Jani Ortlund: Hello, everyone. I’m so glad you joined us on our discipleship series today. I’m praying for you, as you grow, to love the Lord more and love each other more. I’m asking him to make this a meaningful experience for you this year…one that you can possibly pass on to others in the years ahead.
How’s Everything Going?
Today, we want to start off with accountability. I want to go over your assignment from last week. And then I’m going to ask you leaders to turn off the podcast and go through it with your group on your own.
Please go through your quiet times. Choose someone to share your meditation verses and your Bible memory. Ask each member which passage she has chosen and have someone say what they’ve learned so far by memory. Also, ask if anyone has chosen a biography to read yet. Make sure that there are no doubles on that. And then find out how it went for them exchanging their prayer calendars and praying for each other this week. Go ahead and pause the podcast, and catch up on your assignment from last week.
Assignment for This Week
Now, take out a pen and your paper, and I’m going to give you your assignment for this coming week. Make sure that you have chosen a biography to read. And then have your six quiet times. Go over your meditation verse, your memorization (keep working on it), exchange your prayer calendars, and pray for each other, and bring back a calendar to exchange for next week. You’re beginning to get the repetition in this part of our discipleship year together of what we expect week to week.
On Choosing a Christian Biography
But before we leave this assignment part, I want to talk to you a little bit about choosing a Christian biography to read, and why I asked you to do that. There are three life-giving habits I hope you’re learning to embrace and treasure as you work through this discipleship series. The first one is to be in the Word daily reading, meditating on it, and memorizing it. The second one is prayer: prayer for yourself and others. In your prayer notebook you’re exchanging names, or weekly calendars; however you decide to pray for each other. So, I’m hoping you’re developing a habit of being in the word daily, of praying for yourself, and for others. And then a third life-giving habit I’m asking the Lord to develop within each one of you, is to embrace the intellectual and spiritual challenges of reading a good book. Always have one ready. I hope that you will read the Word, that you will be a prayer warrior, and that you will be a reader all your life.
Books and reading—that gift of communicating ideas through words—this is God’s idea. Do you feel you don’t have enough time for it? Well, then treat yourself for motivation. Sometimes I have to do this. Maybe you want to watch a movie later. Well, reward yourself that way after you’ve read for a half hour. Maybe you want time on your computer or your phone just to play some games. Well, again, read first and then reward yourself. Let your kids see you read. Have your children ever come in and found you enjoying a good book? Read out loud to them. Let new books for your children be a treat. For Christmas or for their birthdays, we used to give each of our children one special book. Build a home library. Keep a list of books you have read and other recommended reading, and then a list of books you want to read.
At this point in the year, I’ve assigned each member to choose a biography to read and report on to the whole group. Reading a Christian biography will kindle a fire in your soul to live for Christ with more wholehearted devotion and earnest passion. I love reading Christian biographies. Colleen Chao in a True Woman Blog post entitled Let Heroes of the Faith Teach You Today says,
“A diet consisting largely of blogs and books written by modern-day men and women who have only lived a mere three, four, or five decades in affluent America is a recipe for spiritual malnutrition.”Colleen Chao, Let Heroes of the Faith Teach You Today
I agree, we will be women who are spiritually malnourished if we only read modern day blogs and books. So that’s why I assign reading Christian biographies.
Now, if you need help choosing a biography, make sure to check out our recommended reading list below.
Here is a "shortlist" of 25+ Christian Biographies that have inspired and encouraged us in our faith! We pray that they might encourage you as well.
- Susanna Wesley — Arnold Dallimore
- The Hiding Place — Corrie ten Boom
- Stepping Heavenward—Elizabeth Prentiss
- Elizabeth Prentiss: More Love to Thee—Sharon James
- Mothers of Famous Men—Archer Wallace
- Abigail Adams—Janet Whitney
- Mrs. Robert E. Lee: The Lady of Arlington—John Perry
- Martha Washington—Patricia Brady
- It’s My Turn—Ruth Bell Graham
- Dream Big: The Henrietta Mears Story—Earl O. Roe
- Let Me Be a Woman—Elisabeth Elliot
- These Strange Ashes—Elisabeth Elliot
- Through Gates of Splendor—Elisabeth Elliot
- Amy Carmichael: A Chance to Die—Elisabeth Elliot
- Trial and Triumph: Stories from Church History—Richard Hannula
- Oswald Chambers: Abandoned to God—David McCasland
- Yesterday, Today, and Forever—Maria von Trapp
- Marriage to a Difficult Man: Jonathan and Sarah Edwards—Elisabeth Dodds
- Jonathan and Sarah: An Uncommon Union—Edna Gerstner
- Wives of the Signers—Harry & Mary Green; David Barton
- If I Perish—Esther Ahn Kim
- Evidence Not Seen—Darlen Deibler Rose
- I Dared Call Him Father—Bilquis Sheikh
- Mary Slessor of Calabar—W. P. Livingstone
- Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy—Eric Metaxas
- Faithful Women and their Extraordinary God—Noel Piper
- Becoming Elisabeth Elliot—Ellen Vaughn
This is your assignment for your biography. And your leader, hopefully, will have copied off a copy of this for each of you to take home as you read. I want you to take 20 minutes. Don’t take longer than 20 minutes. Prepare a report that will last around 20 minutes. Give us a brief overview of their life. Tell us how they lived out the three priorities. How did you see them living for Christ and the body of Christ and the work of Christ in the world? What was their mission? Who did they do it with? And who did they do it for? What surprised you in this person’s life? What challenged you? And then tell us, would you recommend this book to us? Would you make it part of your own personal library? Why or why not?
Now leaders, try to assign when each group member will give her report over the next four weeks or so. You’re going to want to do this carefully, so that you will be able to finish all the biographies before we finish our discipleship group. Leaders, you may need to be first on this list. And then remember, along with this biography assignment, you’ve got your quiet times, your meditating, your memorizing scripture, and your praying for one another.
Now, leaders, make sure your group understands this assignment. And then pause the podcast and share prayer requests and exchange your prayer calendars. After that, after sharing your prayer requests and exchanging your calendars, take a short break.
Our Teaching for Today: Priority 3
For the second half of your time together, I want to teach on priority three: the work of Christ in the world. We’re going to begin thinking through that priority today, missional living, and I’m going to teach on it in two parts, one this week, and one in our next podcast. Today I want to talk about public outreach through corporate worship. And then next week, I want to talk about personal outreach through witnessing.
Let’s review the three priorities. Do you remember them? The first one is: Christ. The second one is: The Body of Christ. And the third one is: The Work of Christ in the World. Or another way to state these is: Jesus, Community, Mission. Today we’re going to talk about “The Work of Christ in the World” (or missional living), and, again, it’s going to be in two parts. I’m going to do the first part today: Public Outreach Through Worship.
[Part 1] Public Outreach through Worship
Public worship is a part of priority one, of course. Putting God first, nurturing our inner lives, and living from the inside out through coming to worship together once a week. But did you know that our public worship can also be part of our mission here on Earth, part of our ministry to the world? I believe it is one of the chief ways we display God to the world.
In the Old Testament
You might wonder, “Now, how is that Jani? How does that work?” Well, think back in the Old Testament. When God called the children of Israel together to worship Him, it was to show the world His glory and majesty and holiness, and their own sinfulness. As you are reading through the Old Testament, you will see the numerous and specific ways God commanded His people to worship, and the beauty of the tabernacle in Moses’ time, and then the glories of the temple in Solomon’s time. There was a whole tribe of Israelites set apart to serve as priests in this worship, and there were very precise instructions given to them regarding the varied sacrifices and ways they were to worship Him.
In the New Testament
That’s the Old Testament. And then Jesus came. John 1:14 says,
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son[a] from the Father, full of grace and truth.”John 1:14
Jesus was the final and better sacrifice, and He opened new paths of worship for His people. Now we show the Lord’s glory through our corporate worship in a closer, more intimate, more personal welcome into the Holy of Holies. Because as Hebrews teaches us in Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-25, by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
And instructions are sprinkled liberally throughout the New Testament describing what kind of worship is pleasing to God under the new covenant. Think of it, one day each week, the whole world joins in praising, and worshiping, and honoring the, “God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep…to whom be glory forever and ever” (Hebrews 13:20-21).
Think of it: The WHOLE WORLD Worships!
One day, every week, the whole world meets together in groups to praise and magnify her Creator. They come together to jointly express their adoration of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the maker and sustainer of all life, and the lover of their souls, who has written His law on their hearts, and so committed Himself to them, that they have nothing to fear in life or death.
Think of it: start where the sun rises in the east, in Japan and China, and other parts of Asia, Indonesia, Australia, the Middle East, India, and then on to Africa, and Europe, then South America, and finally, believers along the East Coast of North America begin to raise their hearts and voices to praise the Alpha and Omega. And throughout the day, as the Earth rotates throughout God’s universe, the momentum gathers, as more and more children lift their praises up to Him whose judgments are unsearchable and paths beyond tracing out. People gather in Central America and across the center of Canada and the USA, then Mexico and the West Coast joins in, and finally the Pacific Islands.
One day of the week, the whole world joins in exalting her Creator, and the Bible says, this is a good thing! Psalm 89:15 says, “Blessed are those” (that means congratulations; happy are those) “who know the festal shout, who walk, oh LORD, in the light of your face.” Or Psalm 34:3 says,
“Oh, magnify the Lord with me,Psalm 34:3
and let us exalt his name together!”
The Bible tells us that this happy worship will lead to evangelism. First Corinthians 14:25-26 says, “The secrets of his heart” (the unbeliever) “are disclosed. And so falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.”
An obstacle: Isolationism
But there’s an obstacle to our worship, isn’t there? So often we see so little of this gladsome abandonment to corporate worship. Why is this?
Well, I believe it’s because we all tend toward isolation. Isolation is safe. It feels better to us sometimes. Because it’s hard to worship together. Worship, corporate worship, is demanding. It’s messy. We want to be separate, alone, private, contained, safe…isolated. Now private worship is good, but it’s limited. We all need corporate worship. You do. We need to link arms together to stand shoulder to shoulder and be caught up together toward heaven.
God gives us glimpses, a taste of what heavenly worship is like. Those in heaven know all about Christ and worshiping Him. They worship Him best. Nehemiah 9:6, says this,
“…the multitudes of heaven worship you.”Nehemiah 9:6
Revelation 19:5-7 say,
And from the throne came a voice saying,
“Praise our God,
all you his servants,
you who fear him,
small and great.”
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
For the Lord our God
the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
and his Bride has made herself ready;
You see we’re the bride, and we want to worship Him, the groom. Our Lord Jesus wants us to. We can savor a little foretaste of heaven, of this kind of heavenly worship when we worship together. I believe each Sunday is a little bit like a dress rehearsal for our worship ’round the throne. We need that togetherness. Let’s not resist it.
What is worship?
What is worship? Well, let’s all turn to John 4:23-24. Turn there right now. Follow along as I read.
“But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”John 4:23-24
God is seeking worshipers—do you see that?—true worshippers. Worship is the highest and most noble act you can ever do. Why did Jesus come? To make worshipers out of rebels? Those who were once self-centered can now shift their attention from themselves to God.
Worship is properly responding to God
What is worship? What does it look like? Well, my Ray says this,
“Worship is any proper response to God. Many responses are appropriate in worship. It depends on what God is doing to us, with us: awe before His majesty, fear before His judgment, joy before His saving intervention, conviction before His exposure of our sins, dedication to His purposes, obedience to His Word.”Ray Ortlund
Yes, I agree with Ray. Worship is any proper response to what God is doing to us, with us, for us. Think of Job, in Job 1:20-21.
“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, ‘Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.’”Job 1:20-21
You see worship is properly responding to God. Joy and fullness in worship come from joy and fullness in God. If my worship is boring, or stale, or dry or sour, that is pointing to a boring, or stale, or dry, or sour, relationship with my King.
1st ingredient of worship is internal—worship “in spirit”
Now we see here in John 4:23-24, that the first ingredient of worship is internal worship in spirit. Worship springs from your spirit. It is your spirit’s admission to the Lordship of Christ, it involves bowing at your conversion and continuing to bow all the way to the Eternal Throne of God. We have to learn this wonderful task of worship. We have to learn to press into the very heart of God and meet him there. This requires a humble heart. We need to leave all else aside, bringing our own right attitude toward God. You are a daughter of a king; come to spend time with Him. Don’t worry about what others may think. Give yourself to this glorious call to worship.
Isaiah 29:13 warns us when it says,
“… this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men …”Isaiah 29:13
Internal worship, through your spirit, brings your heart to God in humility.
Also, because the Greek text doesn’t use capital letters, this could mean the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit must help us. We’re so downward oriented. We’re so self absorbed. Ephesians 2:18 puts it this way,
“We have access in one Spirit to the Father.”Ephesians 2:18
3 Attitudes that lead to Poverty in Worship
Now, let me just give a little aside here. I believe we live in a day of poverty in worship. I see this in three ways.
1. “I don’t get anything out of it.”
People tell me, “Well, Jani, I don’t attend worship regularly because I don’t get anything out of it.” Oh, my, I must say, “You don’t get anything out of it? The whole service is worship—not just the music. It’s called a worship service. The Eternal Word of God, the great music of the church. Nothing out of prayers offered to Almighty God through the blood of His only Son, Jesus Christ?” If that’s true, I believe the fault lies with us. Let’s be aware of a demanding spirit when we come to worship.
2. “I’m too tired.”
Or, I see our poverty in worship when people tell me, “But Jani I’m so tired. It’s my day off.” Let me say I believe that Sunday should be the focal point of our week. If our job keeps us from regular worship, we should think about changing jobs. Exodus 20:8 says, “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.”
Exodus 34:21 says,
“…even during the plowing time and in harvest, you shall rest.”Exodus 34:21
God didn’t want His people to take time off their Sabbath rest because they were in the middle of harvest.
3. “I don’t like it” (we come to be entertained)
A third attitude we bring shows our poverty. We come to be entertained. People tell me, “Well, it doesn’t meet my needs or desires, my personal likes and dislikes.” Oh my goodness. Let’s be careful. The Magi in Matthew 2 were the very first Gentiles ever to know Christ. They came seeking Him. They knew very little, but they came at a great distance. They said their purpose was to come to worship him (Matthew 2:2). They didn’t come to study an unusual situation. They came to worship Christ. And when they finally found him, the Bible says they fell down. Do you sense their humility? They fell down and worshipped him and presented to Him their treasures. We must seek Him, too. Our attitude should be one of pressing on toward Christ, of seeking, of drawing near, of longing for him.
Watchman Nee says this,
“They cannot be passive in the Body; they dare not merely stand by looking on. For none are so harmful as onlookers.”Watchman Nee
Oh my, let’s not be onlookers. Let’s be women who worship the Lord in spirit, in our own spirit, and through the help of the Holy Spirit.
2nd ingredient in worship is rational— “in truth.”
Now, let’s go on to the second ingredient in worship. Not only is it emotional in our spirit (it is spiritual), but it is rational. Do you see those words? In truth. Those who worship Him must worship Him in truth. We need to come to Him with our minds as well as our hearts. We need to engage our minds in the scripture readings, the liturgy and creeds, the music, the prayers, the teaching or sermons. Let’s be women who come to each service mentally alert to seek God. Let’s prepare ourselves. Let’s be ready to engage our minds in an ever-deepening knowledge of who God is, and how he wants us to respond to Him. Let’s learn to love Him with all our minds, as well as all our hearts and souls. Let’s be alert, attentive, expectant, ever-ready to explore new depths of His wonder and majesty and holiness.
Aids to worship
Now, let me offer just a few aids to worship. Also, just three that have helped me.
One is preparation. I need to come ready to respond. To worship means to do reverence, to kiss the hand of, to bow to, to acknowledge the presence of somebody great. Let me illustrate it this way. When we lived in Scotland, our minister very kindly got Ray at me tickets to the royal tea at Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh. Oh my goodness. Well, I wanted to prepare for it. I asked Iain what I should wear and how I should act. Princess Margaret was going to be there. What should I do if she came over? I wanted to prepare.
Well, we need to prepare ourselves to admire our King Jesus, and to stand in awe in His presence. Hebrews 12:28 says,
“…let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe.”Hebrews 12:28
How to prepare well? You’ve heard me talk on this before but it bears repeating.
- How about Saturday night? Prepare yourself on Saturday night. Do you allow your children’s sleepovers? Do you get clothes out and think about your food for the morning? Is your Bible ready? Your offering?
- What about on Sunday mornings? Do you have a special breakfast? Or do you have your clothing out? Are you walking to church or driving? Think about it. How can you help get your kids ready without a lot of quarrels, fighting, yelling, scolding, discipline. Oh my goodness, try to make Sunday mornings the happiest morning of the week.
- And then at church, remember, this is an appointment with the Lord God Almighty. Don’t be late. Don’t rush in. Give yourself time to get there to quiet your heart. Be ready to give God everything. Prepare. That will aid you in your public worship.
Now, another aid, at least for me, is prayer. Connect with God. There will always be disappointments in church, especially with the upfront leadership. Ask me how I know. 🙂 Oh, it may be boring, or repetitive, or not your style. What should you do? Pray for your leaders in love and humility. Remember that this is worship between you and God. Stretch your mind. Adore him. Then pray for your pastor, the musicians, the worship leaders, the ushers, the greeters, the fellow worshipers around you, behind you, in front of you, at your side. Pray, pray as you connect with God.
And then finally, it helps me to worship God when I’m ready to give. 2 Corinthians 9:6-15 talks about how God loves a “cheerful” giver. You’re giving, it says, overflows in many thanks to God. You give your money to God’s work and people worship God with their thanks for it. Oh, I’d love that.
Exodus 34:20 cautions us this way,
“None shall appear before me empty-handed.”Exodus 34:20
Well, I don’t know what that means for you. For me, it means I like to divide our monthly tithe into weekly gifts and bring it each week. I don’t know how you give, maybe you give once a month online, and as you come to worship each week during the giving time, you know you’ve already given. That’s great, you’re not appearing before him empty handed. God isn’t some big ogre, you know, checking out how much we’re bringing each Sunday, but it helps me worship when I have something to give. It’s not as if God needs our money. He’s the source of it all. Psalm 50:9-12 put it this way: “The world is mine and all that is in it.” But you see, giving connects us with God. It reminds us of our dependence. It gives us a chance to say, “Thank you!” and thank you is part of our worship.
A Story from the 1960s
Our worship is one of the ways the world sees who our God is. Our worship can be missional, helping us to fulfill the third priority of showing Christ to the world. I love a story Ray tells of how one California pastor understood that our worship can and should be missional. This took place back in the late 1960s, early 1970s in Southern California.
Pastor Chuck Smith was serving a little church in Costa Mesa, California in the late 1960s. It wasn’t far from the beach. God began to stir people’s hearts in that area. Crowds of young people started coming to church. But there is a problem. The oil deposits off the coast of Southern California bubble up little globs of oil that land on the beach, about the size of a quarter (at least they did back then; I don’t know if they still do now, but back then they did). If you step on one, it sticks to the bottom of your foot, and then you mess up the carpet when you walk into your house. Well, these young people began coming into church right off the beach. They didn’t wear shoes. So the new carpets and the new pews in the church were getting stained with the oil from the beach.
One Sunday morning, Chuck arrived at church to find a sign posted out on the sidewalk, “Shirts and shoes please.” He took the sign down. After the service he met with the other church leaders. They agreed that they would remove the carpet and the pews before they would hinder one kid from coming to Christ. And their wise decision cleared the way for God to visit Calvary Chapel with power. And 1,000s of people were added to the Lord’s new community. Ray and I were there when they were holding services five nights a week. There was standing room only because the people couldn’t get enough. The Lord was there. The breakthrough came when they started caring more about what God cares about and nothing else. That was wise. They saw that their worship services were missional.
Well, I hope you’ll enjoy worshiping with other believers this Sunday. If you are not in a good church yet, find one and enter in. By so doing, you’ll be living out our third priority and living on mission.
Now, leaders, take the remaining time of your meeting together to pray for each other and then sing or say Numbers 6:24-26 over each other. And I do pray that the Lord will restore your souls as you meet together. God bless you.