Saturday, April 20, 2013

Book Review: Rhythms of Grace (2013)

Rhythms of Grace: How the Church's Worship Tells The Story of The Gospel. Mike Cosper. Foreword by Bob Kauflin. 2013. Crossway. 224 pages.

I would definitely recommend Mike Cosper's Rhythms of Grace. The first four chapters focus on the gospel, on how the gospel itself is a worship story. These chapters do a great job in illustrating how worship has always been and always will be an important part of God's story. We were designed--created--to worship. If we're not worshipping who we should be--GOD--then we'll find lesser "gods" (like ourselves) to worship. The four titles are "The Song of Eden," "Worship in the Wilderness,"The Song of Israel," and "The Song of Jesus." In part, they summarize the Old Testament and present the gospel--the good news--of Christ. The last six chapters focus on the idea or concept of "worship" in the lives of believers. These chapters show that worship is not just music, not just a particular music style. Worship is a way of life. It isn't just something you do on Sundays in a community. The titles are "Worship One, Two, Three," "Worship as Spiritual Formation," "Worship and the Story of the Church," "Liturgy and the Rhythms of Grace," "Sing, Sing, Sing," "The Pastoral Worship Leader." These chapters address worship basics, answering many questions. This is NOT a book about hymns versus choruses. It is, in a way, a book about church services, thoughtfully and carefully planned worship-filled church services. But not only church services. It is a book about how as Christians we are called to worship God daily as individuals and as communities.

Favorite quotes:
The gospel is a story about worship. It begins with promise and serenity, spins wildly and terribly off course, and is rescued in the most unexpected and surprising way possible. (25)
Worship was God's idea as he initiated creation. (26)
Worship is life with God, lived unto God for his glory and our pleasure. (31)
It's stories like these that make people think there must be something different about the Old Testament God and the New Testament God. The God Jesus speaks of surely wouldn't be so arbitrary, so harsh, they reason. Perhaps they were two different Gods, or perhaps Jesus changed the nature of God by becoming human. Perhaps God was just more compassionate after the incarnation, more sympathetic, less angry.
But this perspective underestimates two crucial facts: the holiness of God and the sinfulness of fallen man. The boiling, fiery, deadly presence of God is the natural reaction of holiness in the presence of sin. Our God is likened to a refining fire--a raging inferno that burns away impurity and leaves only what is purified and perfect (Mal. 3:2-3). We misunderstand the wrath of God if we think it's only emotional rage, like an angry, frustrated parent. It's not; it's a rage made of a pure, perfect, and holy hatred of sin and evil. On the flip side, it's a rage built upon the deepest love of what is good, pure, and perfect. Such wisdom and love can only respond with disgust at evil's destructive grip on the good.
Just as we underestimate God's holiness, we underestimate how deeply sinful we are. We think of ourselves as good enough, smart enough, and likeable enough to deserve forgiveness from God. (57)
In a single event, Jesus revolutionizes worship. By offering his body as a sacrifice for us, he makes it possible for the unholy to enter the presence of the holy. The unimaginably wide gap between sinners and their Maker is bridged by the unimaginably worthy sacrifice of Christ on the cross. (66)
For every Christian, at all times and in all places, there has only ever been one Worship Leader, one who is worthy to enter that sacred space and able to endure the wrath of God in our places, making us able to "boldly enter in" with and through him. The songs we sing, the prayers we pray, the faith we confess--all of it is an echo and an amen to the perfect worship offered to God by his Son. (68)
Simply put, Worship One, Two, Three is this: worship has one object and author, two contexts, and three audiences. (75)
The story of worship makes it clear: God is at the center of all of our worship. He is the single most glorious thing in the whole universe, the One to whom we ascribe the greatest and highest worth. (75)
Participating in God's glory-sharing life, then, happens in two contexts: scattered and gathered. Worship scattered is the Spirit-filled life of the Christian in the world, and worship gathered is the meeting of God's people to remember, encourage, and bless one another. (76)
There are three distinct audiences that the church needs to be aware of, both gathered and scattered. There is God, who is both the object of our praise and a witness to us as we praise him; there is the church, which both participates in and witnesses the lives and gatherings of the people; and there is the world, watching from the darkness. (83)
In most conversations about worship, an obstacle stands in the way: you. Whether you know it or not, intend it or not, you carry a deep well of ideas about what worship is, what it looks, sounds, and feels like. You've built this knowledge over the years and decades of your life, adding to it each time you've gathered with the church. One might say, "I don't really have a theology of worship," but in fact everyone does. That's because we are habit-formed people. (91)
Whoever dubbed the debate over musical style a "worship war" failed to realize that worship is always a war. The declaration that there is one God, that his name is Jesus, and that he has died, has risen, and will come again is an all-out assault on the saviors extended at every level of culture around us. (103)
Worship isn't merely a yes to the God who saves, but also a resounding and furious no to the lies that echo in the mountains around us. The church gathers like exiles and pilgrims, collected out of a world that isn't our home, and looks hopefully toward a future. Our songs and prayers are a foretaste of that future, and even as we practice them, they shape us for our future home. (104)
The words we hear, sing, and speak in worship help form: our images of God; our understanding of what the church is and does; our understanding of human brokenness and healing; our sense of purpose as individuals and as a church; our religious affections: awe, humility, delight, contrition, hope; our vision of wholeness for ourselves and all creation; our practices of engaging with God, with each other, and with the world. (118) (Ron Rienstra, Worship Words)
Our faith is a sung faith. (152)
The gospel should be what connects people--not music. (154)
Our singing is a testimony, a declaration to those around us of who we are and whose we are. (157)
The Bible gets much thinner if we take out all the songs and references to singing. (158)
That's what songs and hymns are meant to do. They provide language for experiences that often leave us speechless. (162)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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