Perhaps this is a question you have asked yourself as you read a passage like Exodus 21:1-6 or 1 Peter 2:18-20. Or perhaps someone has tried to undermine your confidence in the Bible by saying that the Scriptures cannot be trusted because it promotes slavery. If you have ever wrestled with this issue, I commend to you the lecture below:
The Logic of Our Liturgy
Below is a brief walk through of how the Bible’s priorities and patterns for worship are reflected in the general shape of the liturgy that we have here at SHPC:
- Prayer of Preparation: Before we enter God’s throne room, we pause to prepare our hearts and remind ourselves that we are coming before the King of kings.
- ↓ Call to Worship: Our service starts with a Call to Worship to remind us that God is Initiator and Host. We come at His summons into His presence. We are the honored guests in His house.
- ↑ Adoration: We respond, through song and prayer, to God’s gracious initiation and invitation by ascribing worth to Him for who He is (attributes) and what He’s done (actions).
- ↑ Confession: We then move from acknowledging our Holy God to confessing our unholiness before Him. We humbly admit that we have fallen short of His glory in thought, word, and deed.
- ↓ Assurance: God responds to our confession with cleansing by reminding us that “there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1) and that in Christ, and Christ alone, there is forgiveness of sins (Eph 1:7).
- ↑ Thanksgiving: We respond to this divine declaration of grace with songs of thanksgiving that are focused on the person and work of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We also give our offering in thankful response in order to support the work and advance of the ministry of the Gospel.
- ↑ Pastoral Prayer: Having thanked God for His pardoning grace, we now plead with Him for sanctifying and sustaining grace to meet our spiritual and physical needs as a church.
- ↓ Sermon: We believe that when the Word of God is read and faithfully preached, God, Himself, is actually addressing us in order to “teach, admonish, correct, and train us in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). And His Word works on us to “revive the soul…make wise the simple…rejoice the heart…and…enlighten the eyes.” (Psalm 19:7-8).
- ↑ Prayer and Song of Response: We respond to God’s Word by asking that its truths and application bear fruit in our lives.
- ↓ Lord’s Supper: Having heard the Word through preaching, we then get to see the Word in the sacrament. The Lord is the Host of this spiritual meal and thus as we take the bread and drink the cup, we fellowship with Him at His table.
- ↓ Commission/Benediction: As God had the first word in the Call to Worship, He now gets the last word in the Benediction. In the Benediction, God reminds us whose we are and the privileges and purpose that comes with it.
The Principles of Our Liturgy
Worship is a Dialogue between God and His people
At the heart of the covenant is this statement: “God is our God and we are His people.” The covenant we have with God is intensely relational. This relational dynamic of the covenant is intentionally reflected in our liturgy. In the liturgy there is an reoccurring interchange where God speaks to us (represented by the ↓) and we in turn respond to God (represented by the ↑). This dialogue highlights the fact that God is the primary actor in worship authoritatively addressing us through His Word. Our part is to humbly respond, “Speak, O Lord, your servants are listening.”
Our Liturgy is Shaped by and Centered on the Gospel
Additionally, the structure of our worship is meant to remind us of and re-center us on the Gospel of Christ. Here is how it does that:
“Just as preaching presents the gospel in word, singing presents the gospel through song, the sacraments present the gospel in symbol, so also the liturgy presents the gospel in structure and shape.” (Bryan Chapell)
“The movement of the liturgy is a ‘retelling’ and ‘reenacting’ of the Gospel: God is holy (adoration), we are sinners (confession), Jesus saves (assurance), sanctifies (preaching & Lord’s supper), and sends us as his ambassadors (benediction/commission). This also parallels the Biblical storyline of the Gospel: creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.” (Mike Cosper)
Be encouraged to prayer by truths like these from Charles Spurgeon:
There is enough sin in the best prayer that was ever prayed to secure its being cast away from God. But it is not a throne of justice I say again, and here is the hope for our lame, limping supplications. Our condescending King does not maintain a stately etiquette in his court like that which has been observed by princes among men, where a little mistake or a flaw would secure the petitioner's being dismissed with disgrace. Oh, no; the faulty cries of his children are not severely criticized by him. The Lord High Chamberlain of the palace above, our Lord Jesus Christ, takes care to alter and amend every prayer before he presents it, and he makes the prayer perfect with his perfection, and prevalent with His own merits. God looks upon the prayer, as presented through Christ, and forgives all its own inherent faultiness. How this ought to encourage any of us who feel ourselves to be feeble, wandering, and unskillful in prayer. If you cannot plead with God as sometimes you did in years gone by, if you feel as if somehow or other you had grown rusty in the work of supplication, never give over, but come still, yea and come oftener, for it is not a throne of severe criticism, it is a throne of grace to which you come...this is not the throne of majesty which supports itself by the taxation of its subjects, but a throne which glorifies itself by streaming forth like a fountain with floods of good things. Come ye, now, and receive the wine and milk which are freely given, yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price. All the petitioner's wants shall be supplied, because it is a throne of grace.
Have a plan to pray that you treat as important as any appointment you make:
Unless I’m badly mistaken, one of the main reasons so many of God’s children don’t have a significant life of prayer is not so much that we don’t want to, but that we don’t plan to. If you want to take a four-week vacation, you don’t just get up one summer morning and say, “Hey, let’s go today!” You won’t have anything ready. You won’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned.
But that is how many of us treat prayer. We get up day after day and realize that significant times of prayer should be a part of our life, but nothing’s ever ready. We don’t know where to go. Nothing has been planned. No time. No place. No procedure. And we all know that the opposite of planning is not a wonderful flow of deep, spontaneous experiences in prayer. The opposite of planning is the rut. If you don’t plan a vacation, you will probably stay home and watch TV. The natural, unplanned flow of spiritual life sinks to the lowest ebb of vitality. There is a race to be run and a fight to be fought. If you want renewal in your life of prayer, you must plan to see it.
Therefore, my simple exhortation is this: Let us take time this very day to rethink our priorities and how prayer fits in. Make some new resolve. Try some new venture with God. Set a time. Set a place. Choose a portion of Scripture to guide you. Don’t be tyrannized by the press of busy days. We all need midcourse corrections. Make this a day of turning to prayer— for the glory of God and for the fullness of your joy. (John Piper)
Have a method for how you are going to pray. Consider adopting the Psalm a day prayer method, as discussed by Donald Whitney in the video below:
You can even download and print this chart to put in your Bible that will give you a guide how you can read and pray through the Psalms.
Also, consider having a tool to track prayer requests. Often times we hear of and commit to pray for things but we forget them. Maybe you're a "paper" person and would benefit from carrying around a pocket moleskin to write down prayer requests that you want to remember. Or maybe you're an "app" person and would benefit from PrayerMate and app designed to help you pray:
In the sermon I preached this past Sunday I offered some practical methods and tools that you could use to help you hide God's Word in your heart. Here are links to those tools that I mentioned in the sermon:
Have a Bible Reading Plan
- Here is a blog post that gathers a number of Bible reading plans together.
- Here is an app that offers many Bible reading plans and helps you track your progress.
- Here is a Bible Reading Chart that you can use to track your progress without having to follow a rigid calendar.
Use an Audio Bible During Drive Time
- If you download the ESV Crossway Bible app it is fully equipped with a FREE audio Bible and you can sync it with a Bible reading plan. Below is a video overviewing the app:
He inhabited heaven surrounded with praise,
without beginning, the endless of days
by nature God, second person of the Trinity
the Immortal, the Invisible, robed in divinity.
Yet all the prerogatives and privileges of glory,
He laid aside to inhabit humanities story.
A story that is filled with a darkness most grim,
but lo He comes to shine light upon them.
How He came is still shrouded in mystery,
One might call it the great miracle of history.
Even more marvelous was the way that He came:
It wasn’t the entrance of a person of fame,
It wasn’t the arrival of one who is King,
Nor of the one who owns everything.
This is the part that should leave us floored
The One we call Master, Savior, and Lord
Entered this world through the womb of a lady
God the Son actually became a baby.
The unmade Maker went through gestation
and was born in a very humble location.
Born with the animals, their stink and their stank,
He came to be a servant of most lowly rank.
He was found by Shepherds sleeping in a manger
His appearance was that of any other stranger.
That birth in the stable is where Hope begins,
there lies the One who’ll save us from our sins.
The place of the cradle is only the start
A mission to suffer lies at the heart
The cradle was destined to lead to the cross
As He has come to seek and save the lost.
He was obedient to the point of death
Honoring His Father with every breath.
His resolve: “Father glorify your Name”
Brought him at last to a cross of shame.
But even the cross gave way to the crown.
as death was unable to keep this King down.
His Father raised Him exalted Him high,
And one day every tongue will His Name magnify.
Our Lord went from cradle to cross to crown,
So let us before Him worship and bow down!
In connection with the preaching of the Psalms we have also been trying to sing the Psalms. This is a great method for meditating on the words of Scripture and hiding them in your heart as the Psalms call us to (Psalm 119:9-11).
Here is a version of Psalm 1 to the tune of "O For A Thousand Tongues To Sing"