and how He challenged and empowered His church to spread the Good News of the Gospel to all nations. He did it to restore all to Him; to bring about His Kingdom as it was intended. Our worship can relate that message whether we follow the liturgical calendar or present our corporate worship in a seemingly less formal way.

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