The Worship Quote of the Week for (07/06/2004):

Intelligent Worship: Acts 17:16-34
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Believe it or not, today, July 6, I am in Athens, Greece, not to attend the Olympics but to follow the journeys of the apostle Paul. Our WORSHIP QUOTE comes from Dr. Luke’s account of Paul’s address to the men of Athens concerning their incredible collection of idols. I have chosen the contemporary language of THE MESSAGE. If you prefer, read this story in your favorite translation—Acts 17:16-34.

The longer Paul waited in Athens for Silas and Timothy, the angrier he got—all those idols! The city was a junkyard of idols.

He discussed it with the Jews and other like-minded people at their meeting place. And every day he went out on the streets and talked with anyone who happened along. He got to know some of the Epicurean and Stoic intellectuals pretty well through these conversations. Some of them dismissed him with sarcasm: “What an airhead!” But others, listening to him go on about Jesus and the resurrection, were intrigued: “That's a new slant on the gods. Tell us more.”

These people got together and asked him to make a public presentation over at the Areopagus, where things were a little quieter. They said, “This is a new one on us. We've never heard anything quite like it. Where did you come up with this anyway? Explain it so we can understand.” Downtown Athens was great place for gossip. There were people hanging around, natives and tourists alike, waiting for the latest tidbit on most anything.

So Paul took his stand in the open space at the Areopagus and laid it out for them. “It's plain to see that you Athenians take your religion seriously. When I arrived here the other day, I was fascinated with all the shrines I came across. And then I found one inscribed, TO THE GOD NOBODY KNOWS. I'm here to introduce you to this God so you can worship intelligently, know who you're dealing with.

“The God who made the world and everything in it, this Master of the sky and land, doesn't live in custom-made shrines or need the human race to run errands for him, as if he couldn't take care of himself. He makes the creatures; the creatures don't make him. Starting from scratch, he made the entire human race and made the earth hospitable, with plenty of time and space for living so we could seek after God, and not just grope around in the dark but actually FIND him. He doesn't play hide-and-seek with us. He's not remote; he's NEAR. We live and move in him, we can't get away from him! One of your poets said it well: 'We're the God-created.' Well, if we are the God-created, it doesn't make a lot of sense to think we could hire a sculptor to chisel a god out of stone for us, does it?

“God overlooks it as long as you don't know any better—but that time is past. The unknown is now known, and he is calling for a radical life-change. He has set a day when the entire human race will be judged and everything set right. And he has already appointed the judge, confirming him before everyone by raising him from the dead.”

At the phrase “raising him from the dead,” the listeners split: Some laughed at him and walked off making jokes; others said, “Let's do this again. We want to hear more.” But that was it for the day, and Paul left. There were still others, it turned out, who were convinced then and there, and stuck with Paul—among them Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris.

— Dr. Luke from Acts 17:16-34, in THE MESSAGE: THE BIBLE IN CONTEMPORARY ENGLISH, by Eugene H. Peterson, NavPress, 2002, p. 2005. ISBN 1-57683-436-0

[Who knows? Perhaps some conversation you have today may introduce a friend or stranger to the “God who made the world and everything in it.”]

Please consider forwarding the following paragraph to pastors or church musicians who might benefit from a wonderful WORSHIP WORKSHOP this summer.

WORSHIP TO THE GLORY OF GOD (July 12-16, 2004, in Louisville, Kentucky) will feature lectures by Harold Best and Bob Kauflin of Sovereign Grace Ministries. You can look at the WQOTW archives ( for provocative quotes from both of these speakers. The five-day event is available as a two-credit course at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary or simply as a workshop for interested participants. You can expect an intensive experience combining both theological reflection and practical guidelines for planning and leading authentic biblical worship in today’s church. All lectures and materials will be relevant to both traditional and contemporary expressions of corporate Christian worship. If you have questions, please call 1-800-626-5525 (Ext. 4115). Full brochure at Click on “2004 Summer Workshops.”

Have a great week.

Chip Stam
Director, Institute for Christian Worship
School of Church Music and Worship
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

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