vocabulary

Ascribe to the Lord!

“We should think of Christian discipleship as being similar to learning an entirely new language.” – Michael Horton

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First among words in the worship vocabulary that have been lost in recent years is the word, “ascribe.” The name of the site is Ascribe Site. This is due, in large part, to the fact that the word “ascribe” has been virtually lost from our vocabulary. Even in faith and worship circles, one will rarely hear the word and gain an understanding of what King David has in mind. 1 Chronicles 16:28-29 says, “Ascribe to the Lord, O families of the peoples, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength. Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; Bring an offering and come before Him; Worship the Lord in holy array.” This hymn to the Lord, repeated virtually verbatim in Psalm 29:1-2, gives a fantastic perspective of what is going on when God’s people worship Him!

The Hebrew word for ascribe in I Chronicles 16:28-29 is יָהַב , transliterated “yahab.” The simple translation of the word is “give.” But, the better translation is this word “ascribe,” which gives a closer perspective of David’s intention in the passage. Ascribe has the connotation of giving what is already owned. When you ascribe something to something (like “glory” to the “Lord”) you are describing what the object already possesses. In other words, to ascribe glory and strength to the Lord is to give these attributes to the One who already has them. Thus, David gets at this when he says, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name” (I Chronicles 16:28). He is saying give to God what is already His!

This is particularly important when considering the pattern of worship of God’s people. Throughout Scripture, God reveals Himself and His people respond in praise for who He is. In this way, God does not need the praises of His people, nor do the praises of His people make God who He is. Rather, God’s people ascribe to Him what is already true about Him. He is Holy! He is Love! He is Good! He is True! In ascribing these attributes to God, His people make known among the nations His great glory and in fact, His being God.

May we ascribe the glory due to God today, in our thoughts, deeds, actions, and yes, in our words!

The Lost Words

“The faith has a basic grammar.” – J.I. Packer

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I remember the first time I heard a pastor say that they don’t use the word, “Worship,” at their church. I was a well-intentioned worship leader, trying to fit in in a church culture that had become increasingly conjoined with popular culture. This particular church was following the widely-respected and partially helpful guidelines of Andy Stanley and his book Deep and Wide. Stanley had intimated that in order to reach the culture churches must remove all potential obstructions of coming to faith. It was, as Stanley said, hard enough already for people to come to Christ. What this translated to was the removal of any of those “churchy” words that were obviously a turn-off to non-church-goers. For example, instead of “worship,” the church used “sing.” Instead of “sermon,” the church used “message.” The word “church” was removed from the church’s name. And while I appreciate the heart of the pastors in this church, as well as the intention that they have in reaching the lost, the removal of the faith’s vocabulary became a detriment to the church cause itself.

In a recent podcast titled, “Youth in Crisis,” Michael Horton spoke about the unfortunate bi-product of removing these kinds of words from our vocabulary. Horton noted that the removal of the words not only kept the words from the seeker audience, but it also kept the words (and their meanings) from the members of the church! In this way, Horton said that we were “unchurching the church itself.” In other words, by removing the words in our faith vocabulary, the church had essentially stopped teaching its members about its own faith.

As Horton and others have suggested, by the removal of its faith vocabulary, the church has largely undermined its own ability to teach its members the core doctrines of the faith. The answer? In order to clearly communicate and instruct the church regarding the Christian faith, the church must return to the biblical language surrounding the faith and worship of God.

Deuteronomy 11:18-21 says, “Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Teach them to your children, talking about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates, so that your days and the days of your children may be many in the land the LORD swore to give your ancestors, as many as the days that the heavens are above the earth.”

The New Testament records how these words in Deuteronomy can be taken to a legalistic extreme, which resulted in the Pharisaical behavior in the centuries leading up to Christ. However, in today’s culture, the pendulum has surely swung to the other side, in which the specific words of Scripture have all but lost their significance in many situations. May we take as truth the exhortation in Deuteronomy 11 to diligently recall, remember, and absorb the words of God, as we seek to worship Him in the significance of their meaning.

Welcome! I Mean It!

“The more our churches move away from immersing us and our children in the basic language and categories of Scripture, the more it essentially becomes a kind of foreign language to all of us.” – Michael Horton

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When I say, “Welcome,” I mean that I am glad you are here. I am thankful that you would take the time to read the ideas on this blog and I am hopeful that you will feel invited to engage and interact with them. This is a blog about the vocabulary of the faith, particularly as it applies to the worship of God.

In recent years, much of the language that is used in church services has become a caricature. The result has been that, in many places, the church has backed away from using language that would make visitors or non-Christians feel uncomfortable.

The unfortunate result of this trend has been that much of the language that is used in the Bible to describe our faith has lost its effectiveness in our local congregations. In removing the biblical terms for faith and worship, the church has removed a vehicle for communicate the deep truths and doctrines of the Word of God.

William Willimon, bishop in the United Methodist Church, said, “There is a peculiar sort of untranslatability to the Christian faith…that you just haven’t said salvation when you say self-esteem…and you haven’t said the Good News of Jesus Christ when you’ve said I have found a way to help your marriage work.”

What is at stake is an ability to effectively communicate what is meant by faith in God at all! Romans 12:1 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” If the church is willing to take Scripture as the ultimate truth of God, it must be willing to communicate that truth is clearly and effectively as possible. In this way, the church has a prime opportunity in its corporate worship services to recover and reclaim the lost language of worship, in such a manner that the disciples of Jesus Christ are being called into a living faith of active obedience and worship.

And so, this blog is about faith. It’s about worship. It’s about the language that Scripture uses to inform our faith and worship. It’s about the culture that engages in worship. My hope is that it becomes an encouragement to you as you offer your very selves to God in worship.