Devotional for Thursday, May 28
People who learned to worship in other eras and places might be surprised at where modern American worship leaders locate the reading of Scripture and the sermon in a service.
In the ancient fourfold worship structure, “Word” follows “Gathering.” Let’s be certain Scripture is fully present and driving our worship once we’ve gathered!
Hearing God’s word is the best way to encounter God routinely in a group setting. When a direct encounter with God occurs early in worship, the rest of worship happens in a highly focused manner.
Rearranging a church’s long-standing order of worship is usually a battle not worth fighting. But I do try to get worship leaders to think creatively about getting people’s minds on Scripture early in a service. Particular Bible stories, verses or themes should be the basis for each worship service, shaping its decorations, music and prayers.
Use of God’s written word to reveal God’s truth goes back to the earliest days of the Christian church, when the words we translate as “scripture” or “word of God” were references to the Jewish Bible, the writings we now group under the Old Testament.
Consider these references from letters that later became part of the New Testament:
2 Timothy 3:14-17: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have known the sacred writings that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work.”
Hebrews 4:12-13: “Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And before him no creature is hidden, but all are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one to whom we must render an account.”
James 1:21-22: “Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls. But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves.”
In these verses, we see God’s word as living and powerful, something that flows through the pages of a Bible and into a reader. Open the Bible, use what is there, and you’ll find yourself equipped in new ways. God’s word will dissect you, exposing what is of God and not of God.
It will even implant itself in your soul, bringing you face to face with salvation through Jesus Christ. It’s no surprise that God’s word has long been the driving force behind worship.
Root worship in Scripture, and we encounter the Holy Spirit as a group, an experience that should always strengthen us.
Fail to root worship in Scripture, and I think it is safe to say we have not worshiped at all.
Lord, as we find ourselves denied worship in the way we most enjoy, help us to remain deep in your word, committing ourselves to it now and for the worship days to come. Amen.