Category Archives: Worship

From Explanation to Adoration

images (1)As Christians, we must discuss what it means when the Bible describes God in a certain way, using certain terms.  I believe Bible studies and seminary classrooms where we engage in the task of explanation and even friendly debate when it comes to understanding the character of God are wonderful and necessary.  We should be people of precision in our comprehension of God, and that takes work.  We have to go into study mode, clarification mode, and definition mode, but the attributes of God should never stay in those modes.

As I was studying Psalm 90 last week, I was struck by how Moses (the author) gives significant explanatory attention to the reality that God is eternal, yet he begins the Psalm by praising God for this attribute (vv. 1-2).

Lord, you have been our dwelling place
    in all generations.
Before the mountains were brought forth,
    or ever you had formed the earth and the world,
    from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Do you get stuck in the duty of defining and explaining while forgetting the duty of adoring worship?  Your precise understanding of God should always lead you to acute, pointed praise.  Because we do the work of studying and clarifying God’s character, we can praise him in a more specific way, drawing  out deeper realities that please him and bless us more.  The work of explanation makes worship richer and fuller, because as we study God more, we see that he is so much more amazing than we often realize.

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The Difference Between a Fan Boy and a Humble Worshiper

From Joe Thorn’s excellent book, Note to Self:

The difference between a fan boy and a humble, worshiping theologian is the direction of one’s passions, the content of their convictions, and the source of their identity.  The fan boy is passionate about a personality or movement, shares that person’s convictions, and is careful to align himself with the right people for acceptance.  It is not that the fan boy is out to deceive or image1pretend.  He truly believes the personality or tribe is right.  But instead of standing with such people and focusing intently on Jesus, he settles for spiritual tribalism and the cult of personality.

Let me be clear.  Point to those who follow Christ well, but only to encourage others to see Christ more clearly.  Link up with like-minded men and women who are serious about God, gospel, and mission, but fight the temptation to let the group be your passion rather than its reason for existence.


How Lincoln Helped Me Worship God

A couple of nights ago my wife and I took a date night to go see Lincoln.  I was impressed by several things in the movie – the acting is superb, the historicity of the sets and wardrobe are precise, the music carries a subtle beauty, and I am now more appreciative of the blood, sweat, and tears that went in to passing the thirteenth amendment.

But the thing I think I was most impressed by is the way Steven Spielberg portrayed Abraham Lincoln.  Growing up in this country, the perception I have had of Lincoln has been one that is larger than life.  In many ways we have put Lincoln on a pedestal to honor him for all he accomplished, forgetting that he, like the rest of us, was a sinful man in need of Jesus.

Now Spielberg certainly doesn’t paint him in a bad light, but neither does he shy away from scenes where Lincoln is shown yelling at his wife, engaging in shady political dealings, and exhibiting a lack of compassion toward his son.  We see much to admire in the man, but we are also made to see that he is, in fact, a man.

I am thankful for this because I know my tendency to esteem men as more than men.  In showing some of the shortcomings of this legendary figure, Spielberg has helped me keep my thoughts about man small and my thoughts about God big, so that I can say to God, along with David, “When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:3-4)


How Our Baby Daughter Taught Me About Misplaced Worship

Last week my wife told me a story about our daughter who will turn a year old later this month.  Our daughter, who hasn’t yet learned to crawl, is custom to sitting on the floor in one place and using her feet to turn herself around in complete circles.  As she’s doing this, she’s on the look-out for anything that she can pick up and put in her mouth.  Certainly, things like action figures and hairbrushes make the cut, but what astounds Keri and me is the way she can spot the smallest piece of “I don’t know what” and pick it up.  Last week held such an occasion when she found a speck and had it pinched between her thumb and index finger.  As my wife describes, this speck was my daughter’s treasure.  As she was about to make the transition from hand to mouth, she gazed upon it with such delight that it was hard for my wife to do what she did next.  Yes, my wife, not knowing what the speck might be, took it away from our child.  Our little girl was mortified.  She screamed, gave Keri a look of  cold-blooded betrayal, and then turned away to weep bitterly.

Oh  how we are all like that baby girl!  We turn specks into treasures and fall apart when they are taken away.  Think of all the things, experiences, and even people you have made your treasure.  As with my daughter, they surely don’t feel like specks, but when you step back to see it from God’s perspective, things start to come into focus – anything or anyone other than Christ that we make into a treasure is a speck in his eyes.   In looking at her cherish that speck, my wife could see what our daughter could not – that speck was not worthy of her adoration.  That’s what God sees when we are cherishing things other than him.  When God is there for us to adore, anything else we adore becomes a speck by comparison, and therefore, unworthy of our adoration.

I think the Sons of Korah had God’s perspective in Psalm 84:10 – For a day in [God’s] courts is better than a thousand elsewhere.  The Lord is better, and not just minutely better, but infinitely better!  Church, we must remember that God’s perspective is reality and while it is not wrong to enjoy the specks in our lives, it is wrong to treat them as if they are more than what they are.

 
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3 Reasons We Still Need the Gospel After Salvation

Today’s post is by Ben Whiting – a fiction writer, a devoted husband and father, a faithful member of our church, and a dear friend.

The gospel is not an appetizer. It doesn’t start the meal, whet your appetite for the main course, and then get out of the way. The gospel is the main course, and by eating it we are satisfied, energized, and matured. Here are three benefits of meditating on and diving deeper into the gospel.

The Gospel Inspires Worship:

Picture an evening news program. The weatherman says a storm is coming–the most powerfully decimating storm in history. That storm is God’s wrath toward sinners–every one of us. But, one of the news anchors interrupts, there is good news: a bomb shelter downtown that will stand against the storm. There is room for the whole town. Unfortunately, you are paralyzed from the neck down and cannot even change the channel to ignore this discussion of the epic storm. But the man who built the shelter knows your name, and he fights through the swirling debris as the storm begins to hit, and he comes to your house, pulls you out, and carries you to the shelter. He leaves you in safety and goes out for another helpless soul. And another. And another. Until he himself is killed by the storm.

This story is our story, and it is magnificent and glorious because our God is magnificent and glorious. Dwelling on the gospel should enflame our hearts in worship.

The Gospel Cultivates Humility :

Didn’t the story above empower you? Didn’t it make you feel capable?

We were helpless, and–as Paul reminds us in Galatians 3–we need God’s grace just as much to be made complete as we did to be rescued. Not only that, we were wretches. We deserved to die in the storm.

The gospel reminds us that we were and are helpless and ill-deserving. The gospel brings us low, robs us of a high view of ourselves, and turns our eyes to God for help.

The Gospel Tears Down Idols :

The gospel is the power of God, not just to deliver us from damnation but to progressively release the hold that sin still has on us. The base desires that lie at the heart of our sinfulness are uprooted by truths of the gospel.

The man who worships acceptance because his father never had anything but criticism for him? That man finds God’s acceptance in the gospel and can worship God instead.

The teen who accepts abuse from others and administers it to herself? That young woman finds God’s complete forgiveness in the gospel–all of the abuse she deserved, already taken by Christ.

The woman who worships intimacy and chases after it in sex or friendship or even marriage? That woman finds God’s romance in the gospel–a king who desired her when she was undesirable, cleaned her and made her his bride.

Keep preaching the gospel to yourself. Plumb its depths. Let it heal your heart, one corner at a time. What other benefits do you find in gospel meditation? What other wounds does it address? I’d love to hear your comments.


Can You Be Amazed by God and Not Believe Him?

In reading the Word yesterday I ran across a verse in Luke 20 that struck me.  Verse 26, speaking of the scribes and chief priests, reads, “… but marveling at his answer they became silent.”  Did you catch that?  Those religious leaders who despise Jesus are marveling at his teaching.  The same group of men who, just a few verses ago, sought to capture Jesus in order to put him to death (v. 19), are amazed at his answer to their question.  The conclusion here is clear: a heart can be amazed by Jesus without trusting Jesus.

There are two applications I think we can draw from this:

First, we should not assume that a person is a follower of Christ just because he/she is amazed by witnessing something God has done or said, like a direct answer to prayer, the wisdom of Jesus’ teaching, or a medical recovery that doctors cannot explain.  A person may stand awe-struck by God’s power much like king Nebuchadnezzar when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were not burned by the fiery furnace (Daniel 3:24, 28), but just as with Nebuchadnezzar, may go right back to a “me-centered” life soon thereafter, proving their unbelief (4:28-30).

Second, even as believers, being amazed by something God has done or said does not mean that we are walking in right fellowship with him.  There may still be sins that we need to confess and turn from and there may areas of life wherein we need to begin to trust God’s promises instead of the lies our hearts so often believe.  Walking in faith is a much better indicator of spiritual health than walking in amazement.

 

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To Worship Idols is to Worship Yourself

“The human heart is a factory of idols”  These famous words, written by John Calvin, capture the true condition of our nature as humans: like a economy line, our hearts are cranking out new things, people, and experiences to worship in the place of God.  On any given day our hearts will start and stop production on a long list of idols that include things like approval, comfort, getting a husband or wife, physical pleasure, the next techno gadget, wealth, security, control, freedom and power.

There’s nothing incorrect about what Calvin said, but there’s another level to it that we must be aware of.  So, let me ask, what do all of the above idols have in common?  They are all things, people, or experiences that you want to fulfill your desires.  You will know these things have become idols when you are willing to sin to get them or sin if you do not get them, but what they all have in common is you.  You make sacrifices of time, energy and money to things like comfort and security in order to please yourself.  Therefore, in reality, it is not as much that we are putting things like comfort and security on the the throne of our hearts (where only God belongs), but rather, we are putting ourselves on that throne instead.  When we worship idols we are, essentially, worshiping ourselves.  When you get down to the bare bones of each decision we make, there are really only two options: worshiping God or worshiping self.

This is why Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23).  Notice he did not say, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny his idols.”  It’s not that this statement would have been wrong, but Jesus knows the reason why we worship things other than God is because we want what we want.  We are at the root of all the idols we serve.  So, the heart of the matter is that we must humbly step down from the throne of our hearts to and return its seat to the only One to whom it rightly belongs.

 

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