Christianity 201

February 26, 2020

You Can’t Have a Song Written Without a Life Lived

Yesterday at this time, I was reading the “musings” of songwriter and recording artist Lynn DeShazo who wrote the worship song, “More Precious Than Silver.” What follows are partial excerpts from four different articles she wrote last year about the 40th anniversary of that song, which you can locate at the link in the title below.

Note: Because the full original articles are also interwoven with insights into Lynn’s life which are key to the story, you are strongly encouraged to click the link and read all four parts of this reflection at source.

More Precious Than Silver

…Forty years! Sounds biblical, doesn’t it? Periods of forty years and forty days are found throughout the Scriptures. So when I realized that a significant milestone was approaching in my life, the fortieth anniversary of the creation of “More Precious Than Silver,” it got me thinking.

The Bible is full of instances where our fathers in the faith built altars of stone to mark life-changing encounters with God. In years to come, they would revisit these altars and recall to mind the faithfulness of the Almighty in their lives. They used these memorials to pass on their legacy of faith to their children. An anniversary is a bit like a memorial stone. It marks something significant and perhaps unique to you. It says, “Hey! This event happened here in this place, at that time, and it made a lasting impact on my life.” Here then is my memorial stone, my “Ebenezer raised,” as I reflect on what writing “More Precious Than Silver” has meant to me.

Every creative effort has a beginning. You sit down with your instrument and a pad of paper, or a laptop computer. You hum a melody, strum a chord, or pick out a tune on the piano. Sometimes a song takes shape effortlessly, but usually there’s a struggle involved in the creative process. Every baby born comes into the world with a degree of pain and struggle, some more than others. I think it’s the same with a song. I also think that long before there’s such a creative expression as a song written, there’s a life lived…

…God spoke very clearly to me one night following a powerful message preached at our campus church. He asked me to give up my guitar and, by implication, everything that went along with it – writing and performing my own songs. This was a difficult thing for me to hear and very painful to actually do, but thank God, I found the grace to obey Him. At the close of the meeting, I tearfully handed my guitar over to my pastor for safekeeping (something I freely chose to do), and I did not touch it again for months. As I cooperated with God’s work in me, my spiritual foundation repair began. I learned to trust in Jesus alone for my right standing with God. My striving to please began to give way to restful trust in His love for me. God had big plans for me, but the right foundation had to be in place for Him to build them upon.

Once a field is plowed sufficiently, the farmer stops plowing and starts sowing seed. In like manner, the difficult seasons of God’s dealings with us only go on until He accomplishes His intention. My season of not playing guitar and writing songs did not go on forever. It only lasted until God was satisfied that my spiritual foundation was solidly upon Christ alone. Now He was ready to build upon that foundation, and I began to walk into His purpose for my life…

…When God spoke to me about laying down my guitar, I had a decision to make. My music was very important to me – almost all the self-esteem I could muster up came from being able to play my music “for the Lord.” How could God possibly take that away from me? I chose to trust Him, but it was still difficult.

Putting selfish flesh to death is a hard business and, let’s face it, dying flesh stinks. In ancient times, fragrant spices were used to prepare bodies for burial in order to mask the stench of death as a body decomposed. When Jesus’s body was taken down from the cross, myrrh was one of the spices used to prepare His body for burial (see John 19:39-40). Myrrh is also one of the spices used in the anointing oil of the tabernacle worship. One of the blessings of the Holy Spirit coming into our lives is that He works to mask the stench of our dying flesh as we learn take up our cross and follow Jesus. We begin to produce the fragrance of the Christ within us, even in the midst of our “dying.” (See II Corinthians 2:14-16)

Jesus, speaking of His own imminent death, said, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit” (John 12:24). Before a single grain of wheat can produce a stalk bearing multiple grains, it must first go into the ground where it dies. Its hard exterior is softened through a process hidden from view until the germ of life within is finally able to sprout up through the soil. The tender green shoot is the first sign of the harvest to come…

…Music has a natural power to lift your mood, but it’s the anointing* that breaks the yoke (Isaiah 10:27). So how is it that some ministers have such an evident and consistent anointing flowing to people through what they do, whether it’s preaching, leading worship, counseling, or you name it? I believe it is because of a significant spiritual sacrifice made by that person before the Lord, and a firm commitment to obey Him in every season and circumstance of life.

God called Abraham to Mt. Moriah and required him to sacrifice that which was most precious to him, his son Isaac (See Genesis 22). Thankfully, it was only a test of Abraham’s faith. Isaac’s too, for that matter. But you must understand that Abraham’s test was a foreshadowing of what our Father in heaven would do in giving His only Son as a sacrifice for sin. Now, anywhere in the world that the Gospel is preached, there is an anointing upon the message for people to believe and be saved. Why? Because there’s an anointing at the place of sacrifice, and that place is the Cross of Jesus.

Every believer in Jesus Christ who desires to be a fruitful disciple must come to the Cross, to the place of total surrender to Him and be willing to be made a “living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). We are called to obedience, and God will test that in every one of us. Will we live by the strength of our own will, or out of obedience to His will for us?


*Read the entire (4th) section of the article where Lynn defines ‘anointing’ quite clearly at this link.

February 25, 2020

On the Lighting of Candles

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:22 pm
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But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
 – I Peter 2:9 NIV

I did not grow up with the liturgical calendar or anything close to it. In the last decade or so, I have learned so much from those for whom this is a bedrock of how their faith in Christ is expressed. In preparing Christianity 201, we draw from a wide variety of doctrinal streams. (If you missed yesterday’s post, by a Lutheran minister, it is a great example.)

Today someone asked me about the availability of “Lent candles.” I was familiar with Advent candles, but this one was new to me. A quick Google search revealed there are indeed such things, and “Pentecost candles” also, which got me wondering where candles appear in scripture.

In the KJV, Proverbs 20:27 reads,  The spirit of man is the candle of the Lord, searching all the inward parts of the belly. The NASB renders this as, The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord, Searching all the innermost parts of his being. The NLT seems to take a slightly different approach: The Lord’s light penetrates the human spirit, exposing every hidden motive. The Passion Translation best expresses the source of the light, The spirit God breathed into man is like a living lamp, a shining light searching into the innermost chamber of our being.

The candle reference to which more of you are familiar follows the statement of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount which begins, ‘You are the light of the world.’ Again, the KJV, Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Or, if you prefer, the ISV: People don’t light a lamp and put it under a basket but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

But why do we light candles today?

The website Schoenstatt comes up in web search results and begins with a reference to Hebrews 9:2 (NIV shown) A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand [KJV: candlestick] and the table with its consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place. The article begins noting the prevalence of candles in Catholic worship:

The custom and praxis of lighting candles is a significant convention in Catholic and Orthodox churches, communities and families, originating from Old Testament times where an oil lamp was lighted to ‘sustain a perpetual flame.’ In The New Testament they emphasize the sacredness of this light in Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews. ‘A first tent was prepared with the lamp stand, the table and the bread of the presence; this is called the Holy Place’.

In current Catholic tradition, this light has a precisely distinct status for it symbolizes Christ who said, ‘I am the Light of the world; the one who follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have light and life,’ chronicled in (John 8:12). Most clergy however, relate the candle as representing Jesus as the Light of the world, but also the light and fire as representing the presence and power of God (similar to the pillar of fire that led the children of Israel in the exodus).

Many individuals light a candle prior to worship to symbolize their life as an offering, being burned up in service to God. All of these beliefs, and many more, exist forming elements of this symbolism. Christian faith is filled with symbolism, all of which is effective in teaching us to appreciate our faith in a way that goes beyond the intellectual level. Anything you do, like getting on your knees in prayer as an act of humility, can be very helpful and meaningful for communicating nuances of our faith which goes way beyond our available intellect…

The HolyArt blog adds,

Lighting up a candle in church is a tangible sign of faith. From the baptism candles to votive candles, light as a symbol of love towards God…

Light as manifestation of God then, as His first manifestation since that is the first thing He created in his endless benevolence and wisdom, and with it, He made all the Creation visible. Light as symbol of Christ, who said about himself: “I am the true light”, and that for us all embodies the Light of God that brightens the world, that defies death and forces darkness to withdraw…

…But there is also a more intimate dimension, tied to the practice of lighting up a candle in church, something that concerns every devotee and his silent dialog with God. A lit candle becomes the symbol of divine fire burning inside all of us, the expression of a flaming passion that warms us and makes us part of that Light that Jesus symbolizes, but that all Christians are part of…

Lighting up a candle in church, or holding one during a procession or a community ritual, has a deep unifying purpose. In such occasions, our love becomes unanimous, like a hymn sung by many joyful voices altogether. It is not just us, nor our swaying flame, but we become part of a union made of love and warmth, many fragments of light warming up in the passion of our faith, in the endlessly benevolent and shiny look of God…

These are obviously two very Catholic answers, especially if you click the links to read the selected quotes in context.

But what about Evangelical churches which are increasingly using candles, not to mention adopting the whole of the liturgical calendar? Reformed/Calvinist worship leader Bob Kauflin dealt with this in a 2006 response to a reader.

[C]andles might intentionally be used to illustrate Jesus coming as the Light of the world, or highlight that the Word of God is a light for our path. They could also be used to emphasize that we are God’s people who have been called out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Pet. 2:9). The atmosphere that multiple candles produce can also draw attention to the awe we should experience as we encounter the God of the universe. However that should be balanced by the fact that we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ and can enter God’s presence with freedom and boldness (Eph. 3:12).

We’re out of space for today. Are candles part of your church’s tradition?


We posted this song back in 2012, noting that it might be more familiar to Catholic readers. I hope you enjoy it.

 

 

 

 

February 24, 2020

Letting People See Heaven Mirrored In Earth

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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We are always scanning the internet looking for new sources of devotional material we can highlight and direct you towards. The blog A Simple Christian‘s author goes by ‘justified and sinner’ and is the pastor of a Lutheran Church in California and has been writing online since 2009. As always, click the header below to read this at source.

Is there anything on earth…like heaven?

What God has planned for people who love him is more than eyes have seen or ears have heard. It has never even entered our minds!”  1 Cor. 2:9 CEV

When Gideon looked, the angel was gone. Gideon realized that he had seen one of the LORD’s angels. “Oh!” he moaned. “Now I’m going to die.”  “Calm down!” the LORD told Gideon. “There’s nothing to be afraid of. You’re not going to die.” Gideon built an altar for worshiping the LORD and called it “The LORD Calms Our Fears.”  Judges 6:21-24 CEV


Even the atheistic philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre said, “There comes a time when you say even of Shakespeare, even of Beethoven, ‘Is that all there is?’ ” How can we understand anything of Heaven if there is nothing at all on earth to compare it to, nothing heavenly, nothing that never gets boring? Thus either Heaven is boring, or something on earth is not boring, or nothing on earth is like Heaven.

There are two parts to the answer: first, that everything on earth except agape is meant to be boring; and second, that agape is not.

– Peter Kreeft, The God Who Loves You (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2004), 88.


So let us take up this problem: genuine art is “esoteric in the best sense”, say Rahner and Vorgrimler; liturgy is simple; it must be possible for everyone, particularly the simple, to participate. Can liturgy accommodate real church music? Does it in fact demand it, or does it exclude it? In looking for an answer to these questions, we will not find much help in our theological inheritance. It seems that relations between theology and church music have always been somewhat cool.

– Joseph Ratzinger, The Feast of Faith: Approaches to a Theology of the Liturgy, trans. Graham Harrison (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 100.


As I read Kreeft’s words in scripture today, I was amazed by their accuracy. We don’t understand heaven, we can’t conceive of it, even as the Apostle Paul says in the first quote.

I remember a professor quoting one of the early revivalists who said if he could give people a minute of hell, he would never have to convince them to repent.  My sarcastic comment was, “but what if we could give them a glance of heaven?”

Sarcastically said then, but I’ve thought of the wisdom of it – how can we give people a taste of heaven?  How can we help them know the joys of which we should sing?  That which is “beyond” theology, that which defies our explanation?

How can we show them the holiness, the glory, the pure love that we will experience in heaven? How can we help them experience love beyond love, as radical as the day is from the darkest, stormiest night?

The church’s liturgy aims to do so, revealing the love of God as we celebrate our forgiveness, the Lord dwelling among us, the actions He takes to bless and transform us into His holy people, and the feast of the broken bread and the wine, the Body and Blood of Jesus. The feast that celebrates the love, the feast that opens, for a few moments, a view for our souls of heaven.

I love the story of Gideon, especially the verses above. Here he is, somehow missing the miracles the Angel did, then realizing afterward the significance of being in the presence of a holy messenger.  He starts to freak out, the anxiety builds as he realizes his own sin and inadequacy. His glimpse of something holy, someone from heaven, causes enormous fear.

Then the Lord God tells him to chill.

Wait – where was he?

God does speak to us still, just as He did to Gideon.  One of the ways that should happen is in our church’s gathering.  Even as we receive the message we will struggle with, that kills of our sinful self, and raises us to life with the crucified Christ.  Even as we struggle with that, the Lord comes to us in His feast and tells us, don’t fear, I am with you…

That is why we have a dilemma about the art of leading liturgy and the art of leading songs and hymns that accompany it. The use of the term “art” makes us think it is a showcase for the best of our talents. It isn’t!

What the art is, is not found in the musician’s talent, or the pastor, in the charisma. It is found in the communion, the communication of revealing to people they dwell in the presence of God, and helping them to hear His voice. Therein is the art, there is our target, the goal we strive for, there is our art.

There is our joy as well, for the connection is undeniable, and beautiful beyond words, as people come to know they are loved… as they feast with the Lord, knowing the joy that only comes from knowing you are loved.

January 20, 2020

Devotions: Breaking Out Into Song(s)

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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This is an archived article which appeared on the writer’s blog in 2016. Julie Meyer is the author of Singing the Scriptures (Chosen Books, 2018) and we were referred to her blog, Into the River.

Spontaneous Worship

For years, part of my personal devotions have been to simply open the Bible and sing the Word. I have found that it is possible to be in the most depressed state of mind – where hope is far away and frustration is knocking at the door of your heart —then I begin to sing the Word – suddenly that song – those words of life actually get inside of me and literally  begin to stir up my heart, mind and spirit to take hope in God. Spontaneous worship and singing the Word of God are powerful tools we all need in our tool belt.

David says it over and over in the Psalms. He writes with complete honesty regarding his feelings, his hopelessness, his discouragement, his despair. Then David begins to sing beyond his feelings. It’s as if this spontaneous song, this prayer that David in complete honesty is writing and singing before God – he begins to stir his heart, his emotions, his mind to remember God. He begins to sing out and write down the questions that he is feeling. He writes down & sings out the answer to the questions. Remember to hope in God. Don’t forget God!

In Psalm 42, David bring us into the whole journey. As I was reading the Matthew Henry Commentary on Psalm 42, he writes the titles do not tell us who the penman of this psalm is, but most probably it was David. And then David presented it to the ‘Sons of Korah’ to sing this song to the congregation.

David writes,

‘My heart is breaking’. He goes on to write, ‘I am deeply discouraged, yet I remember you God.‘

In this Psalm, we go on a journey with David in his spontaneous prophetic worship where he writes down every emotion and sings our every discouragement, but he does not stop in his downcast state. He also gives the answer to his discouragement.

He is writing down quite possibly what his eyes are beholding, a storm over the seas;  he sees the raging seas and the storm.

I hear the tumult of the raging seas
as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.

Possibly his emotions identified with that storm and he began to sing of the storm within his soul, his heart and his emotions. But he doesn’t just write the negative – he also – because of the spontaneous worship that he lived a life of – he began to sing the answer.

Then suddenly the Psalm begins to turn and he begins to sing the answer, bringing great hope to His soul, heart, mind and emotions.

Why am I discouraged?
Why am I so sad?
I will put my hope in God;
I will praise Him again!

David was possibly encouraging his own heart from the Torah. The Word of God that He had in his days. We have David’s songs, prayers, and cries today so we can sing the same words. They do the very same thing to our own heart, emotions, mind, and soul.

This is the powerful effect of prophetic spontaneous worship. We can simply open the Living Word of God, sing these same words, and have an encounter with Hope that will bring anyone out of the deepest despair. This is the power of singing the Word; the wonderful simplicity of just opening the Bible and beginning to sing Words that are already written down.

This Spontaneous Prophetic Worship is for everyone.

Oh Lord, make us like David!

October 21, 2019

Nehemiah’s Dual Choirs: Best Worship Ever

Largest Choir Ever

While I owe much of my spiritual nurture to Contemporary Christian Music, I also can be awestruck by a choir. Some choir music is characterized by powerful high energy, and other types are characterized by the beauty of rich harmony.

You may not — especially if you’re a guy — get excited about the sung worship time at your church, but music and the capital-C Church are inseparable. Christianity is a singing faith; something that traces back to our Jewish origins.

A few years back, I heard a sermon on Nehemiah 12, as the nation celebrates the rebuilding of the Jerusalem wall:

27 At the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem, the Levites were sought out from where they lived and were brought to Jerusalem to celebrate joyfully the dedication with songs of thanksgiving and with the music of cymbals, harps and lyres.

31 I had the leaders of Judah go up on top of the wall. I also assigned two large choirs to give thanks. One was to proceed on top of the wall to the right

38 The second choir proceeded in the opposite direction…

40 The two choirs that gave thanks then took their places in the house of God; so did I, together with half the officials,

42b … The choirs sang under the direction of Jezrahiah. 43 And on that day they offered great sacrifices, rejoicing because God had given them great joy. The women and children also rejoiced. The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.

45 They performed the service of their God and the service of purification, as did also the musicians and gatekeepers, according to the commands of David and his son Solomon. 46 For long ago, in the days of David and Asaph, there had been directors for the musicians and for the songs of praise and thanksgiving to God. 47 So in the days of Zerubbabel and of Nehemiah, all Israel contributed the daily portions for the musicians and the gatekeepers. They also set aside the portion for the other Levites, and the Levites set aside the portion for the descendants of Aaron.

I would love to have heard the sound of these dual choirs performing opposite each other. This was long before the combined choir music sung in European cathedrals, and I must add long before HD sound, SurroundSound, or even Quadraphonic Stereo. I’m sure people went back to their homes saying, ‘Best. Worship. Ever.’

I know it can’t compare to the heavenly worship described in the book of Revelation, in which we will all some day participate, but it must have ranked among the most amazing sounds ever heard on earth.

I think it’s interesting that verse 47 tells us that the musicians were set apart for this purpose. If some or all of their material needs were supplied it could mean that they did not need other employment, or were at the very least bi-vocational. There was no doubt a certain level of technical competence among those chosen for this particular task. I have dabbled in music all my life, and at times earned income doing so, but I still wonder if would make it into Zerubbabel’s band or Nehemiah’s vocal team. I’m not saying they had auditions, but I think only the best made the cut to serve in this particular way.

How do we recreate the same type of musical moment? The challenge today for us is to similarly find ways to raise “the song of the Lord” in the marketplace, but sometimes the public square is not available — literally or figuratively — for the church to rent.

Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem. We put away our lyres, hanging them on the branches of the willow trees. For there our captors demanded a song of us. Our tormentors requested a joyful hymn: “Sing us one of those songs of Jerusalem!” But how can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?

Psalm 137: 1-4 NLT

This psalm provides us some info we don’t get from other histories in scripture, and the people of God were being asked to sing, when their captivity made it hard to form a song on the lips.

We aren’t in captivity right now as much as we are moving toward a period of cultural and political exile. Christianity doesn’t have the pull that it once had. But our challenge is similar: How do raise the Lord’s song in an increasingly hostile environment?


Photo:At least in terms of size, the choir pictured above is taken from a YouTube video frame posted by the Guinness Book of Records on October 15th, 2015 of the largest gospel choir consisting of 8688 participants of the Members Church of God International (Philippines) at the Araneta Coliseum, Manila, Philippines just days earlier. Click the image to watch the video.

October 15, 2019

Glory Where Glory is Due

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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We’re back again at the site Don’t Ask The Fish, written by Florida pastor Dr. Tommy Kiedis.

How Will You Initial Your Work?

“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.

— Romans 11:36 ESV

I cannot read music, but Bach’s compositions make perfect sense.

Johann Sebastian Bach has a staying power that is the envy of one-hit wonders and today’s pop idols. Here is what one said about Bach’s work, ‘Die Kunst der Fuge’ (‘The Art of the Fugue’),

His last great work is the complete summary of all his skill in counterpoint and fugue; methods which he perfected, and beyond which no composer has ever been able to pass.

Strong words!

There is no denying Bach’s genius. It is a gift of God. At the same time his compositions provide a clue as to his motivating drive. Bach would insert the letters SDG in the margin of his works. SDG is the abbreviation for the Latin Soli Deo Gloria (to the glory of God alone).

To the glory of God alone

David Platt writes, “While the goal of the American dream is to make much of us, the goal of the gospel is to make much of God.” Johann Sebastian Bach understood this, he embraced it, and he lived it. It is also what Paul teaches in his letter to the Romans:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?” “Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:33-36 ESV

Bach signed his work, SDG — to the glory of God alone! How often I miss that. It is so easy to engage in working, parenting, studying, teaching, writing, playing, or even sharpening my gifts for God . . . and subtly (or not so subtly) write TK (Tommy Kiedis) in a John Hancock sized-script across the bottom.

How often I yearn for the glory.

Today can be different. So today I am going to initial this 24-hour composition SDG. God, may my motive be your glory alone!

How will you initial your work today?

A PRAYER: Lord, refresh me this morning. May your glory be my heart’s cry. May my attitudes, efforts, and actions help others to speak well of You!

__________________

“And beyond which …” from Baroque Composes And Musicians: Johann Sebastian Bach, in http://www.baroquemusic.org. Accessed October 17, 2010.

“While the goal of the American dream …” from David Platt, Radical: Taking Back Your Faith From The American Dream, chapter three.

October 6, 2019

God: What He Did was Who He Is

In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. – Hebrews 1:1-2 (NIV)

In my formative spiritual years, I remember hearing this:

We worship God for who he is.
We praise God for what he has done.

For some, the distinction may not be entirely clear as when we substitute the word thank as in:

We worship God for who he is.
We thank God for what he has done.

I was taught this in what we might call, for lack of a better term, an ecclesiastical setting; in other words, the intent of the speaker(s) was to communicate the difference between simply saying “thanks” versus bowing our hearts in total adoration for who God is; his power, might, majesty and… wait for it… his merciful love.

I get that.

But I think it also needs to be said that, long before the foundations of the earth were laid, it was part of God’s plan all along to make a way of atonement.

God didn’t simply wake up one morning (!) and say, “This sacrificial system isn’t working, we need to try something else.”

The broad story arc of the Bible points to the coming of a Savior. He didn’t simply know that this is where the story was going to lead, rather he had planned out that the opportunity for humankind to experience forgiveness that was both full and free was the direction of the story — the plot line — from the beginning. Dispensationalists call this “the age of grace.” I would call it the “age of atonement.” We went from having to cover our sins to having our sins be covered.

And here is my point:

This whole plan is a reflection not only of what God did — though it is certainly that — but also indicative of who God is.

His actions and his act of mercy toward we who are sinners are indistinguishable from his nature.

He is a God of love.

He is a God of mercy.

He always has been.

The LORD passed in front of Moses, calling out, “Yahweh! The LORD! The God of compassion and mercy! I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.  Exodus 34:6-7a (NLT)

When we consider God’s nature, we often end up at the big O-words — omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent — and can forget he is loving and merciful and in his ways that are far above our ways has devised a plan none of us could ever imagine.

For that we offer thanks; we offer worship; we offer ourselves.


Here are some thoughts on thanks from Ruth’s worship set this morning:

 

September 6, 2019

It’s Your Breath in Our Lungs

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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As myself and the pastor have been planning Sunday’s worship service, we talked about introducing a song that would be new to this congregation, Great Are You Lord.

There’s a line in the chorus that says,

♪ It’s your breath in our lungs
So we pour out our praise… ♪

In other words, just as when we give our tithes and offerings, we’re only giving back to God what he has given us in the first place (giving us strength, intellect, creativity or a mixture of all three to earn income at our vocations), so also when we lift our voices at weekend services to honor God with are singing are we simply giving back to him the breath that he gave to us in the first place.

I was thinking about how we could present the song — because I believe it’s important when teaching a new worship song to also take at least 30 seconds to give the congregation the theological underpinnings of what they are about to sing — and I found the following scriptures (most are NLT):

1 Chronicles 29:14
But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!

Psalm 116:12
What can I give back to the Lord for all the good things he has done for me?

Isaiah 42:5
God, the LORD, created the heavens and stretched them out. He created the earth and everything in it. He gives breath to everyone, life to everyone who walks the earth.

Psalm 24:1
[David writes] The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him.

James 1:17
Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change…

It reminded me of the lyrics of yet another worship song, I Will Offer Up My Life. It’s almost presumptuous to pretend that anything we could ever offer to him would impress him, since he created it all, and it’s all his to begin with. The lyrics in the chorus are:

♪ Jesus, what can I give, what can I bring
To so faithful a friend, to so loving a King?
Savior, what can be said, what can be sung
As a praise of Your name
For the things You have done? ♪

Here’s another song — Great Are You by Downhere — that we posted about the greatness of God, back in July 2010. The line in this song that captures our smallness compared to God’s hugeness is the first line of the chorus.

♪ Because I’ll never hold the picture of the whole horizon in my view
Because I’ll never rip the night in two
It makes me wonder
Who am I, Who am I, Who am I
And great are you ♪

We can’t even see the whole horizon. Our eyes are limited to a maximum of 180 degrees view, but God sees the whole 360.

Have you allowed yourself to be overcome by God’s immensity? His power? His knowledge? His transcendence?

Here’s today’s featured song:

and to repeat, today’s key verse:

1 Chronicles 29:14
But who am I, and who are my people, that we could give anything to you? Everything we have has come from you, and we give you only what you first gave us!

 

 

 

July 20, 2019

On Ranking Worship Songs, Handing Out Awards to Worship Singers

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your lord”.

This may seem more topical — more suited to my other blog, Thinking Out Loud, than this one — but I think it’s something that’s often on the minds of people who write the songs and/or lead us in worship each week, and since it’s is our Sunday Worship column…

This was written by Chuck Girard in 2012, just after his original group Love Song received a Gospel Music Hall of Fame (GMHOF) award the night before. I’ve edited some of the introduction, so click the link if you wish to read this in full…

The Difference Between Honor and Glory

…Back in the early days at Calvary Chapel, it was common practice to not applaud musical artists after they had performed a song. This stemmed from the idea that we did not want to “rob God of his glory”. Instead the whole audience would lift the pointing finger upwards as unto the Lord, making what we called the “one-way sign, and that was the expression of appreciation to the artist, ascribing the credit to God. This was horrible for the artist. You just finished a rocking song with a big ending, and it would be greeted with silence, with all the people pointing their fingers heavenward.

I actually produced the very first Maranatha album. It was called the “Everlasting Living Jesus Music Concert”. I was not given producers credit, because I was told that would be giving the glory to man, not God. (They changed the policy on the next album, and Pete Jacobs did get credit as a producer.) This thinking would probably be considered old-fashioned today, but did reflect the humble values of the early days of the 70s and the Jesus movement.

It took a while but these incidents and life situations began to show me that there was a difference between giving honor to man and glory to God. I honor Billy Graham, but I give the glory for his ministry to God. If I were able to deliver that sentiment personally, I believe Billy Graham to be a man of God enough to receive my honor, and give that honor to the Lord for his glory.

But that still differs from charts, bad reviews and top 10 lists. I suppose we can be practical, and just say it’s a way to measure the business of music for purposes of being more efficient in promotion and distribution. I’m sure these arguments have been made and have some validity. It has undoubtedly been argued that these are “necessary evils”, collateral damage, the cost of doing business. But when measured against the purity and simplicity of the gospel, it seems very trivial in the light of the sacrifices made by the apostles in Jesus’ time. And all the saints and martyrs to come after them, who gave property, family, citizenship, and even lives to further the cause of the gospel. Which brings me around to land on a point here.

The event last night was wonderfully produced. It was professional and not too flashy, the perfect tone for the event.. The organizers were wonderful people who only wanted to show us the respect and honor they felt was due. Several of the inductees were personal friends, so I know their lives, and how deserving they are. The event was very spiritual, it truly honored Christ. Dallas Holm gave an acceptance speech which in all my years I have never heard anyone so succinctly articulate the motives, commitment and intent of most every Christian artist I know. If there was a top 10 for acceptance speeches, his would be #1 in my book.

But I’m sure there are many deserving artists out there who will never be recognized. After all, it is largely a human endeavor and the process is fraught with error. As with most award shows and such, it is often more about fame than achievement. After all, people don’t vote for that of which they are unaware. But we as a human species delight in “seeing who will win”, it’s in our DNA. So these kinds of events will probably never go away.

But still, what really matters is the heavenly Hall of Fame. Whether or not such a thing would actually be a way that God would honor the greatest of His servants, if it did exist, we would probably be very surprised to see who might be on it and how they would be ranked. “#25, Billy Graham, #15, the apostle Paul, #3 Mildred Jones” Wait a minute, Mildred Jones? Who is she? God might say, “Mildred, because you prayed without ceasing, fasted once a month, and continued to lift up Billy Graham in intercession, you are #3”. Silly? Probably. But you get my point. The real treasure is in Heaven. The real rewards will not be determined by outward achievement alone but by inner qualities, integrity, truthfulness, obedience. At the end of the day, what do we have that God did not give us?…

…I pray that we will all be in Heaven’s Hall of Fame someday and hear the most amazing words we will probably ever hear: “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter into the joy of your lord”.


The songs of the early CCM era — which later birthed today’s modern worship movement — were mostly evangelistic, not vertical worship. This has always been one of my favorites.

Later, Chuck Girard’s music would move in a much more worship-centered direction. This song is one of my favorites from that era.

May 19, 2019

Entering the Place Where the Lord Dwells

Today we’re introducing an author who is new to us here. Mark Stephenson co-pastors Horizon Church of Towson. Maryland and writes at Fire and Light. In today’s article, he paints a vivid picture of what it is like to enter into the dwelling place of the Lord, referred to in scripture as Zion or Mount Zion.

Click the link below to read at source.

City of the Living God

But you have come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. You have come to thousands upon thousands of angels in joyful assembly, to the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven. You have come to God, the Judge of all, to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel…

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.”[ref. Deuteronomy 4:24]

– Hebrews 12:22-24, 28-29

When we worship God we get to enter the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God. We get to walk among thousands upon thousands of angels who have gathered to joyfully worship the Lord. We get to approach the throne of grace with confidence knowing that Jesus has made a way by His blood.

Can you picture it?

As you walk toward God’s throne, surrounded by cheering angels, you are clothed in garments of white. The aisle to the throne is as clear as a crystal sea. The angels, as servants of the King, all know that a child of the King has entered the throne room. Royalty has walked in and they all act accordingly. You are an heir of an unshakeable Kingdom, a co-heir with Christ.

As you approach God on His throne, your pace slows. Your steps are careful. You are reminded that this is not only the King of Kings but also your Heavenly Father. You stop. You know this is close enough. The rest of the distance from you to Him is for Him to walk if He decides. He is a consuming fire, and you can feel His power from here. You bow down with your knees to the ground to honor the One who deserves all glory and honor.

You bow your head in reverence and awe. You don’t bow as a slave bows to a master. You are not afraid. You don’t bow in shame and guilt. His eyes see through you, but it is not a stare of disappointment or judgment. It’s a gaze of pure love. He loves that you bow your head in reverence, but He doesn’t want your head to stay bowed. As a loving Father, He signals to you to lift your head. He doesn’t want the top of your head but your eyes looking back at Him. He loves to see your face. The joy and pride of a proud parent fills His countenance.

As He stands to His feet, all the angels–the cherubim, seraphim, and all the other heavenly beings–drop to their knees in worship. As He walks the transparent aisle toward you, He signals you to your feet. You’re not sure you should be standing so your personal angel has to tell you to stand up. You stand before pure love and pure light walking toward you.

Self-limitation is an act of love and had He not reduced His own glory and power in this moment, you’d be fatally consumed immediately. And you know it. You can feel Him dial down His presence and majesty in order to draw near to you. It’s what He did in Jesus and here He is doing it again…just for a moment with you.

He has a smile that makes you smile. When you see His smile it’s so contagious you can’t help but feel joy well up from your gut and overtake your face. He puts His left hand on your right shoulder. You instinctively know that if His power wasn’t sustaining you in this moment you’d collapse under the weight of His glory.

He doesn’t have to say a word. Somehow everything that needs to be communicated is already being said, heart to heart, mind to mind. And somehow He’s not speaking one word at a time but instead it feels like He’s downloading whole ideas instantaneously. These thoughts would take a long time to explain using words but somehow the ideas come all at once.

He draws even closer. He wraps you in His arms. He transmits a love that is intoxicating and overwhelming. Tears burst from your eyes, and your heart feels like it is about to explode. It’s like your current heart wasn’t meant for this amount of love. You need a new heart, one with the capacity to hold a fraction of what is coursing through you in that moment.

The encounter ends.

Grateful is such a small word for what you feel in the aftermath, but it’s as close as you can get to describing the feeling. You have come to Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and you are in awe!

 

May 12, 2019

A Worship Sunday Trio

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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First, from the blog Alicia J’s Space, this repost of Psalm 112 in the CEV. (Click the link for the audio of the KJV.)

Psalm 112 Contemporary English Version (CEV)🕊

God Blesses His Worshipers🕊

112:1 Shout praises to the Lord!
    The Lord blesses everyone
    who worships him and gladly
    obeys his teachings.
Their descendants will have
    great power in the land,
    because the Lord blesses
    all who do right.
They will get rich and prosper
    and will always be remembered
    for their fairness.
They will be so kind
    and merciful and good,
that they will be a light
in the dark
    for others
    who do the right thing.

Life will go well for those
who freely lend
    and are honest in business.
They won’t ever be troubled,
    and the kind things they do
    will never be forgotten.
Bad news won’t bother them;
    they have decided
    to trust the Lord.
They are dependable
    and not afraid,
    and they will live to see
    their enemies defeated.
They will always be remembered
    and greatly praised,
    because they were kind
    and freely gave to the poor.
10 When evil people see this,
    they angrily bite their tongues
    and disappear.
They will never get
    what they really want.🕊


From the newsletter of popular Christian author Frank Viola, a reminder that we need to cleanse ourselves before we come to God in worship:

When Jesus seems distant

When Jesus seems distant, the antidote is not to run away from Him. Ignore Him. Or throw your hands up and decide to become a practical atheist.

It’s to act as if He’s near. That’s called faith. You can’t see Him, but you believe that He is with you (as He promised) and act accordingly.

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” Hebrews 11:6

Now if you’re tolerating a particular sin in your life, drawing near to God means dealing with that sin and eliminating it from your life by the power of the Holy Spirit. (I’ve explained how elsewhere.)

This is how James puts it:

“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” James 4:8-10


In light of what Frank wrote, we end today’s trio of articles with this piece from John Curtis at the Exchange Ministry Blog.

Crucifying the Flesh

Galatians 5:24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

Observation:

In his defense of salvation by faith and not works, it was important to cite that salvation by faith is not a prescription for an unbridled lifestyle with a goal of fulfilling every base passion and desire.  Paul made a list of behaviors that are inconsistent with Kingdom living – sinful practices that his critics would identify easily from the Law of Moses.  And yet they were practices that they also indulged in, which Paul knew from his earlier life.

Contrasting those were the nine-fold fruits of the Holy Spirit.  They didn’t just contrast behavior – they contrasted behavior with attitude.  And then came the punch line above.  It is a crucifixion of passions and desires that the believer does.  THAT is the action that overcomes all the foul outworking of the flesh.  So sin is cut off at inception.  It is not allowed to fester into action since its core – the flesh, that which gratifies but does not satisfy – is to be nailed to the cross to die a slow death.

And a slow death it is, for long have people learned to lean into passions and desires, to coddle and entertain like toys.  These diversions are to be crucified by the believer, put on open display where they were formerly covered as they achieved their clandestine destruction.  This is the stuff of testimony, the glory of overcoming.  For God has so saved his children that they arm themselves with battle gear that they wield as guided tactically and strategically.  But the core work is that of replaced passion.

Application:

How does my group of flesh toys look on the cross?  Is it growing in number?  Am I leaving it there?  And it’s not just deeds I put up there, but the passions and desires that produced them.  Are those seen on the cross as well?  Have I crucified selfishness, malice, pride and anger?  Again, not just angry deeds, but anger.  I must concede it is an ongoing task.  Let me not be discouraged by the tense of the verb – “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified…” – for certainly there are passions and desires that are well-crucified and no longer reign in my heart.  And let me not lose heart in the battle against learned responses – for no one comes to Christ without a former straying from the truth.

Also, no one who would serve Christ in this world is immune from temptation.  Only let me identify such a lure by its core desire – what is it that would draw me down?  What is lacking?  What is being falsely promised?  Why is this passion so alluring to me?  Those questions deal less with the action of sin than they do with its intent.  For it is that intent that brings out the crucifying hammer in me.  Finding it, rooting it out, making its lies an open display.  THAT is the work of crucifying the flesh, for when I allow the Spirit I do that, it is a solid work of redemption.  May it be my regular and progressive spiritual exercise.

Prayer:

Father, it is your work of grace that brings me to awe and wonder.  Continue your work in me for I open myself to you.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

April 7, 2019

Set Free By Worship

Today we’re back with Ronnie Dauber who is a Christian author who lives in Canada with her family. She has written several young adult novels and Inspirational books. Click the header below to read this one at source.

Worship Breaks the Shackles

As exciting as worship can be on Sunday mornings at church, it should never be limited to just Sunday. It should be part of our daily lifestyle that bursts forth because the heart can’t stop singing praises to God. We need to worship continuously because it’s the fuel that keeps us going. As it says in Psalm 22:3, God dwells in the center of our praises, and when we worship God, His presence breaks all the shackles that bind us.

When we only worship God once a week, that is the only time we spend with God to give Him thanks for all He’s done for us, and one hour just isn’t enough time. If we could see all that He’s done to keep us alive and healthy, most of us would fall on our faces and worship Him around the clock. We have so much to be thankful to God for, and it all begins with our salvation. God sent His own Son to come to earth and die on that gruesome cross for our sins. We need to close our eyes and imagine what it was like for Jesus to be beaten and nailed to that cross for you and for me. Then maybe we can get a glimpse of the love that He has for us.

  • But I have trusted in Your mercy; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.—Psalm 13:5

When we worship, the bonds of evil literally break and the evil one flees from us. This is because worship brings God’s presence, and as it says in James 4:7, when we resist the devil—which means we don’t focus on him or the problem he’s brought to us but instead, we focus on God—then that evil one flees from us as fast as he can. So we come to God in worship because with the enemy gone from us, we are free to receive God’s peace and whatever instruction or words God has for us.

We don’t praise God for the problem, nor do we thank Him for giving it to us, but rather, we praise God that He is greater than our problem. As we seek His presence, we ask God if He has allowed this for a particular reason, and if so, to reveal that reason to us. We praise Him for loving us and for saving us, and we praise Him for hearing and answering our prayers. We praise Him for the joy and freedom of being able to praise Him. Then we praise Him again.

  • To the end that my glory may sing praise to You and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever.—Psalm 30:12

We should make time each day to focus on God and praise Him for His goodness and His mercy towards us, for all the blessings in our life, and for our family and friends. It’s good to have a designated time to worship God but this is more for our own sake so that we don’t “forget” to do it. But God is loving and merciful, and He understands the life we live and how it’s not always possible to do the things we set out to do at the time we plan to do them. So we can get around that issue by coming to worship any time during the day or night. It doesn’t really matter, as long as we spend time in worship.

Even so, we can worship God all day long in everything we do. When we eat our meal, we give thanks and praise to God. When we arrive at work safely, we thank God for His hand of protection. When we see someone in need, we help them and pray for them and give God praise for hearing and answering our prayers. When we see a beautiful rose in a garden, we can rejoice in our heart and praise God for His wonderful creation. As believers, we should have our thoughts and mind always directed towards God so that throughout the day we are rejoicing in our heart and praising God.  We don’t need to shout it out for God to hear us. He sees our heart and He knows that we are worshiping Him in Spirit and in truth, and that it’s personal and not done for show. There is no end to praising God throughout the day because He is literally in everything we see!

  • But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him.  God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”—John 4:23-24

However, there are times when we can’t just stop everything and worship God, but it’s during these times that we especially should worship Him and bring in His presence. We can overcome this, though, by having worship music always playing in the background of our home and car.  The music fills the air with God’s praises so even the stresses we sense are stifled because of the peace that flows from it. It’s good to have worship music playing in the background throughout the day (and night) so that the peace of God is always present, and so that we can be steadily reminded of His love for us.

Most of us can’t listen to music at work but we can listen to it before and after so that we are steadily refilled with God’s peace and joy. The stresses of the world fall off when our spirit is renewed with praise music. Let’s resist the devil! Let’s fill our heart with the peace of God as often as we can so that when we go to bed at night, we know that even though we had jobs to do during the day, we were able to praise God in everything we did. Life is so much better when we celebrate the joy of the Lord whenever we can and let His peace flow through us so that bonds of shackles fall away.

  • But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You.—Psalm 5:11

 


This message was taken from the soon to be released book, The ABC’s for Believers. This book is a devotional that will encourage believers to know God and His amazing love for them. It’s easy to read and understand and will help young and new believers alike to understand what it means to love and follow Jesus and know Him in a very personal way.

March 17, 2019

God and the Human Race

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today we feature a first-time writer here. Nick Fisher has been writing at Fuel for Faith since January, 2011. Click the header below to read this at source.

What God Wants

Watching the news; observing people and the affairs of humanity; looking in the mirror and thinking of what I’ve done with my own life, I had to ask my God why He would care at all about the human race…

“What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?” (Psalm 8:4).

Those of us who are Bible believers know that we’re not worthy of God’s love: He gives it because He wants to. He did, after all, send His son to die for us while we were in our fallen state. But why? What could he, an infinite, omnipotent, incredible, beautiful God possibly want that we have or that we are?

I have to say that the answer, humanly speaking, is beyond me. If I were God I would probably just give up on the world and start all over. But as I thought the matter over this morning, for the umpteenth time, what came to mind quite apart from some relevant scriptural statements, were the few souls I’ve known in my life who were genuinely wonderful people-people who were consistently different to everyone else in a good way.

I realized that these people all had certain things in common. They were humble, warm, selfless, kind, loving and thoughtful, and lived a life of service. While no human “deserves” God’s love, humans were designed and made in His image. And perhaps in those divine qualities which a few somehow manage to exhibit there’s a glimpse of that image of God, and a strong indicator of what God through his son Jesus Christ seeks to foster in us, and to fill his heaven with for all eternity.

Worship doesn’t just consist of singing or raising hands, it’s more to do with how we live our lives:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind (Romans 12:1-2).

Yes, we’re saved by faith in the son of God, because of God’s mercy and grace. But it’s when we consciously live out our faith in truth and genuine love and praise, that we please our Creator, and become the kind of people He wants in his kingdom. How many of us are studying the will of our Father in our lives? Jesus said:

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks(John 4:23 NIV).




Today is also St. Patrick’s Day.

If you would like to read the Prayer of St. Patrick which we featured here in 2013,

click this link

To learn about ten other Irish saints you should know,

click this link.

February 3, 2019

Worship Quotations

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today something different: We’re combining our recurring quotations series with our weekly Sunday worship series. These were chosen on the basis of the thoughts that they offered, and also to present a variety of writers. They are in no particular order.

“I need to worship because without it I can forget that I have a big God beside me and live in fear. I need to worship because without it I can forget his calling and begin to live in a spirit of self-preoccupation. I need to worship because without it I lose a sense of wonder and gratitude and plod through life with blinders on. I need worship because my natural tendency is toward self-reliance and stubborn independence.”John Ortberg

“When you consider all of the words used for worship in both the Old and New Testaments, and when you put the meanings together, you find that worship involves both attitudes (awe, reverence, respect) and actions (bowing, praising, serving). It is both a subjective experience and an objective activity. Worship is not an unexpressed feeling, nor is it an empty formality. True worship is balanced and involves the mind, the emotions, and the will. It must be intelligent; it must reach deep within and be motivated by love; and it must lead to obedient actions that glorify God.” — Warren Weirsbe

“…Day and night they never stop saying: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.” Revelation 4:8

“I can safely say, on the authority of all that is revealed in the Word of God, that any man or woman on this earth who is bored and turned off by worship is not ready for heaven.” A.W. Tozer

“It’s not out of a compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are. The delight is incomplete until it is expressed. In the same way, we delight to praise God because our praise of him not merely expresses, but it completes our enjoyment.” – C. S. Lewis

“An unschooled man who knows how to meditate upon the Lord has learned far more than the man with the highest education who does not know how to meditate.” Charles Stanley

“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.” – John 4: 23-24

“Many Spirit-filled authors have exhausted the thesaurus in order to describe God with the glory He deserves. His perfect holiness, by definition, assures us that our words can’t contain Him. Isn’t it a comfort to worship a God we cannot exaggerate?” Francis Chan

“God directs his people not simply to worship but to sing his praises ‘before the nations.’ We are called not simply to communicate the Gospel to nonbelievers; we must also intentionally celebrate the Gospel before them.” Tim Keller

 The Lord says: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught. Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder; the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish.” – Isaiah 29: 13-14

“Worship has been misunderstood as something that arises from a feeling which ‘comes upon you,’ but it is vital that we understand that it is rooted in a conscious act of the will, to serve and obey the Lord Jesus Christ.”  — Graham Kendrick

“Forms and rituals do not produce worship, nor does the disuse of forms and rituals. We can use all the right techniques and methods, we can have the best possible liturgy, but we have not worshipped the Lord until Spirit touches spirit.” Richard J. Foster

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” – Hebrews 12: 28-29

“If your idea of God, if your idea of the salvation offered in Christ, is vague or remote, your idea of worship will be fuzzy and ill-formed. The closer you get to the truth, the clearer becomes the beauty, and the more you will find worship welling up within you. That’s why theology and worship belong together. The one isn’t just a headtrip; the other isn’t just emotion.”—N.T. Wright

“Above all sing spiritually. Have an eye to God in every word you sing. Aim at pleasing Him more than yourself, or any other creature. In order to do this attend strictly to the sense of what you sing, and see that your heart is not carried away with the sound, but offered to God continually; so shall your singing be such as the Lord will approve here, and reward you when he comes in the clouds of heaven.” – John Wesley

 


Sources:

December 16, 2018

Mary’s Burst of Worship

by Ruth Wilkinson

Magnificat. It’s a wonderful Christmas word.

I must confess, though, that when I hear it what springs to mind is an image of a feline superhero. “Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s…. MagnifiCat!”

But that’s not what it means. Magnificat is simply the first word of the Latin translation of the passage we’re looking at today. And it just means, “I magnify.”

It’s a big, flashing arrow pointing at something. It means, “Pay attention! This is important!

It’s a magnifying glass held up to a fingerprint, allowing us to see all of the detail we’d otherwise miss. It’s a big, fat, stinky magic marker writing out a message, so it can be seen from a distance. It’s a melody played on a great, honking tuba, so you can’t possibly miss it.

I magnify!

When Mary, Jesus’ mother, realized what was happening — what she was in the middle of; what she had become instrumental to — Luke records that she burst out in what is essentially a mash-up of Old Testament verses and phrases that she had memorized; verses from the books of Psalms, Job, 1 Samuel, Genesis, Deuteronomy, Isaiah… Poetry and prophecy. Truths that she’d been steeped in all her life and which suddenly, joyously, tumbled out in a hymn of praise to the God who had set her on an unprecedented path.

And in this moment of irrepressible, inexpressible joy, she not only magnified God, she magnified something in particular about him. Something that was profoundly, thrillingly relevant.

As we read together these, her words, pay attention to what it is about her God that she magnifies.

Look for the details. Read the message. Listen for the melody.

And rejoice!

“My soul shouts the greatness of the Lord.
My spirit sings the joy I’ve found in God my Saviour.

Because He has looked on ordinary me
and now I, His servant, will be known in every generation
as happy and blessed.

The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and His very name is unlike any other name.

For those who stand in awe of Him,
His mercy flows from
generation to generation,
wave after wave.

He has shown the strength of His arm against those with prideful hearts,
as He scatters them,
as He topples the powerful from their thrones.

He lifts up the lowly and the humble.
He has filled and satisfied the hungry with good things.
The rich He has sent away empty and empty handed.

He has helped His chosen, Israel,
keeping His kindness in mind.

And faithfully remembering His promises,
from day one, through Abraham,
and to eternity.”

Luke 1:46‭-‬55

 

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