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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

"The God We Worship" (Various Contributors)

TITLE: The God We Worship: Adoring the One Who Pursues, Redeems, and Changes His People
AUTHOR: Edited by Jonathan L. Master
PUBLISHER: Phillipsburg, PA: P and R Publishing, 2016, (192 pages).

What is worship? Is it about man or is it about God? Some churches choose worship formats and songs according to the needs of people. Others choose worship liturgies to adhere closely to tradition. Without adequately understanding what the essence of worship is, it is hard to plan out a meaningful flow of worship. More importantly, how we begin determines the general thrust of the worship experience. The core message in this book is about God, with each sermon and message pointing readers to the nature of God. For without God, worship is meaningless. In this book, ten contributors give their unique perspectives of a certain aspect of worship. Organized thematically, the essays and sermons begins with the glory of God; covering the Fall of man; proclaiming the call to worship; meditating on God's grace and mercy; the truth claims of Jesus Christ; the work and Person of the Holy Spirit. Worshiping God is like admiring and gazing at a lovely diamond, with each worship moment helping us to cherish and worship God in a specific way. Bryan Chapell in "God's Glory Revealed" begins with a reflection on Isaiah 6 to meditate on the glory of God and to imagine what made Isaiah tremble. Charles D. Drew in "Called by God to Worship" reflects on how God pursues people; and considers three questions to ponder. He asks:

  1. How do we know God seeks worshipers?
  2. Why?
  3. Why should we say yes to Gods pursuit of us?

Richard D. Phillips continues this same line of meditation with "Sought by Christ to Worship" covering on New Testament revelations of Christ. Joseph Ryan touches on God's providence in "Guided by God's Sovereign Providence" through the three types of providential care (planning presumption; personal presumption; and positional presumption) as described in James 4:13-14.  Philip Graham Ryken sees God as Redeemer  in "Redeemed by God's Sovereign Mercy" addressing the reality of pain and suffering while acknowledging God's sovereignty over all. Focusing on Romans 9, Ryken sees the distress experienced by Paul, agonizing over the depravity of man while affirming the mercy of God. He settles on the position that God is not merely concerned about mercy per se, but the full revelation of Himself, Truth personified. Michael S. Horton shares about "Sanctifying Grace" and argues that before we can understand the process of salvation (Romans 6-8), we need to disengage from our culture of self-help and therapy-obsession. For grace is a full acceptance of what we cannot do for ourselves and the undeserved grace we receive. Through the already and not-yet theological model, we are reminded about our limitation and that it is up to God to fully reveal Himself according to His perfect timing. Richard D. Phillips looks to Christ as Royal King, High Priest, and Redeemer. He concludes with the vision of the glorious kingdom to come in Revelation. Out of this beauty of God's holiness comes our desire to serve God even more.  Michael A. G. Haykin speaks of the Holy Spirit in "The Spirit of Holiness" arguing that the essence of worship is God's holiness. Al Mohler describes worship through "Know the Truth" believing that right worship comes with right belief. Worship is not manipulation but an affirmation of the Truth of God as declared in the Bible. D. A. Carson in "I Am the Truth" brings together the biblical passages in both the Old and New Testament and shines the limelight on Jesus Christ, and how the Holy Spirit enables us in worship as God's truths get embedded in our hearts.

On and on, each contributor begins with the Word and concludes with a declaration that worship begins with God, proceeds with God, and concludes with God. All of them belong to a coalition of pastors, scholars, and clergy who hold on to the Reformed faith, called the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals. The breadth of topics make this book respectable, though some would argue that worship is a much bigger topic and deserves a lot more pages to cover. That said, the series of sermons are ongoing as each year, a conference is held to allow different members of the community to express their understanding of worship. It is definitely very instructive to people who tend to think worship only in terms of music and song. For them, this book is an eye-opener that worship is way more than the musical instruments and melodies played. The number of contributors could have been more.

Who should read this book? First of course are the worship leaders. Being able to lead is not just about the ability to play a musical instruments or to throw in a few songs to fill in the time space. It is about elevating the goodness and Triune Godhead. It is in ascribing to God His full attributes and who God is. It is about proclaiming the truth of God as affirmed in the Bible. The worship leader must always be worshipers themselves. Second will be the teachers and Bible facilitators. Having a good understanding of worship will teach us that our service flows not from our motivations or talents but on the inspiration of the Holy Spirit to help us know God and then to make God known. Third, it is for the lay persons, and anyone wanting to understand worship from a Reformed perspective.

Anyone who wants to know the heart of worship from a Reformed perspective should get this book. It is anchored in biblical truth and is consistent with Reformed theology.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of P&R Publishing and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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