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A Note of Introduction

Hello!

I’m thrilled that you’re interested in studying God’s Word


with me! Before you jump into this study, allow me to
introduce myself and explain what this study is about.

I am a full time wife and mom who loves to teach God’s


Word through our local church and through blogging.
These studies spring from my training in the Bible
department at Cedarville University, alongside my own study of the
Scriptures and time teaching Bible studies based on the Old Testament
books.

What you will find in this e-book is a continued “big picture” overview of
God’s unfolding story of redemption. I trust that what I have written here
will be useful and helpful for you, but in no way is this intended to be read
in lieu of your own Bible study. In fact, as you progress through these
studies I assume that you are reading and studying on your own as we go.
These are my words, not God’s. While I strive to be accurate in my
explanations and applications, and while I have found these things to be true
in my study of the Scriptures, nothing can take the place of your own time
reading the Bible itself.

I pray that as you open your Bible that God will challenge and excite you
through the study of His Word. I also pray that through looking at the “big
picture” of what God is doing in history that you will gain a deeper
understanding of your own need for Jesus Christ and grow in your daily
walk with Him.

May God bless you!

- ^Ü|áà|
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him,
rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught,
and overflowing with thankfulness.

Colossians 2:6-7

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Everything that has breath

Well, I have arrived at the end of the Psalms in my personal study. I'd like to spend a few
days looking at some overall takeaway lessons from the Psalms. Last week we looked at
the theme of those who are truly blessed. Today, let's take some time to start looking at
true praise.

In his message "The Evangelical Crisis," Alistair Begg discussed the difference between
entertainment and worship.

"...the underlying issue is the failure to begin with God and His glory, and instead we
begin with man and his need. So our considerations become aesthetic. We start by asking
what people would find nice, what they would find enjoyable, what they would find
soothing. And as we endeavor to do this, we lose sight of certain basic foundational
issues. Namely, that Christ Himself is the sanctuary of his New Covenant people... that
the true aesthetic beauty is the holiness of the Lord, and that Christ alone is the only
ordained worship leader of His people... so that many of our preoccupations, which have
to do with the packaging, are nothing more than a capitulation to the spirit of the age..."

Begg goes on to look at Jesus' conversation with the woman at the well in John 4; our
worship must be full of truth and full of enthusiasm! One without the other is no good,
and in my opinion, the majority of churches I have been in fall on one end of the
spectrum or the other. We either sing hymns that are brimming with truth in such a way
that makes you want to lay down and sleep on the pew, or we sing songs full of
meaningless words with a fervor that makes tears come to people's eyes or perhaps makes
them jump up and down as though they are at a rock concert! Both are appalling!

I like the way Begg (who never minces words!) describes both ends of the spectrum - on
the one hand, "We dare not baptize our cliche-ridden phraseology and our hackneyed
hymnody into orthodoxy." Just because it's one of the "old hymns" doesn't make it
orthodox. Have you ever heard one of those Christian radio stations that will only play
recordings so old that you can hear the record crackling on the turntable? Just because it's
old doesn't mean it's more true!

To the other end of the spectrum, Begg says, "A praise song... is one word, two notes,
and three hours." This is hilarious to me because it is so true! On the other end of the
"praise spectrum," some more modern songs seem content to pick a nice, appealing
phrase and sing it over and over and over again. Tearing up as you repeat a stirring phrase
like a mantra does not equal worship, either! It's often simply an artificially induced
emotional response. And you know what? I personally don't like to jump up and down
and "clap to God." I find it irreverent, it's not how I respond to God, and to create and
environment that presses people to do so against their natural bent creates an artificial and
fake "worship experience." I don't have a single thing against others raising their hands,
but don't make it a requirement, either.

If you'd like to hear a little more of my soapbox opinions about praise, I have big issues

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with how we teach children to sing to the Lord. Pick up most children's "praise" cd's, and
you'll find a whole bunch of nonsense songs. Ie: "father Abraham," "arky arky," "deep
and wide," "kum-ba-ya," etc. Someone please tell me what theological value these songs
have? I have absolutely no problem with singing silly songs (I sing "big booty/ tiny
heiny" and the SNL "sloppy joes" song to my children quite often) - but please do not
somehow make these ridiculous songs "spiritual." We're ingraining in our kids that a fun,
exciting song sung in church = praise, even if it has absolutely no truth in it whatsoever.
I've also heard far too many church kids' songs that teach them to yell out the names of
our God in such an irreverent way that it makes me cringe - basically, we're just all
swearing in unison! Do we understand that? We're taking God's name in vain when we
use His holy name in such a flippant manner!

I will step off of the soapbox now.

Considering that the entire book of Psalms is a book of praise songs, what do the Psalms
teach us about true praise?

Well, I'm going to keep you hanging because this post would be too long. You'll have to
wait until tomorrow. :) In the meantime, I'd love to hear from you... what's on your mind?

p.s. After a comment I received on facebook about this post ("...who are we to dictate
what is pleasing to God?"), I thought I would add this additional note.

WE do not dictate what is pleasing to God, but His Word has a lot to say about what
correct worship is. Evaluating worship according to the Word is not judgmental, it is
necessary. John 4:24 tells us to worship in Spirit and in Truth! The Psalms are an entire
book of inspired praise songs. We're not just taking a stab in the dark about what is
pleasing to the Lord - we need to know Him and His Word well enough to know that we
are not only worshipping the correct God, but that we are worshipping the correct God
correctly!

Evaluating worship in the light of the Word does not in any way limit God - He always
acts in accordance with His nature, and His nature is most accurately expressed to us
through His Word.

I addresed this topic more in light of the story of Jephthah in the book of Judges.

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Everything that has breath - Part 2

Yesterday, we started thinking about true praise. I know some people were standing up
on my soapbox with me, agreeing wholeheartedly, and some... not so much! That is just
fine with me - I don't expect everyone to agree with my ramblings about matters of
personal opinion, but I do want to get us thinking. The Bible has a lot to say about praise
and worship, so let's keep looking at it, shall we?

As we have already established, the psalms are an entire book of praise and worship.
We're looking into the only inspired hymnbook, so what the psalms contain is central to
any discussion of praise and worship! In Wilkinson and Boa's book Talk Thru the Bible,
this is how they describe the theme and purpose of the book of Psalms:

"There are several kinds of psalms, and they express different feelings and
circumstances. But the common theme is worship - God is worthy of all praise because
of who He is, what He has done, and what He will do. His goodness extends through all
time and eternity. The psalms present a very personal response to the person and work
of God as they reflect on His program for His people. There is a keen desire to see His
program fulfilled and His name extolled. Many of the psalms survey the Word of God and
the attributes of God, especially during difficult times. This kind of faith produces
confidence in His power in spite of circumstances." (153)

The Psalms are intensely personal. I think that is most likely why they appeal to almost
anyone who reads through the Scriptures. David and the other psalmists wrestle very
openly with injustice, persecution, the prosperity of the wicked, the afflictions Israel
faced corporately, etc. However, they always come back to a point of recognition of
God's person and work, and His sovereignty over all.

Yesterday I quoted Alistair Begg's reflections on worship vs. entertainment in


Evangelical circles. One of the things he said was, "the underlying issue is the failure to
begin with God and His glory, and instead we begin with man and his need."

If you begin to listen to many modern praise and worship songs from this perspective,
you'll notice that we spend an inordinate amount of time talking about ourselves and how
we feel - we often camp on these points much more than emphasizing who God is and
what He has done.

Let's pause here for a bit and think about what we actually mean when we toss around the
terms "praise" and "worship."

The word "praise" shows up 147 times in the Psalms! Several different Hebrew words are
translated into our English word "praise."

• "Halal" is by far the most frequently used term. It means to praise, celebrate, glorify, to
cause to shine, to make bright, to give light. The basic idea is that of radiance, from

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which came the idea of enthusiastic expression of rejoicing and praising God. (From
"halal" comes the term "hallelujah!")

• "Thillah" is the second most used term, and it's root is also traceable to "Halal." It
means laudation, a hymn, praise, a song which exults God.

• "Yadah" is an interesting term - it means to speak out, to confess, to praise, to sing, to


give thanks; essentially, it is the acknowledgment of sin, man's character, or the nature
and work of God.

In Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, there is a very lengthy discussion


of praise, but it can be mostly boiled down to the idea of calling attention to God's glory.
Through song, through confession and the resulting thanksgiving for God's forgiveness,
through publicly recognizing who God is and what He has done - we bring Him glory.
We shine a light on who our God is and say, "Look at our God - there is no one like
Him!"

"Worship" is used 13 times in the Psalms.

• "Sachah" is used 12 of the 13 times - it means 'to prostrate oneself (in homage to royalty
or to God), to bow oneself down as an act of respect before a superior being. It meant to
honor God with prayers, even without prostration of the body. However, those who used
this mode of salutation often fell upon their knees and touched the ground with their
foreheads. In short, it was a way of showing submission.'
• "Abad" is used once, and carries the idea of serving a master.

Again from Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, Worship is described as


"both an attitude and an act." Referring to the passage we mentioned yesterday in John 4,
it goes on to say,

All true worshipers must worship God in "spirit and in truth." That is, true worship takes
place on the inside, in the heart or spirit of the worshiper (cf. Psalm 45:1; 103:1-2).
Worship pleasing to God must be unfeigned and transparent, offered with a humble and
pure heart (Psalm 24:3-4; Isa 66:2).
But this is not enough. Worship "in truth" connects the heart or spirit of worship with
the truth about God and his work of redemption as revealed in the person of Jesus
Christ and the Scriptures. David understood the importance of worshiping in truth and
the necessary linkage between "truth" and the Word of God when he wrote, "Teach me
your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may
fear [i.e., worship] your name" (Psalm 86:11; cf. Psalm 145:18). Here both the Old and
New Covenants agree! The true worship of God is essentially internal, a matter of the
heart and spirit rooted in the knowledge of and obedience to the revealed Word of God.

[In my words, I like to define worship as recognizing and responding to Who God really
is.]

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Both praise and worship are intimately connected with knowing God and His Word -
how can I praise, or shine a light on, a God that I do not really know? How can I
accurately highlight His ways and His works if I do not know what those things are? As I
bow myself in submission and worship before my God, I cannot worship with sincerity
and in truth if I do not know the Truth!

You see, when we define "praise and worship" as an experience that we have, it's all
based on us! A good praise service is judged by how I go away feeling about it. Did the
music feel right to me, did the lighting and stage decoration create a good experience, did
I like the style of music, did the artists give a good show?

But Biblically, "praise and worship" is all about God! Shining a light on Who He is and
what He has done! Lifting Him up and saying, "Look at my God! There is no god as great
as our God!" Bowing down before Him, recognizing His supremacy, His holiness, His
sovereignty, His love, His forgiveness, His grace.

Does it involve human emotion? It better! I can recite truths about God all day long, but
if I am not sincerely responding to that Truth, it is not true worship. Sometimes I am
astonished to look around and see people singing amazing, eternity altering truths with as
much enthusiasm as if they were reading a math textbook aloud! Just as an emotional
experience devoid of truth is not true worship, truth devoid of emotion shows that we
have failed to personally respond to that truth, and that is not worship, either.

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Everything that has breath - Part 3

Image from Bible Picture Gallery: http://www.instonebrewer.com/bpg2009

Yesterday as we continued our discussion of true praise and worship, I gave a quote from
Talk Thru the Bible about the book of Psalms. Remember this part?

God is worthy of all praise because of who He is, what He has done, and what He will
do.

Yesterday we defined "praise" and "worship" more fully. Now let's see some true praise
in action in Psalm 33:1-11.

First, this Psalm starts out with a call for praise in various expressions:

Sing for joy in the LORD, O you righteous ones;


Praise is becoming to the upright.
Give thanks to the LORD with the lyre;
Sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings.

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Sing to Him a new song;


Play skillfully with a shout of joy.

We've got shouting, singing, playing instruments - this is quite a party! Now, I do want to
pause here and point out that singing and playing instruments are what usually come to
mind in praise, but the Psalms include all kinds of different forms of praise including (but
not limited to):

• Telling of His wonders, praises, salvation


• Giving thanks to Him publicly
• Declaring His righteousness to the younger generations
• Shouting for joy
• Confession of sin and thanking Him for His forgiveness

Now, back to Psalm 33 - what are we praising Him for?

For the word of the LORD is upright,


And all His work is done in faithfulness.
He loves righteousness and justice;
The earth is full of the lovingkindness of the LORD.
By the word of the LORD the heavens were made,
And by the breath of His mouth all their host.
He gathers the waters of the sea together as a heap;
He lays up the deeps in storehouses.
Let all the earth fear the LORD;
Let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him.
For He spoke, and it was done;
He commanded, and it stood fast.
The LORD nullifies the counsel of the nations;
He frustrates the plans of the peoples.
The counsel of the LORD stands forever,
The plans of His heart from generation to generation.

Why praise Him?

• He is holy
• He is faithful
• He is righteous
• He is just
• He shows His grace and lovingkindness to all creation
• He made everything with a word!
• He is sovereign over all the affairs of men
• His nature and Word remain forever, even as man comes and goes

You could make quite a lengthy list if you read through the Psalms and record all the
things for which God is praised.

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Remember, true praise is not centered on us and how we feel - true praise springs from
knowing who God is and lifting Him up, shining a light on Him, exclaiming publicly,
"How great is our God!"

I hope it jumped out to you in yesterday's post that there is a close tie between fearing
God and worshipping Him. True worship comes from seeing who our God really is and
bowing before Him, submitting ourselves to Him, showing Him the reverence He is due.
Does that seem out of sorts with shouting, dancing, and singing His praise? It's not!

Psalm 2:11 is an interesting verse -


Worship the LORD with reverence
And rejoice with trembling.

Even in our rejoicing, we should be trembling before Him! True praise and worship must
be rooted in Truth, and to behold God for Who He is must compel us to fear Him, even as
we praise Him with all that we are.

Consider the scene of the worship in heaven in Revelation 15:3-4

And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb,
saying,
"Great and marvelous are Your works,
O Lord God, the Almighty;
Righteous and true are Your ways,
King of the nations!
"Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?
For You alone are holy;
For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU,
FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED."

This verse is so powerful. Who will not fear you, and glorify your name? For you alone
are holy! If we caught just a glimpse of the fullness of who God is, the only response is
to fear Him and simultaneously praise Him for His works, for His ways, for the glory of
His name.

Tomorrow we'll spend some time looking at Psalm 50, which is a sobering reminder that
we can do all the right things in our quest to praise and worship God, and fall into a ritual
rather than offering a true sacrifice of thanksgiving. On the flip side, we can become
hardened and rebellious against God and glibly repeat truth with hearts full of evil,
leading us to an assumption that God is just like us.

Oh, Lord, show us your glory! Cause us to fear you and give you the true praise and
worship that you alone deserve!

"Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might

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and honor and glory and blessing."


And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and
on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, "To Him who sits on the throne, and
to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever."
And the four living creatures kept saying, "Amen " And the elders fell down and
worshiped.
Revelations 5:12-14

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Everything that has breath - Part 4

Image from Bible Picture Gallery

Continuing on our journey of true praise and worship, today we're going to take a look at
Psalm 50. This Psalm was an address from God to Israel about their worship, and it is a
sobering reminder to us, as well.

In verses 1-6, we are given a description of God as He addresses His people.

1 The Mighty One, God, the LORD, has spoken,


And summoned the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.
2 Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God has shone forth.
3 May our God come and not keep silence;
Fire devours before Him,
And it is very tempestuous around Him.
4 He summons the heavens above,
And the earth, to judge His people:
5 "Gather My godly ones to Me,
Those who have made a covenant with Me by sacrifice."
6 And the heavens declare His righteousness,

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For God Himself is judge. Selah.

Notice how God is described in verse one - He is "The Mighty One, God, the LORD."
The first two terms are rather generic terms for God used in the Old Testament. The third,
however, is God's covenant name with His people - Yahweh. It is the name by which He
introduced Himself in Exodus. It is the name by which Israel "cut covenant" (the literal
meaning of "made a covenant" in verse 5) with.

These verses in Psalm 50:1-6 would have sounded familiar to Israel's ears. God is
reminding them of their solemn covenant they made with Him at Mount Sinai.

Now Mount Sinai was all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its
smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently.
When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered
him with thunder.
The LORD came down on Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the LORD called
Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.
(Exodus 19:18-20)

Talk about the fear of God! This event at Mount Sinai was awesome, in the truest sense
of the word, and God is reminding them of this solemn covenant as He comes to judge
His people. This should get our attention! So, what is He addressing them about?

The remainder of this Psalm falls into two addresses to two different groups.

7"Hear, O My people, and I will speak;


O Israel, I will testify against you;
I am God, your God.
8"I do not reprove you for your sacrifices,
And your burnt offerings are continually before Me.
9"I shall take no young bull out of your house
Nor male goats out of your folds.
10"For every beast of the forest is Mine,
The cattle on a thousand hills.
11"I know every bird of the mountains,
And everything that moves in the field is [a]Mine.
12"If I were hungry I would not tell you,
For the world is Mine, and all it contains.
13"Shall I eat the flesh of bulls
Or drink the blood of male goats?
14"Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving
And pay your vows to the Most High;
15Call upon Me in the day of trouble;
I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me."

First of all, notice that in verse 7, God again calls Himself by a generic name for God and

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then adds "your God." He is entitled to pure worship by both His existence as the only
true God, and also by His covenant relationship to His people.

This first address is to His outwardly obedient people. In fact, at first blush this might
look like a commendation. However, look at the wording - verse 4 says that He is coming
to judge His people, verse 7 says He is testifying against them, and verse 8 points out
what He is not reproving them for. So, what is the issue?

I like how Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown's commentary talks about this passage:

"However scrupulous in external worship, it was offered as if they conferred an


obligation in giving God His own, and with a degrading view of Him as needing it.
Reproving them for such foolish and blasphemous notions, He teaches them to offer, or
literally, "sacrifice," thanksgiving, and pay, or perform, their vows--that is, to bring, with
the external symbolical service, the homage of the heart, and faith, penitence, and love."

The external worship expressions of sacrifice were symbolic of what should have been
happening internally. David strikes upon this fact in Psalm 51:16-17 -

For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it;


You are not pleased with burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

External obedience must be in accordance with an internal reality. We talked about this
more in our discussion of the Genre of law and the Great Shema.

We could be right on when it comes to our outward worship - we could have the best
"worship service" in the world and say all the right pious sounding things about God; but,
if our hearts are not truly bringing a sacrifice of thanksgiving, if our external worship is
not line with an inward reality, we are missing the boat!

Now, onto the second group addressed in Psalm 50:

16But to the wicked God says,


"What right have you to tell of My statutes
And to take My covenant in your mouth?
17"For you hate discipline,
And you cast My words behind you.
18"When you see a thief, you are pleased with him,
And you associate with adulterers.
19"You let your mouth loose in evil
And your tongue frames deceit.
20"You sit and speak against your brother;
You slander your own mother's son.
21"These things you have done and I kept silence;

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You thought that I was just like you;


I will reprove you and state the case in order before your eyes.

This section is just chilling to me. Notice that these wicked people God is addressing "tell
of [His] statutes and take [His] covenant into [their] mouths!" These people have all the
right words! And yet, their lives are far from lining up with their pious words. In fact, the
examples given show that they are living in flagrant violation of the 7th, 8th, and 9th
commandment! They are associating with adulterers (7), they are stealing (8), and they
are lying (9)!

Now, the most haunting part of this address to me is verse 21 - because God had kept
silent and not directly called them on their sin, they thought He was just like them!

Considering this Psalm brings to mind for me the letters to the 7 churches in Revelations.
The church at Ephesus is commended for their deeds, but reprimanded for leaving their
first love. To the church at Sardis God said, "I know your deeds, that you have a name
that you are alive, but you are dead." The church at Laodicea was described as unuseful
to God - they were lukewarm and He wanted to spit them out!

Have we clung to our first love? Are we truly alive and growing spiritually? Are we
useful to our King? Does our internal reality match up with the external acts of worship
we present before our Maker and Savior?

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Everything that has breath - Part 5

Thank you for joining me on this journey of studying what is true praise and worship. I
pray that it has been uplifting and challenging to you - God's Word is so rich! Today I
wanted to wrap up this series with some summary take-away points.

• What is "praise?" Praise is shining a light on who our God is and saying, "Look at our
God - there is no one like Him!"

• God is worthy of all praise because of who He is, what He has done, and what He will
do.

• True praise is not centered on us and how we feel - true praise springs from knowing
who God is and lifting Him up, shining a light on Him, exclaiming publicly, "How great
is our God!"

• The Psalms call for all different expressions of praise. Shouting, singing, playing
instruments are the most obvious. The Psalms also include as praise: telling of His
wonders, praises, salvation; Giving thanks to Him publicly; Declaring His righteousness
to the younger generations; Shouting for joy; and Confession of sin and thanking Him for
His forgiveness.

• Even in our rejoicing, we should be trembling before Him! True praise and worship
must be rooted in Truth, and to behold God for Who He is must compel us to fear Him,
even as we praise Him with all that we are.

• What is "worship?" Worship is recognizing and responding to Who God really is.
Worship is closely tied to the fear of God and submission to God's authority as our Maker
and Master.

• "Praise and Worship" is not a particular style of music. It is not a genre. True praise and
worship are external expressions of internal attitudes toward God.

• It is quite possible to perform external acts of "praise and worship" and be spiritually
way out of line. Just as we see in Psalm 50, we might be falling into ritual and failing to
bring God the sacrifice of true thanksgiving. Worse yet, we might be blasphemously
giving lip service while living in flagrant sin.

After studying this more in-depth for the last couple of weeks, I feel more burdened than
ever for our churches today. I am bothered that typically when we discuss praise and
worship, we get stuck on styles of music. We equate praise and worship issues with
contemporary vs. traditional, praise band vs. organ, powerpoint slides vs. hymnal.

The reality is, Psalms gives us a clear precedent for praise and worship being in a
multitude of different expressions! The root issues really are - is it grounded in Truth? Is

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what we are saying about God true? Are our hearts sincere? Are we lifting God up and
shining a light on Him, or are we glorifying ourselves in the name of "praise and
worship" services?

I'm sure that people from all kinds of different denominational backgrounds will read
this, people of all ages with generational preferences, people with different cultural
backgrounds. We might all express praise and worship differently. And you know what?
That's fine! True praise and worship can be expressed while singing the "old hymns" to a
pipe organ in a cathedral, while dancing to homemade sheet metal instruments in a mud
hut in a third world country, while clapping and singing with a worship band at a concert.

It's high time we stop fighting over style and start closely examining our hearts. You can
bring an insincere and blasphemous "praise" offering to God to the tune of an organ, and
you can be following a ritual and going through the motions while you dance to your hip
praise band. No matter how we express it, the core issue is the same: is it true? Is it
sincere? Does it lift up our God and give Him the honor He is due? It's not about us!

Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude,
by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our
God is a consuming fire.
Hebrews 12:28-29

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