Christianity 201

June 15, 2022

The Value You Place on Worship

So the original header, which didn’t fit, was going to be:

The Value You Place on Worship is Reflected in Your Attitude When You’re Prevented From Doing So

Long enough title?

I originally wrote some of what follows in 2017. I gave three examples of things I thought might prevent people from participating fully in corporate worship, never dreaming that a few years later, a global pandemic would cause churches to lock their doors.

There were, I believe, people who truly mourned the loss of gathering with God’s family, coming together under the teaching of God’s word, engaging in sung worship with everything from just-voices to bands and choirs, joining others in giving to support God’s work locally and around the world, sharing needs and prayer requests, and certainly not least, partaking of the bread and wine around the Lord’s table.

But there were others who might have viewed this as a minor inconvenience. Or worse, a few weeks off.

I have a number of pastor friends. I know that for some of them, a week off means, “I don’t have to preach this weekend.” But I’ve also heard the sentiment, “I don’t get to preach this weekend.” While I recognize that sermon preparation is arduous task, and also realize that we all have tough weeks, nonetheless the difference in attitudes is worth noting. Have you or people who know ever experienced

  • missing being able to give as you’d like because money is tight?
  • missing being able to serve as you’d like because the family is on vacation?
  • missing being able to preach, or sing, or teach because of illness?

The Psalmist wrote,

I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”    Psalm 122:1 NLT

For the Psalmist, being able to spend time in God’s house, was the high point of the week. Sadly, for many, the trip to God’s house is done out of a sense of obligation, not joy. This should not be the case.

In a verse many of you have sung, a reminder:

Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before Him with joyful singing. – Psalm 100:2 NASB

If you see giving as an act of worship, you’ll immediately think of this verse:

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.  – 2 Corinthians 9:7 NIV

Under the new covenant that we might refer to as The New Testament, nobody is being compelled to give except out of a desire to offer back to God a portion of the blessings we have received.

But in Deuteronomy 28, we see the opposite situation where a number of curses are promised in the event of disobedience, and one of these is:

Because you didn’t serve the LORD your God with joy and a cheerful heart, even though you had an abundance of everything, you will serve your enemies the LORD will send against you, in famine, thirst, nakedness, and a lack of everything.   – Deuteronomy 28:47-48a HCSB

Notice that it isn’t about not singing (or not doing so energetically.) It isn’t about not giving, (or not giving enough.) It’s about underlying attitudes.

Do we worship God out of a sense that we have to, or are we thrilled that we get to?

Worship should be wholehearted. Notice the multiple iterations of the following verse:

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” –  Deuteronomy 6:5, Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27; see also Deuteronomy 30:6, 13:3, 10:12.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism reminds us of our chief goal. I’ve added emphasis:

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

It is certainly our duty to do so, but this should be done with delight, with joy, with pleasure. It should flow out of us organically; not as something which seems forced.

Recently, someone expressed to me their concern (a healthy concern, I might add) that their spiritual life doesn’t have the vitality as it did at the start. Today, I found this quotation from mainstream author Carols Fuentes in his book This I Believe:

The most ardent romantic passion can languish and fall into habit or irritation with the passage of time. A couple begin to know each other because, first and foremost, they know so little of each other. Everything is surprise. When there are no surprises left, love can die.

Our worship of God should be formed in community, described in terms of relationship, and defined in terms of our love for God.

Worship never takes a week off, or even a day; nor wishes to.

January 31, 2022

Our Prime Motivation

Sometimes we know we just must do something, but do we ever dig deeper to see where that seed was planted in us?

This is our fourth time at Before the Cross, written by . You need to click the header which follows to read this where we first located it.

Sometimes Conviction Is Not Enough

How many times have we been there? We’ve heard a message, watched a video, or even had a conversation with someone and walked away feeling really convicted about something. We’ll even tell people “man I was so convicted about that” and others are like “yea, me too” but then after awhile, nothing changes. Or we’re in a small group and we can go around the room and basically everyone can chime in talking about how they are convicted, but then you come back the following week to just discuss the same convictions over and over again.

We seem to feel convicted or guilty in certain moments and tell ourselves we’ve got to change something, but then nothing happens. We just go back and repeat either the same mistakes or find ourselves convicted again the next time, possibly even about the exact same thing as before!

So why is this? Surely conviction itself from the Holy Spirit isn’t a bad thing and there’s good that can come out of that, but why is it often the case that change doesn’t take place within us? Perhaps being convicted is not enough?

“For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” 2 Corinthians 4:14-15

That word compel basically can be defined as bringing about change. It’s not our conviction that actually changes us (conviction can bring awareness and help warn us and guard us), but what actually brings about change in our lives…what compels us and motivates us to change…the love of Christ.

We no longer live for ourselves but for Him, who died and was raised again. We are reminded of our motivation as followers of Jesus that while we are convicted and still make mistakes, we now live for Jesus. Not ourselves.

Why?

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

The incredible fact here is that Jesus had no sin. Zero. And He became sin for us, meaning He paid the price of all of our past, present, and future sins…not only so that we would be rescued, but that we would become the righteousness of God. That God would view us as His children through Christ. That the Holy Spirit would reside in us and give us power and self control over our actions and our lives for His Glory and for our own good.

It’s the love of Christ that truly compels us to change.

What motivates you more?

  • Don’t do that, this is bad, this is wrong, you need to make changes.
  • You are fully free and forgiven and will never be condemned by God ever again.

I’m not saying conviction is wrong, I’m asking which one motivates you more? Which one truly brings about change? When you think about how forgiven you really are in Christ and that you are a new creation, it frees you up and gives you confidence to move forward making changes in your life.

What needs to change in your life? What is something God is asking you to stop doing and something He is asking you to start doing? When is the last time you paused for 60 seconds to reflect on the fact that if you believe in Jesus and follow Him, there is NO record of debt against you? It’s been nailed to the cross.

Christian, you’re forgiven. You’re free. Because Jesus is enough.


Second Helping:

Here’s another article at Before the Cross, this one from Heather Bost, about allowing external things to define us. What defines you?


If you’re interested in an index of topical articles at Before the Christ dealing with practical ways you can live out your faith or face challenges in your personal and family life, click here.

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