Inspiring Worship: What’s Your Response?

Digging through some files on my computer, I recently discovered a message given by Dan Adler from Heart of the City Ministries delivered back in 2009 to the congregation at Crossroads Alliance Church in Brooklyn Park. Now, for your personal enjoyment, I am posting the digitally remastered message in it’s entirety.

You may use, copy, or distribute this message provided you do it free of charge but if you would like support Heart of the City Ministries please visit

Download “Inspiring Worship: What’s Your Response?” (MP3)

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Praise Gives Us Proper Perspective

In my last post, we looked at the hymn, “Come, Christians, Join To Sing” focusing on the last line of the first verse which says, “Praise is His gracious choice. Alleluia amen.” We saw from Scripture that it is God’s sovereign choice that really matters but we must be cooperative participants in relationship with God. We then looked at some of the biblical meanings and usages for the word praise in the book of Psalms. We concluded that praise is a response to God’s gracious invitation to us to lift our eyes to Jesus our Savior despite our feelings or circumstances.

In this and the next couple posts, we will be looking at 3 possible reasons for accepting God’s gracious invitation to lift our eyes to Jesus. So without further ado, let’s look at reason number 1 for accepting God’s invitation to praise.

Praise Gives Us Proper Perspective

When was the last time you gazed at the starry night sky? Some scientists estimate that we can see as many as 3,000 stars at night with our naked eye. (That is, if we are outside the city.) Most of the time when we step outside our houses, we do not give them much notice. Against the pitch-dark backdrop of the of the night sky, the stars appear as barely visible specks of light.

“A magnetar [pictured above] is a type of neutron star with an extremely powerful magnetic field, the decay of which powers the emission of high-energy electromagnetic radiation, particularly X-rays and gamma rays.” (Ward; Brown lee, p.286)

But let’s say you are able to use a powerful telescope to view the stars. Upon zooming in, you come to the realization that this star is a ball of raging fire and gas brighter than your eyes can bear and unfathomably large. When viewed with the proper tool, we see the dim specks of light for what they really are.

It is the same with God. God reveals just how big He really is through the prophet Isaiah saying, “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts'” (Isaiah 55:8-9). And Paul, writing to the young pastor Timothy, says, “[…] [God] alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see […]” (1 Timothy 6:16).

But so often, God is one of those dim specks of light against the pitch-dark backdrops of our lives. We fail to notice Him in the midst of our sin, disobedience, and life’s circumstances. Besides, there are other “lights” that appear closer and brighter.

In order to see our sin and life’s circumstances as they truly are, we must see God as He truly is. It is praise that enables us to zoom in  and magnify the greatness and glory of God. When we do, all other things seem to fade away.

A Biblical Example…

Perhaps it was not a new revelation to the prophet Isaiah when he penned God’s words in Isaiah 55:8-9. After all, Isaiah had seen the Lord many years earlier.

“And they were calling to one another: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory'” (Isaiah 6:3).

We read his account in Isaiah 6:1-8:

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another:

“Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.”

At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke.

“Woe to me!” I cried. “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Then one of the seraphs flew to me with a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with tongs from the altar. With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?”

And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”

I would like to make a some observations based on Isaiah’s account:

  1. Isaiah sees the Lord seated on His throne, “high and exalted”. In other words, Isaiah saw God as he truly is; there was nothing Isaiah needed to do to make God high and lifted up because God already is exalted.
  2. We see the angels modeling praise. Remember from my last post that all of the Hebrew words for praise demand exuberance, excitement, and passion! Their praise was so loud and exuberant that “at the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook”!
  3. Isaiah responds in worship. (We will explore the difference between praise and worship in a future post.) He realizes who he is in light of who God is. God is on the throne, high and exalted, and perfectly holy while in contrast, Isaiah is a sinner–a man of unclean lips.
  4. God is merciful and gracious. If we look at the Hebrew for Isaiah’s words, “I am ruined!” we find that it literally means, “I am about to be destroyed!” Isaiah knows that a holy God cannot have sinners in His presence but God takes away Isaiah’s guilt and makes atonement for his sin.

Seeing God As He Is

God has revealed to us who He is primarily through His Word. The Bible reveals that God is holy, loving, just, eternal, glorious, exalted, loving, gracious, and merciful. Those are just some of God’s characteristics which we would not have known apart from His Word.

Remember that praise is a response to God’s gracious invitation to us to lift our eyes to Jesus our Savior despite our feelings or circumstances. Regardless of circumstance or feeling, we remind ourselves through praise that God has revealed himself as holy, loving, just, eternal, glorious, exalted, loving, gracious, and merciful. We respond by celebrating, shouting and applauding, loudly commending and even dancing for joy because of who He is and what He has done for us. And in this way, we magnify our great and glorious God.

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Praise Is His Gracious Choice

During our evening worship service at Northbrook Alliance Church in Brooklyn Center awhile back, we did the song “Come, Christians, Join To Sing“. Growing up in the church, I have heard and sung this song many times. However, I never really focused on the meaning of the words particularly the last line of the first verse which says, “Praise is His gracious choice. Alleluia amen.” I always thought that this must be a typo or mistake in the song. After all, isn’t it our decision or choice to praise and worship God?

Choices Matter

Do we have a choice? In Scripture, I think of Joshua and the children of Israel. He says in Joshua 24:14-15, “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

Joshua sets before the children of Israel a choice. The correct choice was obvious to them as is evident from their response in verses 16-18 for none of the pagan gods had led them out of Egypt, performed miracles, given protection on their journey, or had driven out the other nations who lived in Canaan. The Israelites chose to serve the Lord on that day but we know from the rest of Scripture that they did not always follow the Lord.

Fast forward to the time of the prophet Jeremiah. I think we get a glimpse of the choice that really matters. God reveals to us through Jeremiah a new covenant. In Jeremiah 31:32, we read, “‘It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them’, declares the LORD.” And in verse 37 we read, “This is what the LORD says: ‘Only if the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they have done,’ declares the LORD.”

We see despite the fact that Israel had broken the covenant, which they vowed to keep, that God had been a faithful husband. Despite their sin and rebellion, it was God’s sovereign choice that mattered because He is a covenant-keeping God.

So if God will keep His covenant, what did Israel’s choice matter? Why does our choice matter? The answer is quite simple actually: if we are reluctant participants in a relationship with God, any directive to be obedient would constitute coercion. God does not coerce but I do believe His grace is irresistible. Scripture says, “We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). We must be cooperative participants in relationship with God.

What is praise?

In English, the word “praise” simply means to celebrate, to adore, to extol, or to applaud. However, if we look at the Hebrew language, we find that there are many words which we have translated into our English word “praise”. All of the Hebrew words for praise are connected to an action and demand exuberance, excitement, and passion!

Let’s take a look at some of the meanings and usage in the Old Testament book of Psalms of the Hebrew words for praise.

 Praise in the Psalms

Halal – This is where we get the word “hallelujah”. It means to praise the Lord by celebrating, by dancing and shining forth, by acting clamorously foolish.

Praise the Lord. Praise God in his sanctuary;  praise him in his mighty heavens” (Psalm 150:1).

Yadah – To praise the Lord with extended hand (yad), to throw out the hand.

“I will bow down toward your holy temple and will praise your name for your love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word” (Psalm 138:2).

Shabach – To praise the lord with a shout and a loud voice.

“Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you” (Psalm 63:3).

Towdah – To thank God for things at hand, as well as things not yet received.

“He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God” (Psalm 50:23).

Tehillah – A praise from your spirit; the residual (new) song of the Lord from the heart of the believer. The book of Psalms in Hebrew is titled, “Tehillim”.

“Yet you are enthroned as the Holy One; you are the praise of Israel” (Psalm 22:3).

Zamar – To praise the Lord with the playing of an instrument.

“My heart is steadfast, O God; I will sing and make music with all my soul” (Psalm 108:1).

Gil – To circle in joy, to dance in circles and rejoice.

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

“I lift up my eyes to the hills—where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth” (Psalm 121:1-2).

So this is the heart of what it means to praise: To celebrate, to shout and applaud, to loudly commend and even to dance for joy. It’s an upward explosion of energetic expression to God! In terms of the cooperative relationship with God that we have looked at, praise is a response to God’s gracious invitation to us to lift our eyes to Jesus our Savior despite our feelings or circumstances.

So why should we accept God’s invitation to lift our eyes to Jesus? In the next few posts, let’s look at 3 possible reasons for accepting God’s gracious invitation to lift our eyes to Jesus.

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Welcome to the ministry, Alisha!

Alisha Ostroot

We are excited to welcome Alisha Ostroot to the Unashamed Worship Ministries Board of Directors as the Executive Director of Communications!

Among her many talents, Alisha is an extremely gifted vocalist, musician (playing piano and violin), writer, and poet. We look forward to sharing in and benefiting from her experience and insight as she works alongside us in this ministry!

Stay tuned for her biography/testimony page on the website! (We will alert you when that page has been published.)

Until our next update, go serve your King!


-The Unashamed Worship Ministries Board of Directors
(Andrew, Brandon, Ida, and Seng)

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Thankfulness and True Worship

Unthankful. This is probably one the most striking characteristics of those in our modern society. This ungratefulness is derived from the fact that most individuals live their lives with a sense of entitlement. That is, we believe that we have the right to fulfill every passion of our heart (immediately most of the time), that we have earned whatever position or authority we may have, and that any possessions or wealth we may have amassed are deserved. In reality, we are ignoring the One who gives us the desires of our hearts (cf. Psalm 37:4), the Source of all authority (cf. Romans 13:1), and “[the] God who made the world and everything in it [including our wealth and possessions]” (Acts 17:24).

Dr. Harold Best said:

There is no worship of any kind, anywhere in this world, that is not worship. We can put this even more bluntly: There is no one in this world who is not, at this moment, at worship in one way or another, consciously or unconsciously, formally or informally, passively or passionately.

“Man’s nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols” (John Calvin).

In other words, we are always worshipping something or someone. If it’s not God, then it’s our passions, positions, possessions, wealth, or ourselves. Without God, these become idols in our lives. The word “idol” comes from the Greek eidolon which can be simply defined as a mental or material image. When we add the suffix “-latry” (from the Greek –latreia which means worship or service) we have the word “idolatry”—the worship or service of a mental or material image(s). In short, we have created a god (with a lowercase “g”) to receive worship rather than worshipping God (with a capital “G”).

We are a spitting image of what the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 1:21-23:

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.

As a result of believing that we are entitled, we have come to the point where we know God (cf. Romans 1:20) but neither glorify Him nor give Him thanks. This idea of claiming to be wise is especially clear in modern taxonomy. Man has been given the name “homo sapiens sapiens” meaning “wise, wise man”. But the Bible makes it clear that we are fools if we practice idolatry.

Why is idolatry foolish? Jonah 2:8 says, “Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” With idolatry, man becomes the ultimate deity; he becomes god. As a result, we are free practice all forms of iniquity. The ultimate goal? It is to “…enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time” (Hebrews 11:25). It is just that—a short time—because God “has set forth a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man [Jesus] he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).

So what is the cure for our idolatry? If our idolatry causes us to be fools, as the Bible says, wouldn’t it be logical that we must truly become wise in order to forsake our idolatry and give God the glory He deserves?

We are told in the Bible that, “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, turning a man from the snares of death” (Proverbs 14:27). Elsewhere in Scripture we are told that, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline” (Proverbs 1:7). The author of Psalm 119 said, “My flesh trembles in fear of you; I stand in awe of your laws” (Psalm 119:120). Idolatry is a snare that leads to death; we need the fear of the Lord. We need God’s laws; we need God’s laws to impart wisdom to us.

His law says:

You shall not make for yourself an idol in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.

—Exodus 20:4-6

We have obviously transgressed this, the second of the Ten Commandments. How would we do if we examined ourselves in light of the other nine Commandments? Have you ever lied or stolen or desired something that wasn’t yours? That’s three more of the Commandments that we’ve broken. We are lying, thieving, covetous idolaters and we have to stand before the God that gave us everything that is precious to us. He is a Holy Judge and will give us what our actions deserve:

He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.

—2 Thessalonians 1:8-9

But there is good news! God made a way for us to be saved:

All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, “The righteous will live by faith.” The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, “The man who does these things will live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.”

—Galatians 3:10-13, emphasis added

Christ lived the perfect life and died the perfect death in our place so we could be made right with God! All God requires of us is to “obey the gospel”. That is, we must REPENT (confess and forsake our sins) and TRUST completely in Christ and His work on the Cross.

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

For those who have repented and put their trust in Christ, it should stand to reason that we should be the most thankful people in the world. Rather than exalting the creation above its Creator, we give thanks because of the Father’s kindness in saving us; we serve Him with our very lives. Paul sums it up well in his letter to the Romans: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship” (Romans 12:1).

“Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

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Exalt The Lord Our God

I consider my role as a lead worshiper akin to that of a pastor in relation to the Word of God. Through preaching, a pastor imparts the truth of the Gospel into the hearts and minds of individuals. Likewise, I use music to accomplish the same goal.

That is why I love songs that paraphrase or directly quote Scripture. Songs like Step By Step by Rich Mullins (which quotes Psalm 63:1) or Joseph Stigora’s contemporary setting of Psalm 96 are a powerful and memorable way to communicate God’s Word to whom you minister.

Probably one of my favorite Scripture songs as of late is Exalt The Lord Our God. Written by Jacob Kuiper, former Director of Worship at Crossroads Alliance Church in Brooklyn Park, this song is based on Psalm 99 which reads as follows:

1 The LORD reigns,
let the nations tremble;
he sits enthroned between the cherubim,
let the earth shake.
Great is the LORD in Zion;
he is exalted over all the nations.
Let them praise your great and awesome name—
he is holy.

4 The King is mighty, he loves justice—
you have established equity;
in Jacob you have done
what is just and right.
Exalt the LORD our God
and worship at his footstool;
he is holy.

6 Moses and Aaron were among his priests,
Samuel was among those who called on his name;
they called on the LORD
and he answered them.
He spoke to them from the pillar of cloud;
they kept his statutes and the decrees he gave them.

8 O LORD our God,
you answered them;
you were to Israel a forgiving God,
though you punished their misdeeds.
Exalt the LORD our God
and worship at his holy mountain,
for the LORD our God is holy.

If you would like to learn how to play this song, you can download the chords here. You can also listen to the MP3 track that was recorded by Brandon Scott, Alisha Ostroot, and me. I am currently in the process of writing a lead sheet for this song.

I pray that you will be blessed and by this song and the truth of the Scripture on which it is based.

Now go serve your King!

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How do you keep Christ in Christmas?

Andrew Johnson asks Brandon Scott how he keeps Christ in Christmas. Watch as Brandon shares about the true meaning of Christmas and the reason for Jesus’ coming.

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11-15-11 Devotional and Discussion Questions

Here is the devotional and discussion questions that we used in our board meeting tonight. It is based on the Scripture 1 Corinthians 12:14-20.

You can find the related YouTube video here: When Feet Want to Become Hands

 11-15-11 Unashamed Worship Ministries Devotional

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10-17-11 Devotional and Discussion Questions

Here is the devotional and discussion questions that we used in our board meeting tonight. It is based on the Scripture Exodus 4:1-17.

 10-17-11 Unashamed Worship Ministries Devotional

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Hello everyone! Welcome to the all new Unashamed Worship Ministries blog! Hopefully, we’ll be able to regularly post things that would be encouraging to you in your walk with the Lord.

There are many changes going on here. In addition to adding this blog we will be redesigning the entire website.

Stay tuned as there is more news to come!

-Andrew Johnson

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