The church has lost a great thinker this past weekend. Robert Webber had battled cancer for the last eight months. He wrote quite a bit on worship. We used his book, Worship: Old and New at Indiana Wesleyan University for one of my Church Music classes. While I didn’t always agree with what he wrote, he always made me think seriously about the topic of worship. We will miss him.
Wow! what a day and I mean that from a good standpoint. If you weren’t there it’s difficult to describe. Let’s just say, there was a heavy dose of the Holy Spirit in both worship this morning and our teaching time this evening. I preached on what worship is like in God’s throne room base on Revelation 4. I’m currently in a series titled, “The Hymns of Heaven.” After preaching, we sang some songs based on Revelation 4. Let’s just say it was powerful. For my FLAME friends, it was comparible to some of the times we have there.
This evening’s teaching time was powerful as we finished the chapter on “The Moving of God” from Keith Drury’s book, There’s No I In Church. We looked at two powerful moves of God from Acts. First, was Paul and Silas in jail. Instead of grumping and complaining like we do, they were praising God, an earthquake happened and they were freed from their chains. As a result of their worship, they were freed from their chains and the jailer’s life was changed. Then we looked at Peter’s miraculous deliverance from prison as a result of the prayers of the church. We had some great discussion.
If you look at the post below, I’ve now started giving an outline of the service, so that you can see what songs and scriptures we are using and how we put the service together. Part of the reasoning is that I feel that God is leading me to write more in the area of worship. And while there are many sites that cover this area, I want to approach it from a Wesleyan perspective. Over the next few weeks, I will be adding some worship links that I have found helpful to one of the sidebars. Have a great week!
Almost each Sunday I share thoughts of the day and today I will be doing that later. One thing I’ve wanted to do is to give an outline of the service including the songs and scriptures we have used.
Sunday, April 29 — The Fourth Sunday of Easter
Call to Worship – Psalm 23
Song of Worship – All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
Song of Worship – Crown Him with Many Crowns
Message – Revelation 4
Worship at God’s Throne:
- Revelation Song
- Thou Art Worthy
- Agnus Dei
- We Fall Down
- Holy, Holy, Holy
Imagine with me this morning, that instead of sitting at Preston Wesleyan Church in Martinsville, VA in the United States of America, you have been transported to the very throne room of heaven. How would that change the way you worship? Can you imagine what it would be like to be in God’s throne room? Many have said what they would do, but have you ever thought about it? Have you ever thought what it would be like to be in God’s very presence?
This morning, through scripture, we want to explore what it is like in heaven’s throne room. John the Evangelist (the apostle, the disciple Jesus loved), the writer of the Gospel of John, writes this in chapter 4 of Jesus’ Revelation:
Then as I looked, I saw a door standing open in heaven, and the same voice I had heard before spoke to me like a trumpet blast. The voice said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must happen after this.” And instantly I was in the Spirit, and I saw a throne in heaven and someone sitting on it. The one sitting on it was as brilliant as gemstone – like jasper and carnelian. And the glow of an emerald circled his throne like a rainbow.
This is a wonderful and awesome sight. Again, imagine with me what it would be like to be standing or sitting in heaven’s throne room this morning. As I stand here on the platform, the idea scares me to death. What would change in our worship if we were sitting in the throne room of heaven? In reality, each Sunday when we come to worship, we really should be sitting in heaven’s throne room. We often don’t think about it that way. Why do I say it scares me? Look at what John says, “I saw the throne and someone sitting on it. The one sitting on it was a brilliant as gemstone – like jasper and carnelian.” We are told that God dwells as “unapproachable light.” He is one whom no one has seen or can see. God is described here in the reflected brilliance of precious stones and a rainbow of emerald. So, if you think about it, heaven truly is the emerald city. Heaven’s throne room is like nothing we have ever experienced. In my mind, it brings a sense of awe and wonder. But John is not done describing the throne room. Let’s continue in verse 4:
Twenty-four thrones surrounded him, and twenty-four elders sat on them. They were all clothed in white and had gold crowns on their heads. From the throne came flashed of lighting and the rumble of thunder. And in front of the throne were seven torches with burning flames. This is the sevenfold Spirit of God. In front of the throne was a shiny sea of glass, sparkling like crystal.
We are going to begin to see here that the worship in heaven reflects the worship in the earthly temple. The earthly Jewish temple is just a dim reflection of the heavenly temple. The twenty-four elders are representative of the whole company of believers in heaven. The number 24 is understood to reflect the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve apostles of the New Testament. Then we have the lighting and thunder – this is symbolic of the awesome majesty and power of God. In Revelation, thunder and lightning always mark an important event connected with the heavenly temple. Are you beginning to catch a sense of the awesomeness of God? This is something that we rarely catch. What would our worship look like? Our worship now sometimes resembles what Paul said in 1 Corinthians, “but now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will se everything with perfect clarity.” Our worship is but a dim reflection of the worship of heaven. But I am just foolish enough to believe that it doesn’t have to be that way. Each Sunday when we gather, we should be able to glimpse, just a little bit of what it will be like when we gather with the saints who have gone on before us and worship God.
Before we move on, let take a look at one more thing and that is the sea of glass. Until I looked at this with fresh eyes, especially in light of our reading through the Bible last year, I never saw this. In front of the throne of God there is a large body of water. Remember what the Israelites called the large basin in front of the temple? They called that basin “The Sea.” As we continue forward, you will continue to see other Old Testament temple articles show up such as the lambs, the altar, incense, and the ark of the covenant.
The earthly temple was just a dim reflection of the heavenly temple. What happens next? Let’s continue:
In the center of and around the throne were four living beings, each covered with eyes, front and back. The first of these living beings was like a lion; the second was like an ox; the third had a human face; and the fourth was like an eagle in flight. Each of these living beings had six wings, and their wings were covered all over with eyes, inside and out. Day after day and night after night they keep on saying,
“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty – the one who always was, who is, and who is still to come.”
This is an awe-inspiring picture to me. Notice that there are four living beings. Think of other fours and put them together with this one; the four winds and the four corners of the earth. It’s really possible that John is saying here that all of creation, all living things are constantly saying that God is holy. And as we’ve looked at before, God is holy, holy, holy. No other attribute is repeated like that in the whole of scripture. We serve a holy, holy, holy God. What happens when we realize that – that we serve a holy God. I would think our response should be like that of Isaiah’s. He was taken up to heaven and captured a glimpse of the holiness of God. He couldn’t take it, because God’s holiness exposed his own human frailties. Isaiah said, “Woe to me, for I am ruined.”
God is holy and when we realize that it should change the way we worship. I want to note something here before we go on. Notice that creation sings the same words over and over, day after day, night after night. I know some that tire of singing a hymn that has five verses; some tire of singing songs that have repetitive lyrics. But imagine this with me as we explore this. Imagine singing or saying the same 22 words over and over again, day after day, night after night. Our worship here on earth is only practice for worship in heaven. Sometimes I feel that we have trouble showing up for an hour to worship our God. What are we going to do in heaven, when that’s all we do…forever…
I want you to catch the significance of what is going on here. Let’s look at the next couple verses.
Whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever…
Look what it says, whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne. Look right above that, the living beings are always giving glory and honor and thanks…Isn’t that the way our worship should be? Shouldn’t we always be giving glory and honor and thanks? Let’s go back to a verse we have looked at before, “and so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.” If all of creation can give glory to God, then those who follow after his Son Jesus should be able to offer up continual worship.
But whenever the living beings offer up their worship…what happens?
The twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, “You are worthy, O Lord God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.”
We serve a holy, holy, holy God and he expects our worship. What would happen if we would worship him like we were always in his throne room? What if we did that in every aspect of our lives? What if our lives declared that he was holy and was deserving of our worship? God’s power and holiness extend from eternity past to eternity yet to come. The twenty-four elders also bow down and they lay their crowns, which acknowledges that God alone is worthy of ultimate praise and worship. This morning I want to end differently. Over the past thirty years there have been several song written to proclaim the One who sits on the throne. We are going to sing those; some will be familiar, some are new. If you know the song, I encourage you to sing along. If you don’t know the song, I want you to reflect on the words. I invite you to sit, stand, sing, kneel, kneel at the altar as we take some time at the end of the service to imagine what it would be like to be in heaven’s throne room. If God speaks, to you during this time, I encourage you to follow his leading. What would it be like to be in heaven’s throne room? I wonder…
Missional Jerry has a great article on cross generational ministry. If we are to be the church Christ has called us to be, we must be cross generational.
I love this quote: To many times today ministry is age focused. We need more cross generational opportunities. What’s wrong with all worshipping together, learning together or serving together? We need the ability to pass on wisdom down and up the generational chain. Traditionals and Boomers need X and Yer’s knowledge of technology and our changing world. X and Yer’s need their commitment to getting the job done, experience and determination.
Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-17; John 10:22-30
This week we have several readings that make reference to lambs, sheep, and shepherds. This weeks reading includes one of the best known of David’s psalms. It is a song of comfort. “The Lord is my shepherd, I have all that I need…” I have read this at the bedside of several who have gone through great difficulty. I last read this psalm at the bedside of a woman in her last hour of life. When we go through the tough times, we need to be reminded that there is someone who cares for us, who will comfort us, who will take us through those dark valleys.
This passage in Revelation along with chapters 4 and 5, are among my favorite in the book. We are in a series called “The Hymns of Heaven.” Tomorrow we look at chapter 4. Next week at chapter five and the next week at chapter 7. In chapter seven there is a large crowd gathered around the throne that is described in chapter 4. The crowd is from every tribe and nation and they are all worshiping the Lamb.
“Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne and from the Lamb!”
11 And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living beings. And they fell before the throne with their faces to the ground and worshiped God. 12 They sang,
“Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and strength belong to our God forever and ever! Amen.”
Tomorrow I’m asking the question, what if we approached each Sunday like we were entering heaven’s throne room? It really gives us something to think about. I challenge you tomorrow to enter your place of worship, whether a small house church, a small rural church, a large rural church, a large suburban or urban church; wherever you worship, like you were entering God’s very presence, because when we come to worship that’s what we are doing, because God is already there.
The last two years we were in New York, my wife and I were part of the community ecumenical clergy association in the community about four mile south of us. We had some great times of fellowship and worship. Each year the association sponsored a Lenten series. We rotated to the different churches and rotated the clergy as well. Usually the host church’s pastor spoke at a different church. Our theme the first year we were involved was “Come to the Waters.” Several weeks in the Catholic priest, shared a sermon on the stormy waters. At the end of the sermon he shared the song, “How Can I Keep from Singing?” I’ve been thinking how all this fits in with singing as a spiritual discipline. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be taking some thoughts of a paper that I wrote back at Indiana Wesleyan University.
Spiritual disciplines are designed to change us. Think of those we commonly think of as spiritual disciplines; Bible study; prayer; fasting and so on. We are now studying the corporate disicplines on Sunday evenings. I’ve been thinking that singing can be a personal or corporate discipline.
Many times I’ve have spent time singing either in private or corporately and the act of singing has produced a change in my heart; in the good times and the bad.
Here are the original lyrics from Robert Lowrey’s hymn, follow by Chris Tomlin’s paraphrase and rewrite.
1. My life flows on in endless song,
above earth’s lamentation.
I hear the clear, though faroff hymn
that hails a new creation.
Refrain: No storm can shake my inmost calm while to that Rock I’m clinging.
Since love is Lord of heaven and earth, how can I keep from singing?
2. Through all the tumult and the strife,
I hear that music ringing.
It finds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?
3. What though my joys and comforts die?
I know my Savior liveth.
What though the darkness gather round?
Songs in the night he giveth.
4. The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,
a fountain ever springing!
All things are mine since I am his!
How can I keep from singing?