Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: Worship (Page 1 of 4)

Sedate Worship or Holy Roar?

“I grew up in a rural town in South Australia, where I attended a small country church.  The Christian tradition of my youth was not a particularly animated tribe.  We were reserved, more conservative in the way we expressed ourselves in praise and worship.  On any given Sunday as we were led in traditional hymns (with a smattering of worship choruses), we’d sing along with sincere but subdued hearts.  This is not to say, of course, that celebration wasn’t happening in the pews, but the assumption was that any sort of celebration was personal, internal.  As a general rule, implied though it was, expressions of outward, enthusiastic praise were not practiced” (Darren Whitehead, co-author, Holy Roar).

So begins Holy Roar (co-authored by Chris Tomlin).  My younger daughter gifted me with the book.  It intrigued me.  I’ve never thought much about Israel’s worship.  But this book made me wonder what I’d find  if I could sneak back.  More important is what it suggests for our worship today.

Holy Roar is built around seven Hebrew words.  All are translated “praise” in our English Bibles.  But all have radically different shades of meaning.


Yadah means “to revere or worship with extended hands.  To hold out the hands.  To throw a stone or arrow.”

“May all the peoples praise (yadah), O God; may all the people praise (yadah) you” (Psalm 67:3).

“May all the people worship you with extended hands, O God; may all the people hold out their hands in praise to you” (Psalm 67:3).


Halal means “to boast, to rave, to shine, to celebrate, to be clamorously foolish.”

“Let them praise (halal) his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp” (Psalm 149:3).

“Let them be clamorously foolish over his name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp” (Psalm 149:3).


Zamar means “to make music, to celebrate in song and music, to touch the strings or parts of a musical instrument.”

“I will sing a new song to you, O God; on a harp of ten strings I will sing praises (zamar) to you” (Psalm 149:9).

I will sing a new song to you, O God; on a harp of ten strings I will celebrate with music to you” (Psalm 149:9).


Towdah means “to extend the hand, to give thanks, to confess, to sacrifice praise, to give thanks for things not yet received.”

“In God I have put my trust, I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?  Vows made to you are binding upon me, O God.  I will render praises (towdah) to you” (Psalm 56:11,12).

“In God I have put my trust, I will not be afraid.  What can man do to me?  Vows made to you are binding upon me, O God.  I will give thanks to you for what I have not yet received” (Psalm 56:11,12).


Barak means “to kneel, to bless God (as an act of adoration), to praise, to salute, to thank.”

“All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him (Psalm 72:11) . . . Long may he live! May gold from Sheba be given him. May people ever pray for him and praise (barak) him all day long” (Psalm 72:15).

“All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him (Psalm 72:11) . . . Long may he live! May gold from Sheba be given him. May people ever pray for him and kneel in blessing to him all day long” (Psalm 72:15).


Tehillah means “a song to praise, a new song, a spontaneous song.

“But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises (tehillah) of Israel” (Psalm 22:3).

But You are holy, Enthroned in the spontaneous praise songs of Israel” (Psalm 22:3).


Shabak means “to address in a loud tone, to shout, to commend, glory and triumph.”

“One generation will commend (shabak) your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4).

“One generation will commend your works with shouts to another; they will tell of your mighty acts” (Psalm 145:4).

Free to lift our hands in praise.  Lay aside our inhibitions.   Powerful (or simple) music to draw us into God’s presence.   A sacrifice of praise to God in expectation of what he will yet do.  On our knees in humble adoration.  Spontaneously singing a new song to the Lord.  Freedom to shout in triumphant praise.  That’s the worship to which these words call us.

Please note that these are not the ravings of an extreme charismatic.  They are, according to the Hebrew words, how Israel worshiped.  And I’ve written them here as an encouragement to deepen our practice of praise.

I think every worship team should read this short book together.  (There’s a “Reflection and Discussion” section for each chapter.)

But maybe you’re satisfied with worship at your church.  Just think:  our God is infinite; therefore, our worship should always be deepening.

Holy Roar is available from Amazon– 

Praise is available from us.






My Glory

” . . .  my glory,”
and the one who lifts my head.”

Memorable words from King David to the Lord.
In this dark psalm
he flees from his son, Absalom.

Absalom conspired
to steal the kingdom.
He turned the Israelite’s hearts.
David fled before escape was blocked.
“So the king left,
followed by all his household . . . ” ( 2 Samuel 15).

“O LORD, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me, ‘God will not deliver him.’
But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you’re my glory and the lifter of my head” (Psalm 3:1-3).

David had slain the giant Goliath.
But he doesn’t stand his throne like a warrior.
Instead he  sadly, slowly slinks away in weakness.
His ears hear onlookers’ gossip:
God will not deliver him.”

He  whispers– in faith–to the LORD,
” . . . you are a shield around me;
I find my glory just in serving you;
you raise my head high.”
Outwardly, David is defeated, humiliated;
inwardly, he’s rushing to the LORD his refuge.

Not only so; he prays,
“Rise up, O LORD!  Deliver me, O my God!”
It’s a prayer of hope
in depressing, degrading circumstances.
The LORD will restore him.
David expects to recover the throne.

Our kingdom hasn’t been usurped.
We’re not slinking out the city,
hearing God’s-gone-gossip,
humiliated, disgraced, disowned.
Even so, today we may trudge along,
much of what we once were gone.
Life was good,
under control.
Now, like David, our steps are heavy,
kingdom lost, God gone.

But dare we repeat David’s wonderful words?
Can we rightly claim them as ours too?
“But you are a shield around me, O LORD;
you’re my glory and the lifter of my head.”
Is the LORD to us who he was to King David?

David repeats what he hears:
“Many are saying to me,
‘There is no help for you in God’.”
So came mockers to Jesus’ cross:
“He trusts in God; let God deliver him now.”
The Son of David heard the same cruel words.
Of course, unlike David, God didn’t deliver him
–just let him die.
But God was Jesus’ glory, as he was David’s,
the One who lifted his head.
On the third day he raised Jesus to life.

The psalm applies to Christ,
so it applies to us who are in Christ.
The LORD is a shield around us.
He is our glory.
He is the lifter of our head.
We can sing it to him in worship,
and find it is so . . .























It happened in Simon the Leper’s home
in Bethany, two days before Passover.
A woman appeared during supper
carrying a beautiful jar of expensive perfume.
Jesus, disciples and Simon sat silent.
The woman too said nothing.
She broke the seal on the jar
and poured the perfume over Jesus’ head.
It seeped into his long hair,
streamed onto his clothing.
The sweet aroma filled Simon’s home.

But that was not all the filling.
Several indignant voices rose from the table,
as the woman cherished what she’d done.
“Why waste such expensive perfume?”
“She should have sold it and fed the poor!”
Harsh, scolding words poured from their lips.
The woman dropped her head in shame.

“Leave her alone,” Jesus replied,
defending the woman
and bringing a slight smile to her lips,
as angry men towered over her.
“She has done a good thing to me.
You always have the poor to help;
but you will not have me long.
She has done what she could
to anoint my body for burial.
She will be talked about
wherever the Good News is preached.”

It happened as the chief priests and law teachers
were looking for a chance to capture Jesus secretly
and put him to death.
They had an accomplice, a traitor,
who stood from Simon’s table
at Jesus’ rebuke
surrounded by the sweet smell
of burial anointing perfume.
Judas strode out
to arrange with the chief priests
to betray Jesus to them.
The priests welcomed him with delight
and promised a rich reward.
So from that night
Judas began looking
for the right time and place
to hand Jesus over.

Mark, pray tell,
who is this woman?
And why does she offer
such an extravagant gift?
But Mark stays silent.
We can only guess such a gift
was an act of love and heartfelt thanks.
Jesus had lavished on her God’s grace;
he had freed her from  some devilish past.
And she had come to honor him,
not knowing it portended his death.

It had been a wearying week of conflict.
At its start, Jesus had ridden a donkey’s colt
into the teeming city, where he’d die.
Passover pilgrims had welcomed him
with palm branches and messianic praises,
while priests plotted his death.

All week, from Jesus cleansing the temple
to the Jews public attempts to belittle him
to his end-of-age-judgment
to Judas’ betrayal,
conflict ruled the days and nights.
But this night came a humble woman
yearning to show love
to the Savior who had first loved her.
She gave what she had
and the sweet smell filled Jesus’ heart.
Unknowingly, she was preparing him for burial
by honoring him from her treasure.

This is Holy Week–
a week we should set aside
to meditate on it
and on what Jesus said and did
as he suffered and died.
But we don’t, can’t.
Work must be done,
church activities must be attended.
And soon it’s Monday
and while we’ve worshipped him in song
and heard a sermon of his death and rising,
we’re hardly more knowing than that woman.
We’ve ceased to sit still and ponder deeply
what Jesus said and what Jesus did
that warring week of his awful, wonderful death.

Would that, like this grateful woman,
in the clamor of a busy life,
we would quietly approach Jesus.
And while others busyed themselves,
we poured whispered praises on Jesus,
as his words and deeds of that week
sank deep into our hearts.
That woman could be our model,
and her perfume our rivers of praise,
spilling down on our Savior’s head.



Even If God Does Not

King Nebuchaddnezzar built a giant golden statue,
a self-image rising magnificently on the plain of Dura
in his empire of Babylon; it is for worship.
The herald calls to one and all:
“O people, nations and languages,
when you hear the sound of the horn,
you are to fall down and worship
the king’s golden statue.”

Thus, when the music sounded,
all Babylon within earshot bowed low
and worshiped the king–
except three.

Three among exiled Jews in the empire,
three chosen to serve in the king’s court,
three who now stand to answer the king  in his court,
because Babylonians, eager to denounce Jews,
pointed fingers at the three:  “Treason!”

Furious the king:  “Is it true?”
“It is,” confessed the three.
“One chance more,” the king replied,
or a blazing fiery furnace will be your fate.”

One expects a pause, a waiting to weigh their choices.
But the three speak quickly–and bravely.
(Or is it foolishly?)
“We have no defense, O King.”
It’s true–no defense, no power.
“We speak only this:
‘If we are cast into the blazing furnace,
the God we serve can deliver us,
and he will, O King.
But even if he does not, know this, O King–
we will not serve your gods;
we will not worship your image of gold.'”

The climax, we know.  Into the furnace the three are cast.
Enraged, Nebuchadnezzar peers to see his enemies burn.
Instead, he sees not three . . .
“But I see four, walking freely, unhurt in the fire,
and the fourth is like a son of the gods.”

So we celebrate, and we debate who truly is the fourth.
But  it is the words of the three that capture me
(To a furious despot before a blazing furnace):
“Even if our God does not deliver us,
we will not worship the gold image you’ve made.”
“Even if . . . ”
No assurance of deliverance, no promise of rescue.
This belief sure:  our God can . . .
This outcome in doubt:  he may not . .. ”
This devotion firm:  “Even if he does not . . . ”

This, then, is where we stand.
Not outside the fire, but in.
And we are not unhurt.

Shall we think our God absent?
Shall we say he cares not?
Shall we quake with fear and anger?
No!  We shall sing.
Stubbornly, defiantly, we shall lift our hands
and sing.
And if we cannot sing, we shall speak.
And if we cannot speak, we shall whisper.
And if we cannot whisper, we shall mouth:
“I know you’re faithful and I know you can
save through the fire with your mighty hand;
but even if you don’t my hope is you alone.
I will not bow down to the gods of unbelief.”

And we will remember, even if we see him not,
Or feel him not:
We are not abandoned, not alone;
One walks with us in the flames.

*Special thank you to my daughter, Meridith, and niece, Michele, for sending me this song!

Music Memories

I’m sitting at my computer writing a blog.  Christian instrumental music plays in the background.  Suddenly, my creaky memory kicks in:  we used to worship with many of these songs when I pastored SonRise Community Church. (not counting the occasional commercial mixed in here).

I sat back.  And remembered.  I can hear us (the worship team playing).  I can hear the congregation singing.  I remembered with gratitude.  With longing (how I wish for those days!).  My voice can’t sing along anymore.  But my soul can–and does.

I send this 1 hour 45 minutes of music, so you can join me, even if just briefly.  Prayer with words is good, with music better.  Meditation with quietness is rich, with music sometimes richer.  Praise with words brings joy, with music joy its full of glory.

Maybe this will bring you, too, music memories . . .


What People Really Want

I just finished reading Are Miraculous Gifts for Today?  Four different theologians contribute four different perspectives on that question.  I may  comment on it in later blogs.

What I want to write now is the author’s compelling answer at book’s end to this question:   “What is the deepest concern of Christians in this area (of miraculous gifts)?”  Wayne Grudem’s answer spoke to my heart . . .

I don’t think that the differences we usually talk about among our churches are their deepest concern.  I do not think most Christians care deeply whether the pastor wears a coat and tie or a sweater or a robe, or whether the church has an Anglican liturgy or a Baptist order of service or charismatic spontaneity with tongues and prophecies.  I don’t think they care deeply whether the church leads music with an organ or with a guitar, or teaches that you should be baptized in the Holy Spirit or filled with the Holy Spirit. These matters are of some importance, but they are not matters of deepest concern.

“I think what people really want is to be in the presence of God.  They want to have a deeper experience of God as they participate in church life week by week.  They want times of prayer that are not just forty-five minutes of prayer requests and five minutes of prayer, and not just quickly praying through a long list of requests, but times when they can pray long enough—in an unhurried way—so that they not only talk to God but also hear his still, small voice bearing witness to their hearts.  And they want times of worship where, when they are singing, they are allowed to focus their attention on God for an extended time—where no one is interrupting them to tell them to greet their neighbor, or to sing loudly on the next verse, or to listen to the announcements, or to listen to the choir, or to fill out the registration card in the pew.  These things, of course, have a place, but they all shift our focus from God alone to the people around us, and they interrupt our times of deepest reverence in the worship of God alone.

“Christians instinctively long to be in an assembly of God’s people where they can focus their attention on God long enough that their eyes and minds and hearts are aware of nothing but his presence, where their voices are singing his praise (or perhaps silent in his presence), and where they are free to feel the intensity of their love for him and to sense in their spirits that God is there, delighting in the praises of his children.  That is what Christians today really long for.  They long to come to a church and be allowed to worship and pray until they sense in their spirits that they are in the manifest presence of God.

“When churches have allowed people to have such extended times of prayer and worship, this longing of Christians has been fulfilled, and these churches have grown remarkably.  No denomination or viewpoint on spiritual gifts should have a monopoly on such times of worship and prayer.  Cessationist churches and “open, but cautious” churches, as well as Pentecostal, charismatic, and Third Wave churches, can provide such times of prayer and worship, each with its own style and within guidelines that protect their doctrinal convictions regarding spiritual gifts.

“Of course, I am not saying we need to diminish the importance we give to sound Bible teaching, in which we have God’s voice speaking to us.  In many of our churches this is done well, in other churches it is not, and people go away spiritually hungry week and week because they have not been fed on the Word of God.  Yet I am saying that I think many churches need, in addition to such teaching, much more emphasis on extended, uninterrupted times of prayer and worship.  I think people are longing to come to church and to know in their experience that they have spent extended time in the manifest presence of God.”

To which I say a hearty, “Amen!”  By God’s grace, we had that when I pastored.  Now, retired and disabled, I can’t find it.  If I could, I’d wheelchair there, however difficult.  We need what this writer describes.  And my soul longs for it.


This book is available from Amazon at


Hip-Hop Worship?

P.AllanI’ve written several times about worship music.  (See “Worship” on right -side column under “Categories”.)  To add more, here are some wise words from Ravi Zacharias and his colleague.

For those who don’t know, Ravi Zacharias is Founder and President of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM), which celebrated its thirtieth anniversary in 2014. Dr. Zacharias has spoken all over the world for 43 years in scores of universities, notably Harvard, Dartmouth, Johns Hopkins, and Cambridge. He has addressed writers of the peace accord in South Africa and military officers at the Lenin Military Academy and the Center for Geopolitical Strategy in Moscow. At the invitation of the President of Nigeria, he addressed delegates at the First Annual Prayer Breakfast for African Leaders held in Mozambique.  He has authored over 20 books.

May I ask you to listen to the short video now?  I’ll have a few comments to follow.

Image result for music notes

Music, as Dr. Zacharias noted, is a powerful instrument—the language of the soul that can seductively make the means (the music) an end in itself.  In other words, we can focus so much on the music (its rhythm, its style, etc.) that we lose sight of the song’s message.  This is particularly harmful in worship.  In worship, we want to be focused on the Lord and what we are singing to or about the him in that song.  If the instruments or the music itself become the dominant factor, then we have ceased to worship God and made an idol of the music.

The second point I want to reiterate is  the nature of the congregation.  Zacharias suggested we need to understand the audience to see what they will be engaged in.  Often, however, songs are chosen because they are newly-popular or they fit with the pastor’s sermon.  That’s all well and good.  But if the style of the song is such that the congregation struggles to sing it, they can’t engage in it to meaningfully worship the Lord.  This is true of some hymns as well as contemporary songs.  Some hymns are so familiar, their style doesn’t interfere with worship.  Musicians have written new melodies for some that aren’t familiar.  The important question here is, “How well can this congregation worship the Lord with this music?”

Clearly, balance is necessary.  The music some people can worship well with, others can’t.  The important point, however, isn’t hip-hop versus hymns.  The important point is, “How can this congregation best worship the Lord with music that conveys biblical truth?”

For the aim of worship is doxological (to give glory to God).  In such worship, we, then, find joy as together we fulfill our reason-for-being.



With the Lord in Joyful Song

P.AllanCame across this video.  Got blessed.  Couldn’t not praise the Lord and celebrate his faithful love and goodness.  I thought, “Why not pass it along?”  So here it is, no charge.  It may not be your favorite style of music.  (What’s wrong with you?)  But, ff you need to be encouraged, if you need to rejoice in Jesus, I pray this will help.  (It’s OK to clap and sing along . . . )

Christian Classical Music

O PreacherAccording to one web site ( there are 1264 genres of popular music today.  I have no idea if that’s right, but there’s a lot.

I’m reminded of a conversation with one of our worship leaders years ago.  How cool, he commented, that our worship team could play different kinds of Christian music for different people.  You know, please everyone.  I replied, “We haven’t even scratched the surface” and rattled off jazz and classical and folk and bluegrass, for example.  The variety of music nearly boggles the mind and makes me wonder what kind of God is ours, who creates creatures who can so creatively create such varied music!  One day it will  all be to his glory.

Next to today’s popular Christian groups, classical conjures up images of people dancing the minuet.  But I risk the scoffing to suggest a listen to this 14 minute, 42 second Christian classical music video.  At times we need music to pull us up from our despondency to dance.  Other times—busy, stressful times—we need music to revive our soul without sending us to sleep.  This video does it for me.

I suggest watching and listening with a mind to meet the Lord in the music.  Or perhaps silently reading a portion of Scripture.  Or how about this?  Take your loved one’s hand and together sit in the Lord’s holy presence, listening, waiting.  But whatever you do, please, don’t critique the music.  Meet with the One whom words alone cannot communicate–the One about whom there must be music’s beauty to taste just a bit of his glory.  He’ll be there in the song . . .



P.AllanBeen a long, hard day.  Stress from the start.  Running.  Running, Running.  Not a moment to stop.  More to do than can be done.  Weary, but no end.  Worry, but no relief.  What about tomorrow?  The money?  The kids?  The house?  The job?

Where’s the peace?  Where is Jesus?  Why am I so down and defeated?

Before this day ends, how about making a few moments (you’ll have to make them ’cause they won’t just happen) to be still before the Lord.  Look at this video.  Listen to it.  I pray we’ll all find in the stress the stillness with Jesus that quiets our soul and makes us more than conquerors through him who loved us.

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