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A fresh start - priorities - Biblical worship

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A Fresh start



Call to worship

Bible Verse

To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. (Revelation 1:5-6)


Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne,
and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. (Revelation 1:4-5)

Hymn 21:                      “Now thank we all our God” (The Hymnal, 28)



God our Father, who by your Son Jesus Christ teach men the everlasting way, grant us as we turn to You in worship and prayer that we may be taught by your Holy Spirit to our spiritual nourishment and growth in grace.

Father, we pray that You will enlighten our minds that we may find in the sacred Scripture guidance for our way of life.  Grant that our prayers, our answering voice in singing and our response to the Gospel call will bring glory and honour to your most holy Name.

Through Jesus Christ our Lord. We now unite in praying:

The Lord’s Prayer

Children’s Address

Hymn No 615:                            “This is my Father’s world” (The Hymnal)

Scripture Reading                     Philippians 1:3-11

Prayer of Adoration and Confession

Gracious heavenly Father, we are your redeemed people and, as we gather in your presence, how we rejoice in you. We rejoice in the majesty of your character, the sheer perfection of your being. You are the only wise God, the one true and living God, the Almighty, the all-knowing one, the ever present one, the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We rejoice in the perfection of who you are. And we rejoice in the works of your hands, in the wonders you have done: the splendour of your creation, the generosity of your providential care, the sheer grace of redemption, the mystery of your purposes in election, the infinite wonder of your everlasting love, the gift of your Word, the power of your Gospel, the sanctifying work of your Holy Spirit, the blessings of your Church, the glories of Heaven and the wonders you have prepared for us there.

When we consider the wonder of who you are and all that you have done for us in Christ, we rejoice with trembling. We stand in awe of you. We realize something of the greatness and grandeur of who you are, the high and holy God who inhabits eternity. We also realise the finite, weak, limited, sinful condition of ourselves by comparison. But we rejoice in the fact that despite the vast gulf between us, you nevertheless delight to dwell with those who are humble and contrite in heart and who tremble at your Word. We rejoice that you have appointed Christ to bridge the gap between us, and that he has reconciled us to you through the cross. We rejoice that with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

We come before you this day, yielded and still in the presence of you, our Lord and Master. Continue and bring to completion the good work you have begun in us. Humble us in our pride. Condemn in us any wrong. Wash us with water through the Word to make us holy and send us to our homes rejoicing that we have met with you, the Sovereign Lord, in Jesus’ name.

O God, with David we approach your throne of grace and we say: You know my foolishness, and my guilt is not hidden from You. On account of the righteousness of Jesus Christ we pray that those who hope in You not be ashamed because of me and my sins, O Lord God of hosts; may those who seek You not be dishonoured because of me, O God of Israel. (Psalm 69:5–6)

O Lord, be gracious to me; Heal my soul, for I have sinned against You. (Psalm 41:4).  Heal me, O Lord, and I will be healed; save me, and I will be saved, for You are my praise. (Jeremiah 17:14)

Declaration of pardoning

I will cleanse them from all the sin they have committed against me and will forgive all their sins of rebellion against me. (Jeremiah 33:8)

Hymn:                            “Approach my soul the mercy seat” (The Hymnal, 408)

Offering and Dedication

Sovereign Lord, the earth is yours and everything in it. You own the cattle on a thousand hills; all the trees of the forest are yours and yet you love a cheerful giver. Lord, we gladly give you what is your own, in acknowledgement of the fact that all we have and are comes to us as a gracious gift from you. You have granted us health and strength and skills to be able to work and earn an income, to create wealth, in grateful thanks of which we bring these your tithes and our gifts, the first fruits of all our labours, praying that you will bless both the gift and the giver. Grant wisdom to those entrusted with the management of these funds, that they will be well used for the advancement of your Gospel and kingdom both here and even to the ends of the earth, in Jesus’ name, Amen.

We now all sing:

Doxology :                    “Praise God from whom all blessings flow”

Prayer for others

Our Father, may the world not mould us today, but may we be so strong as to help to mould the world.

We pray and beseech You, Father, to guide your church with your perpetual governance that it may walk circumspectly in times of quite and boldly in times of trouble.

Lord of the harvest, we pray that You may send labourers into your harvest – especially here in our denomination in North Queensland.  Father, by your Holy Spirit stir the hearts of many that they may be ready to spend and be spent in your service; and if it pleases you, that they may lose their life in this world in order to gather fruit into eternal life.

We pray for our world.  Grant that all idolatry and superstition be put away, that the whole world may so be enlightened with your holy Word that people will give themselves to the praising of your holy Name.  Open up more and more the knowledge of salvation in Jesus Christ, that in all places of the earth, your truth and power may be known and that all nations will bow the knee to Jesus Christ.

Your have called rulers to the defence of your Word.  It is their duty to promote the spiritual welfare, together with the temporal interest of their people.  We pray for our sovereign, the Queen.  Give her all those heavenly graces that are indispensable for so high a trust.  We also pray for our rulers:  the Prime Minister and his cabinet; the Opposition and all other leaders in different spheres of government.  And as we now prepare to elect leaders, help us to do so in dependence upon and with responsibility to You.

We also pray, Father, that You will pour out your blessings upon the missionaries of the Gospel of Jesus Christ; that they be clothed with righteousness, and that their words spoken by them may have such success that it may never spoken in vain.  We think of Ron and Jean Lyons working in Cape York.  We remember Dr Peter Hammond and the work of Frontline Fellowship. We bring before you Jeanette Clewitt who now is preparing herself for a life of service in your kingdom.  We pray for the work of Scripture Union, the Religious Education in Schools, our Sunday school and its children and the work of chaplains at universities and colleges.

We pray for the homeless, bereaved and sorrowful.  Please give them comfort.  Have mercy on all those who have none to pray for them and none to provide for them.  Have mercy on those who have brought punishment upon themselves and those who minister to them in prisons.

Father, give us godly zeal in prayer, true humility in prosperity, perfect patience in adversity and continual joy in the Holy Spirit.  We pray this for the sake of and in the Name of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Amen.

Scripture Reading                     Ezra 3:1-13          


Gracious God, send forth your Holy Spirit to till the soil of human hearts, there to sow the seed of your Word in prepared ground. May your Word, believed and received into glad and obedient hearts, take root, spring up and bear fruit to eternal life, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Sermon                          A Fresh start – what are the priorities for a church?


My dear brother and sister in the Lord,

Let’s for one moment pretend we have to start fresh with a new congregation.  We have no buildings, no PWA, no Sunday school, no Biblestudies, no money, no hymn books – nothing.  Only the Bible and people.

What is it that you would like to see in this new church?  What are the mistakes of the past?  What is it that you would like to avoid to implement in the new church?  In short, “What is your ideal church?”

Let’s name a few things that you wouldn’t want in your new church?  Think widely here:  now is the time to get rid of all the things you don’t really want.  You may choose a new Hymnbook; a new Bible translation; new music instruments; new elders; new pews in a new building.  Would you love to have a church building with air conditioning? Would you choose to have pews that are more comfortable?  You may want to change the program of the church, new times for worship and Biblestudies – that is if you want any of these to happen.

As you draw up your wish-list for your perfect church, I have to remind you of one very important aspect:  You have to design your perfect church not according to what you think is important or necessary, but according to what God thinks is important and necessary.

In other words, the question is, “What should the priorities in and for the church be?” 

What are the most important things? Would you like to see more friendly people, sharing their love for Christ?  Would you love to have a church which really sings with a louder voice and with more joy? Do you think these things are not absolute necessary, but at least it will help to draw others to the worship?

Or would you love to see the church more involved in prayer, evangelism and mission?  Or perhaps more involved in social justice programs or social mission, looking after the needy, the sick, the poor and the distressed?

What is the heart-beat of the church?  What is its priority of priorities?

A reconciled people

The people of Israel had a chance to start all over again.  God returned them from captivity out of Babylon.  They arrived in Jerusalem and there was nothing left of the former glory of the city or even the temple.  They had to start from scratch.

Behind them was the past wrongs and mistakes that caused them to be driven into slavery and captivity.  God punished them of their continual covenant-breaking.

Now was the time to think clearly, to not repeat the mistakes of history and really build a congregation to the honour of God of the covenant.  This God was faithful, full of grace and mercy, allowing them a second chance.

Let’s look at the Scriptures.  What was the most important thing they did?  What was their priority of priorities?  Ezra 3:2:

Then Jeshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. (Ezra 3:2)

They built the altar of God. More specifically:  to seek atonement with God and to have communion with Him.  . That is the heart of any church:  worship of God. 

On this altar there would be sacrifices. Without a sacrifice there would be no communion with God, because without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness possible.

Can in any church the people of God neglect communion with God? Or even, put something else as the priority for the church in its place?  Any such thing would be idolatry. 

So, my dear brother and sister, a new organ, new pews, new hymnbook, new structures for a better youth ministry or Sunday School – and even more involvement in missionary work and evangelism – may never be more important than true worship of God.  All the other things we put as secondary or even as less important, but never should it be our aim to have any of these things.

When we operate as a church, the building is not important.  For the first three centuries in the history of the church no congregation even had a firm place of worship.  But they were a lively body of Jesus Christ.  And from their true worship flowed their concern for the world around them:  they preached the Gospel, evangelised the word, send out missionaries, care for the sick and distressed.

When we come to church – which is worship – we want all sorts of other things:  good sound system, comfortable pews, blowing fans and flash carpets.  But nothing is as important as knowing that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross opened heavens door so we can have communion with God. 

So, when you come to worship on a Sunday, what are your expectations?  May it be that you only want to be in God’s presence to hear the Gospel of sins forgiven, and further may it be to give God praise and honour for his majesty and greatness.

In accordance with the Word

But there is something else we need to see from this chapter. Let’s read again:

Then Jeshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God. (Ezra 3:2)

8 How did they worship?  In accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses?  That is worship pleasing to God.  Wilful and wayward worship of God had been the exact problem between them and God – and God drove them out of their land into Babylonian slavery.  Now, they started all over:  in accordance with God’s prescribed rules.

Today we hear the voices about how people should worship.  Let’s sing – singing in some churches actually became worship.  People got to the point that they worship worship!  Bring your instruments, let’s make a joyful noise to the Lord – and this verse from Scripture is quoted out of context!  In amidst the noise and laughing and jumping, attracting a lot of people, the Word of God is not heard, nor preached.  People have a good time of fun – and the lost soul leaves still searching for true worship and communion with God.  There is no place for the message of the Cross.  Jesus Christ becomes only another friend, whom I don’t worship as Saviour, but someone who becomes my safeguard against earthly failures.  He is not presented as the only Mediator between God and man – the one who made it possible that we don’t have and need an altar or a sacrifice today. He is the One who would rescue me from eternal hell and destruction and plead for me before God so I may become a child of the living God of heaven and earth.

Other things are also important, but it flows from the central point of significance of worship.

 There was unity

There was unity “as one man” they built. There was singing and praise – and once again it was done in accordance with the Word of God through his servant David.  What happened to Psalm singing in the church?  Why are we so preoccupied with self-centred three-line choruses, void of any theological meaning and Biblical worship of God?

And then there was joy in the Lord and adoration of God.



Almighty God, grant that the Word we have heard this day may not be snatched away by the evil one, nor fall on hard ground, nor be choked by the cares and worries of life, but be received in glad and obedient hearts, that we might truly profit from the Word, so may we be edified and you be glorified, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Hymn no 319                               (The Hymnal)

The Table of the Lord

Hymn No 289:                            “The church’s one foundation” (The Hymnal)


The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

Threefold “Amen”


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