Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Worship (page 2 of 2)

Worshiping Whom?

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In “… our consumer-oriented, western Christian culture … almost everything is bent toward the will of the worshiper, rather than toward the one to be worshiped. Worship in such a context becomes a celebration, not of the sovereignty of God, but the sovereignty of the worshiper. They come before God to allow Him a chance to meet their needs, to invite Him to bow to their troubles and give Him an opportunity to abandon His plans and join them in theirs.

This is nothing short of the retailing of God!

Our word ‘retail’ comes from the Old French. The prefix re– means ‘back,’ while tail means ‘to cut’ or ‘to trim.’ The resulting combination came to describe ‘a piece cut off, shred, scrap, paring.’

That is precisely what’s left after self-defined, self-directed worship–shreds and scraps of God. There is something of God here, but it is bits and pieces sown together into a quilt of worship after a pattern of one’s own making. Such worship constructs a patchwork, piecemeal deity, fit neither to command our allegiance nor meet our needs.” (Life as Worship, p.146)

Sacrifice vs. Obedience

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And Samuel said, “Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams.” (1 Samuel 15:22)

Samuel told Saul to defeat the Amalekites, destroying all life (v.3). Saul led his troops in an overwhelming victory, but he spared their king and “the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of the fattened calves and the lambs, and all that was good …” (v.9a). God informed Samuel that Saul had not obeyed and that He had thus rejected him from being king over Israel (v.10). When confronted by Samuel, Saul said, “the people spared the best of the sheep and oxen to sacrifice to the Lord your God.” (v.15).

God wants our explicit and exact obedience to His Word, not our self-manufactured notions of sacrifice. Oswald Chambers astutely observed that “The counterfeit of obedience is a state of mind in which you work up occasions to sacrifice yourself.”

We end up deluded by our own rationalizations, offering to God sacrifices of “worship” and “service” that He neither asked for nor desires, while withholding the obedience that is distasteful to us. It is possible to live one’s Christian life amid delusions and rationalizations dressed up like sacrifice and worship, which are in fact an avoidance of the very thing Jesus commands of us. We often embrace a sacrifice whose price we are glad to pay to cover for obedience whose price we are unwilling to pay.

Questions for reflection and prayer:

  • What might such “sacrifices” include?
  • What might we be trying to hide by making these “sacrifices”?
  • What motivates such “sacrifice”?
  • Why do you think such “sacrifices” are so convincing?
  • Apart from a “Samuel” pointing out the delusion of such “sacrifices” in our own lives, how might we become aware of our self-deception?

The Veil Torn. Heaven Opened.

At the precise moment that Jesus died “the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth shook and the rocks were split” (Matthew 27:51).  And thus heaven is opened to us “by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh” (Hebrew 10:20). Now “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil” (Hebrews 6:19).

I recently listened with great blessing to this message by the late Rev. Keith M. Bailey as he unfolded the marvels of the torn veil and an open heaven. I know you’ll be as blessed as I was: The Veil Torn. Heaven Opened.

 

The Silences of God

“My soul waits in silence for God only” (Psalm 62:1, NASB)

“I am reminded that in music silence is not silence. Musically, silence is called a rest. David was a musician. It seems to me – though I am no musician – the key to understanding the silence in the music is to never lose sight of the notes immediately before and after the silence. It is connecting the dots between those notes and interpreting the silence in its context that transforms silence into rest. Context, musically speaking, instructs you on how to read the silence. The same is true spiritually. Trouble is, in the midst of silence you haven’t heard the next note yet. All you have are the notes that have gone before. The music that led you to this moment tells you something is now unresolved. It leaves you listening, longing for those notes which will resolve the melody that has been played out to this point … We need to trust the Conductor enough to know that He will have more notes to be played. Only in this kind of faith-rest can we be ready to hear the next notes in this strain of divine music.” (Long Story Short, p.135)

Unsearchable!

The Psalmist tells us that God’s “greatness is unsearchable” (Psalm 145:3b).

What does “unsearchable” mean except that no amount of searching can ever exhaust the wonder of the thing being explored? Not a million eternities would be sufficient time to explore every nook and cranny of that which is “unsearchable.” No amount of distance covered could ever be sufficient to have covered the landscape of that which is “unsearchable.” You would exhaust your lifetime and eternity trying to exhaust all that which is truly unsearchable.

As I pondered this recently, a series of questions came to my mind (for a reasons I don’t understand, can’t explain, or should I say: “search-out”). These are not Biblical questions, but they help me think more fully about what it means that God’s “greatness is unsearchable.”

If God’s greatness was a color, what color would it be? Green? Red? Blue? And how many shades and hues would each color possess? Well, I guess I’d have to conclude that it would be infinite! Along the spectrum of color which we call “green” we find names we’ve assigned to various tints such as chartreuse and lime. But those are simply names we’ve applied to specific points along that spectrum of color. What would we call that which is halfway between chartreuse and lime? And what is half way between whatever that is and chartreuse? We quickly see that searching out the infinite possibilities of color leads us on a chase of that which is ultimately unsearchable.

If God’s greatness were a flavor, what flavor would it be? And how many flavors are there anyway? What would a few grains of this or that spice do to an already existing flavor? Well, it would create a whole new culinary vista that would have to be explored! The world of flavor has never been fully explored!

If God’s greatness were music, what kind of music would it be? You have an opinion about that—I’m sure. Many of you are quite sure what kind of music it would not be. But others are just as convinced the other way. Whatever kind of music you might finally select, how many possible combinations of notes are there within that genre of music? Unsearchable! There are an infinite number of songs waiting to be written.

If God’s greatness were a language, what language would it be? And with what accent would it be spoken? With whatever language you may pick, what are the possible combinations of letters and characters to make new words? Words that would need to be invented just to describe some landscape of God’s character, Person and works that no one has yet seen or perhaps ever will see? Innumerable!

And if God’s greatness were a place, where would that place reside? Would it be more like Africa or like Asia? Like Europe or like South America? Would it be on our planet?  Or perhaps on another? Would it be within our solar system? Or would it be the entire solar system? Would it be within the dimensions of which we have some awareness? Or would it (does it) reside in dimensions of reality to which we are presently oblivious? Astonishing!

Now before you get the wrong idea let me say that God’s greatness is not a color, a flavor, a kind of music, a language or a place. These are created things. He is the Creator. The created order in which we live is finite, but it is filled with intimations of the infinite. Something of the Creator’s glory is seen in His creation (Rom. 1:20).

Could it be that these are simply hints at the greatness of our Creator? Maybe these are clues left to remind us that truly, God is greater than we know – or can ever know. Not even the transformation awaiting us at Christ’s return and not even the deliverance in a glorified state into God’s eternal heaven will enable us to exhaustively discover all that is true of God. True, “we know that when he appears . . . we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2). Granted, “we know in part . . . but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears . . . Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:9, 10, 12). This is true. But even then we will not be infinite. We will exist in redeemed finiteness. And it will be our eternal joy will be to spend forever discovering the wonder of His greatness.

So go for a walk through nature; notice and name the various shades of green, brown or orange you encounter. Go spice up dinner a little differently than you normally would or go try some ethnic food you’ve never sampled before. Listen even for a few minutes to a kind of music you aren’t naturally drawn to. Purposefully listen to a language that is foreign to you or learn a new word or two in English. Go to the library and spend some time reading about and wondering over pictures of a place you’ve never been.

Then turn your heart toward heaven and think again about God, who He is, the expansiveness of His character. Contemplate just how far His goodness, love, mercy, grace, holiness, and justice range in every direction. Then bow your head and lift your voice, confessing “Truly, O God, Your ‘greatness is unsearchable’!”

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