inexpressible and filled with glory

The Discipline of Worship
21 September 2009, 6:02 pm
Filed under: Books

I’ve been reading Richard Foster’s so-called classic book Celebration of Discipline and leading my LiVE group through a study on the Spiritual Disciplines. I have found his writing very esoteric and at times frustrating, mostly because he rarely provides a thorough definition of the discipline that he is talking about. It has taken me a while to realize that there is little Scriptural teaching on many of the disciplines, but nonetheless they have been practiced by Christians throughout the centuries as effective means of receiving God’s grace.

Foster divides the disciplines into the following categories:

The Inward Disciplines

The Outward Disciplines

The Corporate Disciplines

It has been a fantastic study series and I have thoroughly enjoyed thinking about these disciplines as a part of the spiritual life. I don’t intend this to be a review of the book, although maybe I will do that shortly, as I think it has both strengths and weaknesses that need to be explored. My intention for this post is to quote a section from the chapter on Worship. I thought this would be a very interesting talking point, particularly in light of conversations I’ve had recently about worship.

If the Lord is to be Lord, worship must have priority in our lives. The first commandment of Jesus is, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength’ (Mark 12:30). The divine priority is worship first, service second. Our lives are to be punctuated with praise, thanksgiving, and adoration. Service flows out of worship. Service as a substitute for worship is idolatry. Activity is the enemy of adoration.

I think this raises a number of questions. Do we have worship as our first priority? What would this look like in our lives? Does Foster create a dichotomy between worship and service? What about worshipful service?

What do you think?


8 Comments so far
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Strike! That’s some strong language Foster uses.

My response: surely if we are loving the Lord with our mind, heart and soul that involves using our mind, heart and soul to worship the Lord. It involves activity.

Take the mind for example. How are we to love to Lord with our mind in a passive way as Foster suggests. We can’t. Using your mind to love the Lord is by definition an active thing.

‘Love’ in that Bible passage is a verb. An action.

Therefore, I do think he creates dichotomy between worship and service.

If use my mind to think about how to best communicate the gospel, then tell the message in a culturally sensitive way to my non-Christian friend, that is both service and worship.

Comment by Josh Maule

Josh – I agree with most of what you say. The one thing I disagree with is that you seem to continue the dichotomy between love (verb) and love (emotion). Whereas it seems Foster stresses the love (emotion), that is ‘praise, thanksgiving and adoration’, I think you stress love (action) at the expense of love (emotion).

I think we need to hold the two together. To love the Lord means really loving him, which will overflow into serving him and living a life to his glory.


Comment by bradkonemann

Yeah, I’m probably not qualified to say which Hebrew word for love appears there. It just seemed obvious to me that it was a verb.

But I s’pose given that we ought to use our heart to love, then you’re right. Emotion is part of it.

Comment by Josh Maule

You seem very reluctant Josh. All this reminds me of what Luther says about the Tem Commandments.

Just this is also the meaning and true interpretation of the first and chief commandment, from which all the others must flow and proceed, so that this word: Thou shalt have no other gods before Me, in its simplest meaning states nothing else than this demand: Thou shalt fear, love, and trust in Me as thine only true God. For where there is a heart thus disposed towards God, the same has fulfilled this and all the other commandments. On the other hand, whoever fears and loves anything else in heaven and upon earth will keep neither this nor any.

Here he says that if we have our priorities lined up, if we’re worshiping God and having our hearts only disposed to him, then we’ll also be serving him and keeping the other commandments. But it all flows out of the priority of worship: fearing, adoring and trusting the Lord.

I think this is also what Jesus is getting at when he’s talking about the commandments, which is possibly where Luther got his understanding of the Ten Commandments.

What do you think?

Comment by bradkonemann

Sorry, I’m not trying sound reluctant. I believe there is a real place for emotion in worship.

Maybe the discussion we need to have is: what does it mean to love God with your heart? The only problem is, I don’t think I’m qualified to partake in such a discussion, because I feel fairly un-knowledgable on this topic.

My main concern is I haven’t worked out the tension between feeling deeply connected and extremely joyful as you praise God, and feeling like a ton of sandstone boulders has just fallen on your head and yet praising God anyway. The question I need to resolve is: is one of those a more spiritual, more holy, more heartfelt response to God; or are both responses equally holy, spiritual and heartfelt.

From what I hear Jonathan Edwards – John Piper’s hero – is the man to consult on this issue.

Comment by Josh Maule

Hey Josh – thanks for your very helpful response. This time I agree with everything.

It is a tough tension that you highlight and something we looked at in my seminar on suffering – what does it mean to be joyful in suffering and how do we do it?

This is particularly relevant at the moment for us – what will it look like for Snowy to have joy in Christ and love God with his heart when his world has just fallen apart?

An interesting quote from Don Carson on this: “We learn, with time, that if God in this or that instance does not choose to take away the suffering, or utterly remove the evil, he does send grace and power. The result is praise.”

I think the joyful response is to trust and obey God in our suffering. For two reasons: trust and obedience produce joy in God’s people; and it’s also really handing our problems over to God for him to come and take our burdens on himself and to use our as Carson said, God’s grace and power resulting in our praise.

Comment by bradkonemann

I don’t know If I said it already but …Cool site, love the info. I do a lot of research online on a daily basis and for the most part, people lack substance but, I just wanted to make a quick comment to say I’m glad I found your blog. Thanks, 🙂

A definite great read..Tony Brown

Comment by Tony Brown

Tony – thanks for the comment. For some reason it went into spam and I only just saw it today. I appreciate your encouragement.

Comment by bradkonemann

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