Saturday, December 08, 2012



by John Schroeder

The Old Testament Reading

Job 1:13-22 - Now it happened on the day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, that a messenger came to Job and said, "The oxen were plowing and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans attacked and took them. They also slew the servants with the edge of the sword, and I alone have escaped to tell you."

While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants and consumed them, and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "The Chaldeans formed three bands and made a raid on the camels and took them and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you." While he was still speaking, another also came and said, "Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking wine in their oldest brother's house, and behold, a great wind came from across the wilderness and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young people and they died; and I alone have escaped to tell you."

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD." Through all this Job did not sin nor did he blame God.

The Psalms

Ps 2:1-12

Why are the nations in an uproar, and the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand, and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His Anointed:
"Let us tear their fetters apart, and cast away their cords from us!"
He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.
Then He will speak to them in His anger and terrify them in His fury:
"But as for me, I have installed My King upon Zion, My holy mountain."
"I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to me, 'Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee.
'Ask of me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the {very} ends of the earth as Thy possession.
'Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron, Thou shalt shatter them like earthenware.'"
Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the LORD with reverence, and rejoice with trembling.
Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish {in} the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

The Gospels
John 4:3-26 - He left Judea, and departed again into Galilee. And He had to pass through Samaria. So He came to a city of Samaria, called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.

There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Jesus said to her, "Give Me a drink." For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food. The Samaritan woman therefore said to Him, "How is it that You, being a Jew, ask me for a drink since I am a Samaritan woman?" (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.)

Jesus answered and said to her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, 'Give Me a drink,' you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water." She said to Him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do you get that living water? You are not greater than our father Jacob, are you, who gave us the well, and drank of it himself, and his sons, and his cattle?"

Jesus answered and said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." The woman said to Him, "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty, nor come all the way here to draw."

He said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, 'I have no husband'; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly."

The woman said to Him, "Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you {people} say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship." Jesus said to her, "Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, shall you worship the Father. You worship that which you do not know; we worship that which we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers shall worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

"God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth." The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us."

Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am {He."}

The Epistle Reading

1 Cor 14:12-26 - So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual {gifts,} seek to abound for the edification of the church.

Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret. For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. What is {the outcome} then? I shall pray with the spirit and I shall pray with the mind also; I shall sing with the spirit and I shall sing with the mind also. Otherwise if you bless in the spirit {only,} how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the "Amen" at your giving of thanks, since he does not know what you are saying? For you are giving thanks well enough, but the other man is not edified.

I thank God, I speak in tongues more than you all; however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind, that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.

Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be babes, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, "By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me," says the Lord. So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe, but to unbelievers; but prophecy {is for a sign} not to unbelievers, but to those who believe.

If therefore the whole church should assemble together and all speak in tongues, and ungifted men or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are mad? But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an ungifted man enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all; the secrets of his heart are disclosed; and so he will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you. What is {the outcome} then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.


A father is sitting in the waiting room, awaiting news of the birth of his firstborn. I know, old-fashioned, but humor me. The doctor emerges from the delivery room and declares, “I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but your child was born without arms.”

Dismayed, the father cries out, “What could be worse?”

“Well,” responds the doctor, “your child was also born without legs.”

“What could possibly be worse?“ says the father with tears beginning to well in his eyes.

“I am afraid your child is also without torso,” said the doctor in response to what clearly had been a rhetorical question. “In fact, your child is simply a large, seven pound eye.”

“Oh dear Lord, can there be any worse news?” says the father sobbing.

“It’s blind,” says the doctor.

I know, morbidly unfunny, but I cannot help but think of that joke every time I read that passage in Job. The images conjured are very similar. People just keep piling in on Job with bad news – before one can finish, the next one enters and just buries the poor man in another layer of unhappy information. So harrowing is the news that Job receives that one just wants to picture the Three Stooges as the bearers of the bad tidings. That way when Larry barges in on Moe while he is telling his tale of woe, Moe will yank a hank of his hair out and when Curly barges in on both of them, he’ll get poked in the eyes and told to “butt out.” At least that way there would be a bit of comic relief in a sea of misery.

But Job’s response to this tsunami of bad news is most unexpected and interesting, he “arose and tore his robe and shaved his head, and he fell to the ground and worshiped.“ Battered and broke, Job’s response is worship. Clearly this is a very different kind of worship than we typically think of, Job is naked, there are no musical instruments present of any sort and Job lies prostrate on the ground. Not only is the situation one that I would not normally associate with worship, but the particular circumstances of the worship itself are quite extraordinary.

But Job is not the only person in the Bible to have a seemingly incongruous response to a situation. I find the woman at the well, the story in John 4 fascinating. Everybody has heard the bit about how the woman was obviously shunned because she was out there mid-day and all that stuff, but what is interesting is that even under those circumstances; she seems to have no pride, Jesus spins her a wonderful tale about what He has to offer and when she declares her desire to have it, He tells her to go fetch her husband. She admits to having no husband and Jesus’ response is, more or less, “You’re right, you don’t – you’re a slut.”

Now I think most of us, even if the accusation were true, when confronted with such bald-faced announcement of our sins would respond with denial or anger or affront. But not this woman, she just says, “Yep, you’re right which means you’re really smart so let’s explore some other stuff you might know about.”

In this story, Jesus is clearly establishing his identity, but He is also trying to evangelize this woman, to bring her into His fold. That he does so via such a direct declaration of her sin is astounding, and completely opposite of how we think about evangelism in this day and age. Nowadays the last thing we want to do is make anyone we’re trying to get to come to Jesus, or church, to experience anything even remotely uncomfortable.

We have on our hands here two stories, from the Bible, one that is in the end about worship and one that is in the end about evangelism they seem quite contrary to how we think about either thing. I think that if we examine these stories in some detail, along with some other scripture we can come up with some principles about both worship and evangelism. Principles that will challenge some of our basic assumptions, and most importantly some of our basic desires.

Let’s walk through some of those principles.

Principle 1 - If we’re worried about how worship “feels” we’re doing it wrong.

C.S. Lewis has very famously said:
Now faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian, I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable; but when I was an atheist, I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why faith is such a necessary virtue; unless you teach your moods "where they get off" you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of faith.
Worship is part of being a Christian and being a Christian is based on our faith – and none of this is “a feeling.” Feelings come and feelings go, feeling get hurt and sometimes our feelings hurt someone else’s feelings.

What do you think Job’s feelings were when he tore his robe and shaved his head? Do you think he was “feeling good?” Do you think he was in mood to “shout praises?” I don’t know about you all, but when I get a string of bad news like Job got, and people come to me and tell me to “praise the Lord,” I am likely to tell them to shut up and go away, if not something quite a bit stronger.

Consider Psalm 2. In this Psalm God’s placing of Jesus on the throne of earth is described to us and all the kings of earth are commanded to “Worship the LORD with reverence, and rejoice with trembling.” The worship demanded of the kings of the earth is not a response to a feeling nor is it intended to make them happy somehow. If anything it is humiliating to them – it is a reminder that no matter how much they are King of their kingdom, they too have a king they are accountable to.

The worship the kings of the earth are commanded to in Psalm 2 is, like the worship that Job renders, also not “praise.” They do not seek to tell God how “awesome” He is. Nor do they express gratitude in any real sense. The worship we read about here is simply an acknowledgment of a straightforward fact – GOD IS LORD.

The point is straightforward, we worship to acknowledge that single fact, whether we feel good or bad, whether we want to thank God or tell Him to leave us alone and regardless of any other extraneous thing.

In point of fact, such worship is not about us at all – it is solely and completely about God. This is true right down to the methods we use to accomplish this worship. How we want to acknowledge God is Lord is totally immaterial, we must render the acknowledgement in the way God tells us to render it. If we decide how we are going to worship based on any consideration other than our best understanding of how God wants us to then we are making worship about us instead of about God. And deciding how God wants us to worship is not something we can do easily, quickly or lightly. It takes, study prayer, and process.

Ideas about how best to worship God, even what language, have changed over the millennia. They will undoubtedly change again. Being imperfect creatures our efforts to understand the desires of the perfect Creator will always be imperfect. But what cannot change is how we decide on the change. It cannot be based on desire, whim, attractiveness, nor anything else other than our best efforts to determine how God expects us to do it.

We see these changes within the Bible itself. The worship service in the Old Testament involved animal sacrifice. Most Jews today believe that were the Temple in Jerusalem to be rebuilt the practice would begin again. But in the New Testament we see this practice cease. Once Christ’s ultimate sacrifice was made, there was no longer a need for such lesser sacrifices to be made as a part of corporate worship.

The New Testament also brings a number of other interesting practices to gatherings of the faithful. Which brings us to the passage from I Corinthians 14. It is very easy to get bogged down in this section of I Corinthians into the issue of tongues and other miraculous gifts. But in so doing we sometimes miss the bigger picture. Rather than get bogged down in what is tongues and all that, let’s just view it as an ecstatic and wonderful experience for the one that had it – one that was so good they wanted to share it with everyone and encourage them to do it too. This ecstatic experience had the added bonus of being “cool” and attracting people to the church because they wanted to appropriate that cool for themselves. There was a temptation to build their worship services around it so they could continue to attract people. In his commentary on verses 21-25 of this passage, Matthew Henry says:
Tongues were rather a sign to unbelievers than to believers, v. 22. They were a spiritual gift, intended for the conviction and conversion of infidels, that they might be brought into the Christian church; but converts were to be built up in Christianity by profitable instructions in their own language. The gift of tongues was necessary to spread Christianity, and gather churches; it was proper and intended to convince unbelievers of that doctrine which Christians had already embraced; but prophesying, and interpreting scripture in their own language, were most for the edification of such as did already believe: so that speaking with tongues in Christians assemblies was altogether out of time and place; neither one nor the other was proper for it. Note, That gifts may be rightly used, it is proper to know the ends which they are intended to serve. To go about the conversion of infidels, as the apostles did, had been a vain undertaking without the gift of tongues, and the discovery of this gift; but, in an assembly of Christians already converted to the Christian faith, to make use and ostentation of this gift would be perfectly impertinent, because it would be of no advantage to the assembly; not for conviction of truth, because they had already embraced it; not for their edification, because they did not understand, and could not get benefit without understanding, what they heard.
Which brings us to the second principle….

Principle 2 - Worship is for the edification of the whole body and is something distinct and separate from evangelism.

In the passage in Corinthians and Henry’s commentary on it, it is made plain that these two very valid and complimentary functions of the church are not readily combined. In verse 20 of the Corinthians passage Paul urges his audience to maturity. The author of Hebrews says something similar in chapter 5, verses 13 and 14:
For everyone who partakes {only} of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food is for the mature….
When we evangelize we present one message – the saving grace of Christ. It is a good and wonderful message. But there is so much more for the Christian to hear and appropriate. The same author of Hebrews says on Chapter 6:
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment. And this we shall do, if God permits.
The term “mature” can be loaded one. “Does that mean if I like having an altar call in every service I am not mature?” “Who are you to tell me if I am a mature Christian or not?” In the end such determinations are between each individual and God. But this also takes us back the first principle – this is not about us. What is plain in a reading of scripture is that there are two things – a gathering of believers for the benefit of the believers and bringing in new believers. Further, it is plain these two things do not operate well simultaneously.

Now, it’s true, in the Corinthians passage, Paul uses the possibility of a non-believer entering the believers gathering as part of his reasoning for how the believers are to conduct themselves in that gathering, but note his conclusion – that they should behave maturely in order to call the non-believer to maturity.

This brings us to the story of Christ’s encounter with the “Woman at the Well” in John 4. We have already noted that Christ was quite blunt with her and yet she was sufficiently attracted to Christ to stick around after his fairly offensive directness. In this encounter Jesus does not soften the sharp edges of what he has to say for the benefit of making is palatable to the woman. He relies on something else to be attractive to the woman.

I think Jesus relied on himself to be attractive. Christ was “winsome.” Merriam-Webster defines “winsome” as:

generally pleasing and engaging

There was something about Jesus that allowed him to “get away with” his bluntness. In urging us to maturity, in urging the Corinthians to conduct themselves in a mature manner even in the presence of the immature, Paul is, I think relying on the same characteristic. And that brings me to the third principle…

Principle 3 - If we’re relying on gimmicks to attract people to the church, we’re doing it wrong.

I have always found it fascinating that God chose the time He did to incarnate, preach, die and be resurrected. There was no mass communication, no rapid means of travel. In point of fact Jesus never left an area much bigger than the state of New Jersey. And yet, the world was forever changed.

That’s because the essential stuff of Christianity is people. Christianity is not a message – it is not a set of beliefs or precepts that when adopted make one a Christian. Christianity is fundamentally about transforming people. Think about all the scriptures that talk about being new and different people in Christ:
2 Cor 5:17 - Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature;

Gal 6:15 - For neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

Rom 12:2 - And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed….
I could go on like this for quite a while. Jesus did not come to just clean us up a little, He came to make us in to radically different people than what we are now – people that even when we are doing things that seem unsuitable or distasteful or unattractive will be attractive because we will be as God would have us be.

Have you ever wondered why Christianity, something we know to be the absolute unshakable truth has not already penetrated the entire world? I mean getting the “Christian message” out there to the whole world is just not that difficult in this day and age. With broadcast technology, the Internet, the massive amount of information the human race has gathered with regards to languages and communication theory, it just should not be that difficult to get this job done.

The problem is that absent the real deep and transformed lives of Christians, its just words competing in a marketplace absolutely overflowing with words. And if we rely on things like service times and music choice to attract people to hear the message then it should be plain as the nose on our face that we ourselves have not truly appropriated the message.

Anybody can, and a lot are, using those same ideas, approaches and gimmicks to make their competing message attractive to people – often with much better results than we are getting. To compete on the same basis is to admit that our message is no more valid or truthful than theirs, and if we think that then we don’t believe the truth of our message quite as much as we pretend to.

What separates Christianity from the pack is that it works as evidenced in the lives of those that claim it, if we will but let it. The winsomeness of Christ was in no small measure a function of how well His life matched His message. The woman at the well could hear Jesus proclaim her sexual impropriety because Jesus radiated from His core love and because His being and presence emphasized the truth over the condemnation.

This means in part that worship, on God’s terms, for the edification of the mature body of Christ will be attractive to outsiders provided that we really are the mature body of Christ. But if we are pretenders to maturity that hold the message but whose lives do not reflect its truth, then our worship will seem hollow and strange, foreign and off-putting.

This is how worship and evangelism are deeply complimentary. What connects them is not form or function, style or content – but the lives of the faithful. Mature Christians are attractive and that helps evangelism, and deep and abiding worship is necessary to the development of mature Christians. Worship that involves not only praise, for that is indeed a part of worship, but also duty and as they say in the sword and sorcery books, “bending the knee.” God is our Savior and our KING.

And yet in today’s church worship and evangelism seem so often at odds with each other. All sorts of lines get drawn about generations, about music, about liturgy and about style. “We can’t do it that way, it won’t appeal to the newbies.” “Just because we have always done it that way doesn’t mean we have to now.” Such statements and such battles seem to pit these two valid and necessary functions of the church at odds with each other when they should in fact be fully complimentary.

Such battles erupt, as most battles do, because they are really about something else. In this case the battle is really about the temporal resources of the temporal organization around which the church functions. Like most big fights, it’s about money, time and attention. The worshipers want more and so do the evangelists. And that brings me to the last principle…

Principle 4 - If we’re fighting over resources it’s because we’re not properly tapped into the source of living and endless water.

The core promise that Jesus makes to the woman at the well is:
"Everyone who drinks of this water shall thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life."
It seems to me that if we were truly and deeply of Christ, then we would not find our resources limited. If we had our hands firmly on the gifts of Christ then the necessary resources would flow from us like the water that Christ promises the woman.

That statement is not a license to get spend happy. Years ago I was on the Session of a church that decided to “claim” this promise. They decided to cast a “vision budget.” That meant everybody was supposed to dream their biggest dreams and they were going to start spending on those dreams, relying in faith that God would supply the money based on promises like this one – regardless of pledging and giving patterns.. I refused in part because of the fiscal insanity of such a plan and in part because the area of ministry I was working in had an interim pastor at the time and we did not feel it was right to set a vision for an area of ministry until the permanent pastor for that area was in place. I was severely chastised over my failure to “rely on God’s promise.” So much so, I resigned the Session. That church is still today, decades later, dealing with the debt incurred during that one budget year. Definitely the wrong approach to promises like this.

Rather, the correct approach is to turn inward. If we feel we are lacking all the resources we need then we need to ask ourselves what is it about ourselves that is not allowing us to have all that God promised. You see, God always fulfills His promises – if we are not getting it, the problem is clearly ours, If we are fighting over resources then clearly we are not fully tapped into the source of those resources.

It has been an interesting trip through four passages of Scripture and four principles we can derive from them:
  • If we’re worried about how worship “feels” we’re doing it wrong.
  • Worship is for the edification of the whole body and is something distinct and separate from evangelism.
  • If we’re relying on gimmicks to attract people to the church, we’re doing it wrong.
  • If we’re fighting over resources it’s because we’re not properly tapped into the source of living and endless water.

Isn’t it often the case in our walk with Christ that it’s easy to figure out what we are doing wrong, but it is oh so difficult to figure out what to do that is right. Usually that’s because we are not very good at admitting when we are wrong, and purging it – we try to improve it when we should in fact reject it.

We looked earlier at some scriptures and talked about how radically God wants to change us. It is not a matter of improving around the edges or getting better at doing what we are already doing. It is a matter of death to what we are now and re-creation into something entirely new. Galatians 2:20 puts it this way:
I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the {life} which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me.
Oftentimes we are so anxious to get to the whole “life which I now live” part that we forget the “crucified with Christ” part. Before we can get things right, we have to completely purge ourselves of the old, wrong stuff.

The evangelist must come to grips with the fact that the church has many ministries and many functions. That the church is full of people with many gifts and callings, some of which add to the body and some of which maintain the body. The church’s purpose is not merely to grow larger but to nurture those that keep it healthy as it grows.

Those that work to maintain the body, something that worship is apart of, must understand that if the body is not growing, then even though they are not gifted or called to that ministry, the fault is partially theirs. A healthy body is an attractive body, so if the body is not attracting people, then it is not healthy and not properly maintained.

We all have something that has to be “crucified with Christ.” Before we can fully grasp what needs to be done – before we can be resurrected with Christ we have got to let that stuff die, fully and completely, embalmed and put in the tomb.

And then, when resurrected we need to worry less about what we do than who we are. If we are in fact God’s men and women, we will have at our disposal without effort or strife the resources, talent, and time that we need to do that which God wants us to do – all of what God wants us to do.


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