Blood and Spirit: H.C. Question 71

Where does Christ promise that we are washed with his blood and Spirit as surely as we are washed with the water of baptism?

Matthew 28:18-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Mark 16:16 – Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Titus 3:5 – he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,

Acts 22:16 – And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.’



The Holy Spirit: H.C Question 53

What do you believe concerning “the Holy Spirit”?

Genesis 1:1-2 – In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

Matthew 28:18-20 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Acts 5:3-4 – Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

1 Corinthians 6:19 – Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own;

2 Corinthians 1:21-22 – Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Galatians 4:6 – Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Galatians 3:14 – He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

John 15:26 – “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.

Acts 9:31 – Then the church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.

John 14:16-17 – And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.

1 Peter 4:14 – If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.



Here, There, Everywhere: H.C. Lord's Day 18

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 18

Q 46. What do you mean by saying, “He ascended to heaven”?
A 46. That Christ while his disciples watched, was taken up from the earth into heaven and remains there on our behalf until he comes again to judge the living and the dead.

Q 47. But isn’t Christ with us until the end of the world as he promised us?
A 47. Christ is true human and true God. In his human nature Christ is not now on earth; but in his divinity, majesty, grace, and Spirit he is never absent from us.

Q 48. If his humanity is not present wherever his divinity is, then aren’t the two natures of Christ separated from each other?
A 48. Certainly not. Since divinity is not limited and is present everywhere, it is evident that Christ’s divinity is surely beyond the bounds of the humanity that has been taken on, but at the same time his divinity is in and remains personally united to his humanity.

Q 49. How does Christ’s ascension to heaven benefit us?
A 49. First, he is our advocate in heaven in the presence of his Father.

Second, we have our own flesh in heaven as a sure pledge that Christ our head will also take us, his members, up to himself.

Third, he sends his Spirit to us on earth as a corresponding pledge. By the Spirit’s power, we seek not earthly things but the things above, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.

The ascension of Christ is not something that falls under anyone’s “first things I think about in the morning” list.  This event is treated by Christians and the Church in most places as an afterthought, almost like it seems to appear in Scripture, the segway between Christ’s death and resurrection and the beginning of the Christian movement.

But the reality of what the Ascension of Jesus Christ accomplishes for us is quite important.  It also raises some important questions that we also should consider as we think about such things.

The first has to do with the dual natures of Christ, being both fully human and fully God.  As we have talked about before, Jesus has to be 100% of both to accomplish the work of salvation that He did.  It is an important point to make, though, that while Jesus is indeed fully God and fully human, these two natures are never separated.  It was not the human Jesus that died while God the Son looked on.  Neither was it God the Son that endured the wrath of the Father while the human Jesus was somehow unconscious.  Both endured, both died, and both were raised; never are they separate.

Why does this matter?  Well, two main reasons are brought up in the Heidelberg Catechism and therefore deserve mentioning.  First, it is important to know that Jesus, being now in heaven and seated at the right hand of God is both human and God.  His human presence in heaven is a guarantee that we too, as humans, will be welcome into heaven.  His presence as God ensures that He can and will rule and reign over the entire universe as the eternal King of kings and Lord of lords.

The second is brought up by questions 47 and 48 have to do with Christ’s presence here with us.  We often talk about how Jesus is with us always, He even states that at the end of the Great Commission: “Behold I am with you always, to the end of the age.”  But, how is this possible if Jesus Christ is in heaven and His natures as both God and human cannot be divided.  Human Jesus is not sitting up in heaven while God Jesus is floating around the earth.  Does this make Him a liar?  Or is our theology incorrect?

The answer to this question lies, quite perfectly, in the nature of the Trinity.  God is one God in three persons.  Jesus speaks a lot about sending the Holy Spirit, something we will talk more about in the coming weeks, and it is through the Holy Spirit that the things of God continue to be revealed to us.  It is also through the Holy Spirit that, as Scripture says, we are “united to Christ.”

God’s spirit is implanted in our hearts and on our minds, a gift and a deposit which guarantees our inheritance in Christ.  Because the Holy Spirit is one with the Father and the Son, though being distinct in person, Christ is with us and we are united to Him, and He to us through the Holy Spirit.  And through Him, we participate in the united life of the Trinity and God fulfills His promise moment by moment, faithfully walking with us through every experience of our lives.



Trinitarianism: H.C. Lord's Day 8

Heidelberg Catechism Lord’s Day 8

Q 24. How are these articles divided?
A 24. Into three parts: God the Father and our creation; God the Son and our deliverance; and God the Holy Spirit and our sanctification.

Q 25. Since there is only one divine being, why do you speak of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?
A 25. Because that is how God has revealed himself in his Word: these three distinct persons are one, true, eternal God.

In today’s world, discussions about ‘doctrine’ can often be an instant turn-off to anyone who wants to talk about matters of faith.  However, it is the doctrine of the Trinity that makes Christianity distinctly Christian.  Trinitarian theology is a foundational part of our beliefs; it is also probably one of the most confusing.  And, while certainly does not need to have a perfect understanding of the nature of the Trinity to be saved, it still is an important aspect of who we are and even how we get here.

Given it’s confusing and somewhat complicated nature, the doctrine of the Trinity has been subject to a number of false understandings and heresies over the 2,000-year existence of the Christian religion.  While that may seem to be of little consequence to you and me, the work that has been done to clarify this doctrine has a direct and very real impact on what we believe about God.

Because of this, it is important that we try to clarify what it is that we believe about the Trinity.  The doctrine of the Trinity can be summarized in seven statements:

  1. There is only one God
  2. The Father is God
  3. The Son is God
  4. The Holy Spirit is God
  5. The Father is not the Son
  6. The Son is not the Holy Spirit
  7. The Holy Spirit is not the Father

All of the creeds that we have read over the past week, all the theological jargon and other religious writings of Christianity have to do with safeguarding each one of these statements.  More than that, though, they must safeguard the statement without denying any one of the other six.  Some would say that this sounds like a relatively easy task, however, over the years, a number of people and groups have fallen into heresies that inadvertently or purposefully do just that.

The Athanasian Creed, which we have been a part of our reading this last week, states the Trinitarian belief structure like this:

Now this is the [universal] faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.  For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.  But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.

The original translation of this Creed uses the word “essence” rather than “divine being,” indicating and affirming the single ‘Godness’ of God while also acknowledging the personhood of each member of the Trinity.  When we hear the word ‘person,’ we should think of an individual that is distinct from the others.  Again, while somewhat confusing, this is important because we worship One God (not three Gods) in three persons (one being).  Each is equally and uniquely God.

So, how has this gotten confused over the years?  Here are a number of ways and at least a few reasons why they are important.

Monarchianism – Emphasizes God as being one person.  It suggests that the Son and the Spirit subsist in the divine essence as impersonal attributes, not distinct or divine persons.  This is an attempt to better understanding the relationship between God the Father and God the Son.  However, it creates other problems in faith and understanding, specifically around the cross and the atonement.  If God is one person, and God died for our sins, then God is all of the sudden not eternal, having died and been dead for three days.  In addition, if it was not God that died, but rather an attribute of God, then the divinity of Christ comes into question and the sufficiency of Christ’s work on the cross is either lessened or completely lost.

Modalism – Suggests that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as simply different names for the same God acting in different roles.  This is where we get the idea of the analogy of “water, vapor, and ice” as a description.  Though well intentioned, it denies the distinct persons of the Trinity and kind of labels God as a divine being that suffers from multiple personalities.  Again this is a denial of the three unique persons existing in one divine being.  If God is just one person/being and He died, it denies the eternal and infinite nature of God.  He cannot die.  This means that either God did die, making Him vulnerable, or He did not die as Christ on the cross, meaning that the atonement and salvation purchased by the blood of Christ is invalid as He was not God and therefore a human, tainted by sin like the rest of us.

Arianism – Denies the full deity of Christ.  It states that, though Jesus is the Son of God, He was created by the Father at a certain point in time, thus making Him less than the Father and subordinate to Him.  Thus Jesus is not truly God and therefore not a person of the Trinity.  This is an obvious error whose effects echo that of those above.  We believe that Jesus is both fully God (a person of the Trinity) and fully human.  He has to be both in order for His life and death to accomplish salvation.  He must be fully human to live the human life, to keep the law of God, and for His death to be in the place of humans, taking the punishment we deserve.  He must be fully God in order to live a sinless life and in order to be able to take on the punishment and wrath of God.  If Christ is not God, all of this falls apart.  Arianism also borders on the assertion that there is more than one God.

Tritheism – This is exactly like it sounds: tri (meaning three) – theism (belief in God.  This asserts that Christians actually believe in three Gods.  This is a direct contradiction of Scripture which speaks specifically to the fact that God is one (Deuteronomy 6:4) and the notion of monotheism, a foundational principle in all three major Abrahamic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam).

One other thing that may be of some consequence to this discussion is the common argument that this doesn’t matter because you will never find the word “trinity” or specific mention of this doctrine in the Bible.  While this is technically true, Scripture is repute with references to both the unity of God as well as the diversity of the persons within the divine being.  The number of references to Jesus as being God as well as those referencing God the Father as God should be enough to convince us that there is more than one person in the divine being.  The Holy Spirit is also mentioned and used interchangeably with the word “God” many times.  Many are the suggestions of the plurality of persons within the divine being as well.

In closing, a common question comes up in this discussion, “why does this matter?”  It matters for creation because, unlike the many gods of other creation mythologies, God did not need to go outside Himself to create the universe.  A single person, creating the world “out of love” doesn’t make much sense as we know and understand love within relationships.  God would have had to create the world to understand love or to receive love making Him fairly similar to the ancient gods of other cultures.  Because God exists eternally in the Trinitarian relationship, God was able to create the universe out of the overflow of love found there, not needing something from the created order for Himself (God is self-sufficient).



The Trinity: H.C. Question 25

Since there is only one divine being, why do you speak of three: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

Deuteronomy 6:4 – Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.

1 Corinthians 8:4-6So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.” For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”), yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

Matthew 3:16-17 – As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

Matthew 28:18-19 – Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

Luke 4:18 – “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,

Isaiah 61:1 – The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners,

John 14:26 – But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

John 15:26 – “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me.

2 Corinthians 13:14 – May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.

Galatians 4:6 – Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Titus 3:5-6 – he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

The Athanasian Creed:

Whoever wants to be saved should above all cling to the catholic faith.

Whoever does not guard it whole and inviolable will doubtless perish eternally.

Now this is the catholic faith: We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing the persons nor dividing the divine being.

For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.

But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.

What the Father is, the Son is, and so is the Holy Spirit.

Uncreated is the Father; uncreated is the Son; uncreated is the Spirit.

The Father is infinite; the Son is infinite; the Holy Spirit is infinite.

Eternal is the Father; eternal is the Son; eternal is the Spirit: And yet there are not three eternal beings, but one who is eternal; as there are not three uncreated and unlimited beings, but one who is uncreated and unlimited.

Almighty is the Father; almighty is the Son; almighty is the Spirit: And yet there are not three almighty beings, but one who is almighty.

Thus the Father is God; the Son is God; the Holy Spirit is God: And yet there are not three gods, but one God.

Thus the Father is Lord; the Son is Lord; the Holy Spirit is Lord: And yet there are not three lords, but one Lord.

As Christian truth compels us to acknowledge each distinct person as God and Lord, so catholic religion forbids us to say that there are three gods or lords.

The Father was neither made nor created nor begotten; the Son was neither made nor created, but was alone begotten of the Father; the Spirit was neither made nor created, but is proceeding from the Father and the Son.

Thus there is one Father, not three fathers; one Son, not three sons; one Holy Spirit, not three spirits.

And in this Trinity, no one is before or after, greater or less than the other; but all three persons are in themselves, coeternal and coequal; and so we must worship the Trinity in unity and the one God in three persons.

Whoever wants to be saved should think thus about the Trinity.

It is necessary for eternal salvation that one also faithfully believe that our Lord Jesus Christ became flesh.

For this is the true faith that we believe and confess: That our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and man.

He is God, begotten before all worlds from the being of the Father, and he is man, born in the world from the being of his mother — existing fully as God, and fully as man with a rational soul and a human body; equal to the Father in divinity, subordinate to the Father in humanity.

Although he is God and man, he is not divided, but is one Christ.

He is united because God has taken humanity into himself; he does not transform deity into humanity.

He is completely one in the unity of his person, without confusing his natures.

For as the rational soul and body are one person, so the one Christ is God and man.

He suffered death for our salvation. He descended into hell and rose again from the dead.

He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

At his coming all people shall rise bodily to give an account of their own deeds.

Those who have done good will enter eternal life, those who have done evil will enter eternal fire.

This is the catholic faith.

One cannot be saved without believing this firmly and faithfully.



John 5 – Father and Son

Read John 5

The major theme of John’s Gospel is to reveal Jesus as not only our Savior but also as the Divine Son of God who is also one with God the Father.  Much of John’s writings, themes, and theology form the basis for would later be known as Trinitarian Theology.  The Athanasian Creed lays this out well:

We worship one God in trinity and the Trinity in unity, neither confusing… nor dividing the divine being.

For the Father is one person, the Son is another, and the Spirit is still another.

But the deity of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is one, equal in glory, coeternal in majesty.

 John begins to lay this foundation through Jesus’ conversation with the religious leaders.  Jesus doesn’t mince words at all, talking about Himself as being equal with the Father, and especially doing the “Father’s work.”  In fact, Jesus points out that He can do nothing apart from the Father.

There are some difficult sayings here too, but ones that we must take seriously.  Jesus says that those who do not honor the Son do not honor the Father.  In an age where many people seem to think its ok to say “we all serve the same God,” Jesus’ words add a caveat to that.  Several major world religions find their roots in the Old Testament, but only through honoring Jesus as Lord do we find the true way back to the Father.  Watch for more of this theme later in John.

One other thing to consider: Jesus does only what He sees the Father doing.  As the body of Christ, the Church would fall into this same function.  I wonder if we are focused on looking for where the Father is working so as to know what we should be doing?



Day 184: Proverbs 8-10; The Foundation of Wisdom

Our reading today covers the end of the introduction section of Proverbs.  You may have noticed that there was very little in the way of actual proverbs in the first nine chapters of Proverbs.  Instead, we have seen Solomon lay out very clearly the necessity of wisdom, the foundation of wisdom, the need for wisdom, and how to attain wisdom in our own lives.  We have seen how he has set up the metaphor of wisdom and folly calling out to a young man, trying to ‘allure’ or ‘seduce’ him into bringing them into his life.  Solomon has shown how lady wisdom and lady folly sound so similar at times and how it can be difficult to discern between them.  Yet it is clear, or rather it becomes clear very quickly which one is actually life giving and which one is life stealing, life sucking, and ultimately life destroying.  Today, we read Solomon wrap up this metaphor in the introduction, going so far as to lay out the nature of the life of those who turn to wisdom and those who turn to folly.  Chapter nine lays this out clearly, showing those who have turned to wisdom as being like those who have gone to a feast.  Interestingly, those who turn to folly are also described as those who are going to a feast, yet instead of eating food that gives life, they are eating and drinking their own death.  Wisdom is life and life giving… Folly is the way to death and will always be life stealing… even if it doesn’t seem that way at the time.

God's Wisdom is displayed in creation Photo Credit: www.wisdom-ink.com

God’s Wisdom is displayed in creation
Photo Credit: www.wisdom-ink.com

The other very notable thing about today’s reading comes in chapter 8.  Solomon writes very extensively about the history and nature of wisdom.  I like how he talks about wisdom “dwelling with prudence,” and “finding knowledge and discretion.”  This demonstrates the relationship between these four virtues and how close they all come together.  He also clearly displays the antonyms of wisdom as well: pride, arrogance, and perverted speech.

God's Wisdom in Creation Photo Credit: www.datinggod.org

God’s Wisdom in Creation
Photo Credit: www.datinggod.org

What is more interesting, I think, is the presence of wisdom in the creation narrative.  If you remember back to Genesis 1 & 2, the words of Proverbs 8 will have a familiar cadence to them.  Yet Solomon’s point here is not to reiterate the creation narrative, but to make the connection between Creator God and Wisdom.  In some ways, the description of wisdom here as being so intricately involved in creation that it cannot be separated from the action of God as creator.  Some people have even identified this as some “proof” that the Holy Spirit, or better stated, all three persons of the Trinity were involved in creation.  Solomon is laying out the clear foundation of wisdom on which this world is built.  It is the clear that wisdom can be seen in every facet of creation’s design.  One can hear the canonical foreshadowing of Paul’s words in Romans 1:20, when he talks about all of creation being without excuse.  Both Paul and Solomon are laying out the argument that creation displays wisdom and, as we have said, wisdom and the Lord are intricately linked.  God’s glory and His wisdom are clearly displayed in all of creation, and if we are willing to look, we will be able to see it and give glory to God because of it.



Worship Discussions: Call to Worship

Last month we talked about the time of gathering that takes place before our worship services.  Today we move into the beginning of our time of corporate worship, when we come together as a body to worship God in community.  At Overisel, we start our worship services most of the time with a “call to worship” and then a time of singing.  I’ve been asked many times why we label the first songs as a “call to worship” rather than just start singing, and there is a very good reason that stems directly from our discussion on the time of gathering.  But first, I think we need to better define what the “call to worship” is and where it comes from.

Oddly enough, I have just recently come across some of the original Biblical references for a call to worship in my reading through the Bible this year.  In the books of Leviticus and Numbers God commands Moses to have trumpets made.  These would be blown by the priests as a way of summoning the people of Israel to worship (amongst other things).  The sound would be a reminder of the trumpet blast that was heard when God descended down on to Mount Sinai.  Later, in Israel’s history, the blowing of the shofar, also known as the ram’s horn, as also incorporated into this tradition.  They believed that this was God summoning the people for worship, and that is the essence of what the “call to worship” is.

The call to worship in our current context stems from this along with the belief that, like in our gathering, everything begins with God.  We do not come to worship simply because we felt like it or because it is what we have always done (though this might be your internal motivation), we come to worship in our personal lives and corporately in a worship service at church because God has summoned us and the Holy Spirit is drawing us to that time of worship.  As an event though, our worship service begins with the words of the call to worship.  We believe that, on some level, these are the words of God calling us to worship Him.

Christian worship is a lifelong, unending state of being.  Our very being is a testament to the glory, power, and providence of God.  The Westminster Shorter Confession’s first question and answer speaks to this:

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

Christian worship as a corporate event is a time that we believe begins with the calling of God to His people which is followed, naturally, by a response from the gathered faithful in worship to God.  It is for this reason that we often begin service with words from Scripture, God’s Word revealed to us.  And we respond in song, prayer, or even in an anthem of praise from our choir!

In my studies of worship and Theology one thing has been impressed upon me about our faith.  It is the principle of Lex cantadni  Lex Orandi  Lex Credendi – “as we sing, so we pray, so we believe.”  Roughly translated this means: how we worship reflects how we believe.  One of the main principles of our faith has to so with our inability to come to God by ourselves.  In reformed circles we refer to this as our depravity or our sinful nature.  In Bible times, the only way that one could come before God is after they were purified with water and a sacrifice with the proper rituals.  We living in different times, a time after the cross and the resurrection, when the curtain has been torn and our relationship with God reconciled by the blood of Jesus Christ.  Yet we understand that we are still completely incapable of ascending to God on our own, we needed (and still need) a mediator.  There is nothing that we can do or could have done to make ourselves, sinful as we are, worthy of coming before God.  But we are washed in the blood of Jesus Christ and atoned for through His sacrifice.  It is because of this that we can gather together, that we have access to God and can live in relationship with Him.

What does this have to do with the “call to worship?”  When we hear the words of God calling us to worship, we recognize that, even though we may have the best of intentions, we come because of the grace of God who reached down into this world by His wonderful Grace and provided a way for us to come before Him in worship.  Hearing these words that call us to worship, we remember again that we are a redeemed people who, by the Grace of God, gather to worship our Lord, and who live and move and have our being bringing glory and honor to God each and every day.



Worship Matters: Gathering

As we begin our discussion about the movements in worship, I think it is appropriate to begin at the beginning, as it is indeed where things begin.  For many of us, the beginning of worship, or a worship service is when the pastor or the worship leader greets you on Sunday morning.  While this is true in the sense that this is when the time of corporate worship begins for the church body as we worship together on Sunday morning, I would like to suggest to you in this writing that it is indeed not the case that worship should begin in our hearts and minds, much less our actions on Sunday or on any other day of the week as well.  This morning, or whenever it is that you are reading this, I submit to you that worship in your life is actually Unceasing, as one of my favorite authors Harold Best would say.  However, as with the last writing, when we focus in on a particular occasion of worship, like a Sunday morning worship experience, our preparation for worship, and thus worship itself begins, or rather should begin at the moment we awake that morning.  Why?  For this to be answered, we must first speak to some things that we believe, whether we recognize them or not.

First and foremost in the discussion of beliefs that we hold the core belief that every day that we have is a gift from God.  It is God who sustains us and gives us life.  It is only through God that we wake up each and every morning, take our next breath, and even have our existence in the first place (Acts 17:28).  Second among these beliefs is that worship, both corporate and individual, is an act that is instituted by God, for God, through God, to the glory of God.  This takes us back to the idea of Trinitarian Worship.  We believe that the Holy Spirit is in us, guiding and directing us.  Therefore we believe that as we awake on a Sunday morning with the will, desire, and/or motivation to go to church, that it is indeed the Holy Spirit prompting us to do so.  Whether out of tradition, need, or whatever reason, it is the Holy Spirit at work in our hearts.  And so we are drawn to worship through the Holy Spirit, who is in our hearts because of Jesus Christ who we are told sent the Spirit, and is the reason for our having the Spirit  (John 16:8).  Simultaneously, Jesus is also the reason that we can come into worship, into the presence of God almighty.  Through His blood we have been washed clean and are able to approach and encounter God.  Finally, it is God whom we have come to worship.  Though we worship each of the members of the Trinity and they are all active, our worship flows to the Father, through the Son, by the prompting, leading, and power of the Holy Spirit.  God is abundantly active in our worship!

So really, the first encounters of worship that you are having with God on any given Sunday are not when you first hear the music start playing, when you start singing, or when the worship leader greets you.  The first encounters you are having with God are the breaths you are taking as you are awaking from a night of rest and thinking about going to worship on that Sunday.  This is true for us during the week as well as we wake up and prepare ourselves for a day of serving and glorifying God in whatever ministry God has called us to in our lives.

In light of this, I guess I wonder then… what do our Sunday mornings look like?  Do we awake and thank God for another day?  Do we think about the worship that we will soon engage in and seek to prepare our hearts for it?  I think of my own Sunday mornings and find myself often lacking in this.  I stay in bed until the last possible minute, knowing how many things I have to do and wondering if I could possibly cram them into 15 minutes instead of 20 or 25.  What do we do when we arrive at church?  Do we thank God for bringing us here safely, for the body of believers and those leading us this morning?  Or do we go and find our friends to catch up on the recent gossip?  Do we sit down early in the sanctuary to prepare ourselves for worship?  Do we ready ourselves during the time of fellowship beforehand (for the record: I consider that time to be good preparation for worship!)?

Finally, a closing thought:  God is active in our worship, doing all of these things, whether we recognize it or not.  God is working on our hearts in worship whether we prepare ourselves or not.  His grace is simply that amazing!  I am humbled as a worship leader that, even on the busiest of mornings when I am not at all prepared, God still uses me in amazing ways.  This is SO ABUNDANTLY TRUE for you as well!!  As we continue to grow, may we see God at work in our worship, and may it encourage us to more and more seek to put ourselves into a posture of openness and willingness to receive and listen to God in our time of gathering and preparation for worship on Sundays, and every day in between.