Christianity 201

May 27, 2018

Fanning the Flame of Worship

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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This is our first visit to the site, “A Great, Real Place” written by Caleb Westbrook, a teacher from Kansas City.  As always, click the title below to read this at source.

Worship: The Flame of Life

The word worship elicits all kinds of images. One person may think of pew on pew on pew leading up to a large Gospel choir in the front of the sanctuary. Another person may recall the used and careworn pages of an old hymnal–maybe even the smell of those pages. Or perhaps one imagines hands raised in the concert hall of a mood-lit mega conference, singing alongside hundreds if not thousands of other believers. One may also remember the emotions: joy, elation, penitence.

When we think of worship, we almost always envision a form of singing. Even for those who know that worship is more, we still, upon instinct, normally associate the word with singing. This is natural. Worship through song has a rich and beautiful tradition in the Church, and it is probably the easiest way to confess love and honor to God. However, just because it is the easiest, that doesn’t mean singing is the only or even the best form of worship. True worship, of course, encompasses the whole individual and the whole church assembly.

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1

Paul writes this to the Romans, urging them to submit their lives to the rule of God, and he defines worship as a presentation of one’s body as a living sacrifice.

At my church, The Avenue, we’ve begun a series entitled Valley of Vision, drawing its name and inspiration from the well known Christian devotional compiled and published in 1975 by Arthur Bennett. The Valley of Vision is a collection of Puritan prayers meant to provide form and inspiration to each believer’s personal prayer life. It has also become a simple liturgy used in some churches like The Avenue.

One of the prayers in The Valley Vision is “Worship” (read the whole prayer here), and in the opening lines, the writer promulgates the importance of worship and its significance.

“Glorious God, It is the flame of my life to worship thee, the crown and glory of my soul to adore thee, heavenly pleasure to approach thee.”

It is the flame of my life… Yes, adoration can come in the form of singing. However, notice how much more poignant is the message of this Puritan prayer. Worship is not a flame for the singing time of the service. It is not the flame of Sundays. True worship is the flame of life. Therefore, if this Christian practice is bound to the whole life, it makes sense that worship must consume more than a thirty minute segment of one’s week!

Worship is the offering of all of one’s self to the object (or objects) of one’s allegiance, and by offering one’s self in all areas of life, that becomes the act of praise. As an aside, notice that I mentioned objects, plural, can receive worship. That was intentional. We are always worshipping something; if it’s not God, it’s whatever consumes our devotion, and sometimes that consists of lots of little distracting somethings that steal our attention from God.

Thus, if worship is an offering of all of life, you are worshipping as a parent, caring for your child and pointing her to Jesus. You are worshipping on your hands and knees (prayer-like!) in your garden, pruning God’s good earth for His glory. You are worshipping as you serve your city. And, I believe, you are even worshipping in your failures when that failure becomes an offering of confession and a recognition of your need for grace. God is other in His greatness and power.

This leads me to another aspect of this important prayer. One of the reasons we worship God is because He has given us a mediator, a go-between between man and the Almighty.

“Give me knowledge of thy goodness that I might not be over-awed by thy greatness; Give me Jesus, Son of Man, Son of God, that I might not be terrified, but be drawn near with filial love, with holy boldness; He is my Mediator, Brother, Interpreter, Branch, Daysman, Lamb…”

In the Old Testament, Moses asked to see God’s glory (what an audacious request!), and God acquiesced to his request with the caveat that Moses would not be allowed to see God’s face: “for man shall not see me and live.” In the Old Testament, God was personal but not exactly approachable. However, in Jesus Christ every believer has access to God through Jesus Christ.

Therefore, we also worship with the humbling knowledge that, without Jesus, we would be left to worship from afar, unable to comprehend or survive the absolute holiness of the Divine. In Jesus, however, we have a brother and mediator. He is the high priest who gives us access to the throne of God.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15

So let us fan the flame of our lives, let us worship without ceasing by bringing our adoration of God into every area of our lives, and let us praise Jesus all the more because we know that He makes a way for us to enter the eternal kingdom of the most high and eternal God.

January 14, 2013

When God Breaks Us

Genesis 32:24-32 – New International Version

24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”

But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel, and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

This is from the book Jacob: The Fools God Chooses by David Roper (2002, Discovery House Publishers) pp 85-88

…Completely expended, Jacob could no longer continue. But neither would he let go! Out on his feet, he still clenched his antagonist fiercely.

“Let me go,” his opponent shouted, but Jacob continued to cling. “I will not let go unless you bless me,” he said.

The man asked him, “What is your name?” The form of the question actually means, “What is the meaning of your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered. Clever, cunning Jacob knew well who he was.

Then the man said, “Your name shall no longer be Jacob, but Israel [one who prevails with God] because you have struggled with God…and have prevailed. (Genesis 32:28029 emphasis added) Jacob’s defeat and victory came simultaneously.

Phantom match or real encounter? Jacob knew. His opponent was the Angel of the Lord, God Himself, coming to grips with Jacob’s duplicity, chastening his pride, challenging his tenacity, wrestling with him, relentless in His love. He would not give up until Jacob gave in and clung to God alone.

The clash was the climax of Jacob’s lifelong ambivalence, resisting God and yet relying on Him. Now, utterly defeated and exhausted, Jacob gave up and gave in. Old Jacob was finished. He could no longer survive without a vice-like grip on God, clutching Him, clinging to Him

Jacob was given a new name; the old name was passé. He was no longer Jacob but Israel — a winner. “The bewildered gymnast,” says Emily Dickenson, “had worsted God.” God had broken Jacob, and Jacob had won!

…His story is ours. We, too want God — somewhat — but we hold out against Him. He knows He cannot prevail against us unless He takes some severe measure that will give us no alternative but to yield. And so he becomes our adversary — against us because he is for us.

“Our greatest victories are wrought through pain and purchased at the cost of the humbling of the flesh,” wrote F. B. Meyer. That’s when we learn that “the secret of prevailing with God and man (is) not in the strength but in the weakness of the flesh.” So it was for Jacob; so it is for us.

Jacob’s wrestling, though a literal match, was symbolic of the spiritual struggle that occupies us. It has to do with our hesitancy toward God; we place limits on how much of us He can have.

Because God so loves us, He does not want to lose us. And so He pits His strength against ours. He will touch whatever it is that causes us to stand against Him. Our dreams may fail, our businesses may fold, our best-laid plans may go awry. An accident may impair us, a crippling disease might ruin us, or we simply grow old. Our bodies, once strong, begin to weaken, our minds, once sharp begin to fail. He has touched us and stripped us of our natural strength and ability.

These effects are not signs of God’s wrath and displeasure but evidences of His love. He is working through all of this, wrestling with us, dusting us up, bringing us down to take from us all that hinders His love. He will not give up until we’re wholly His.

Jacob limped away from his encounter diminished… His maiming marked him forever. But if you were to ask about his infirmity he would tell you that the best day of his life was the day God put him on the mat. That was the night Jacob lost everything he had and gained everything worth having.

~David Roper.

May 9, 2011

From The Best of A. W. Tozer

Satan’s first attack on the human race was his sly effort to destroy Eve’s confidence in the kindness of God.  Unfortunately for her and for us, he succeeded too well.  From that day, men have had a false conception of God, and it is exactly this that has cut from under them the ground of righteousness and driven them to reckless and destructive living…

…The God of the Pharisee was not a God easy to live with, so his religion became grim and hard and loveless…

…The truth is that God is the most winsome of all beings and His service on of unspeakable pleausre…

…How good it would be if we could learn that God is easy to live with.  He remembers our frame and knows that we are dust.  He may sometimes chasten us, it is true, but even this He does with a smile, the proud tender smile of a Father who is bursting with pleasure over an imperfect but promising son who is coming every day to look more and more like the One whose child he is…

from the The Best of Tozer, Baker 1978 edition, pp. 120-122