worship


Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything.

2 Timothy 2: 7

 

By this point in his time of service to God, Paul had every right to expect that people would listen to what he had to say. He knew that he had been called and commissioned by God to speak and to write about the relationship that the Lord wanted to have with all people. Also, Paul was aware of the special training and the extraordinary knowledge that Christ had entrusted in him, and he had committed his life to bringing that knowledge to others. Still, Paul knew that his words were never going to be enough, and he was fully aware that the deepest thinking, the clearest writing, and the most persuasive speaking were not going to work on their own or even together to win souls out of darkness.

 

The totality of what people do is nothing more than futility if God is not behind it. In fact, when people use their minds and seek to develop a new truth about God that is not founded in complete, humble submission to the Lord’s will and surrounded by worship of Him, they tend to start deviating from the truth. They create false religions that only serve the purposes of evil. However, the thoughts and the words of people who are seeking after God’s truth are good and worthy. Even then, they gain their deepest meaning and their true application through the special revelation that the Spirit of Christ gives to His people. The Lord validates and He vitalizes the words that He has inspired in others.

 

So, Paul calls upon us to consider the words that he wrote. I think that he wanted us to do more than just read them. Paul knew that on their own even his most profound thoughts were nothing more than shadows of the truths that God wants us to enjoy. The Lord wants us to take His word into our minds through our eyes and our ears; then, He wants us to grant His Word the opportunity to stay there, for most of us need to slow down, to breathe deeply, and to give the Spirit time to make the deep truths a part of our essential being. We also need to take the Word with us into the day so that it can shape the way that we respond to everything that comes our way. Then, we will have a greater ability to see others as Christ sees them, and they will be granted the blessing of the living presence of the author of that Word in their day.

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What is man, that he should be pure, or he who is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?

Job 15: 14

 

The answer to this ancient question is that we humans are neither pure nor righteous. These are not the characteristics and the qualities of the creature that we are. This state of affairs is not the product of upbringing and it is not the result of the conditions that we live in. It is who we are, and we are defined by a very stridently self-absorbed and God denying existence. The human animal made a determination to leave the orderly place that God had designed for our safety, nurture, and pleasure; then, we stepped defiantly out into that broken land of our own choosing where danger, starvation, and pain are the community’s welcoming greeting.

 

Despite our efforts to distance ourselves from the righteous rule of God, we just can’t seem to shake His presence. When all appeared to be desperately lost; when humanity had reached the point of collapsing under the weight of its own depravity, God sent Himself into this world. He came not as an avenger of His rule of law, but rather, He came as the lamb of love that brings life to all. Christ the perfect and the pure came to live as a member of this human race, and we will never be the same. People can now relate directly to God, our Creator and Lord. We can now live in the possibility of pure love and grace.

 

In our old humanity, Job’s question has nothing except negative answers. In the state of our births, we can never be pure and righteous; so, we can never draw near to the glory of the all-righteous and holy God. However, through Christ and in His grace, we are brought out of the old and transformed into a new form of humanity. This is one that enters into the possibility of who and what we are and that recognizes that God crafts it in His perfect image. Purity and righteousness can now be our normal state. Selfless love and fearless grace can be the characteristics that mark and measure our days. In Christ, the answers to those questions shout out, “Yes, I am pure, for my Savior has made me righteous!”

There was not a word of all that Moses commanded that Joshua did not read before all the assembly of Israel, and the women, and the little ones, and the sojourners who lived among them.

Joshua 8: 36

 

This event might not look the same in our times as there is little probability that any large gathering of people, much less that any nation of people would gather together in this manner. Here the sum total of the people of Israel had come together across one great valley and its adjoining mountain sides in order to worship God in celebration of the Lord’s redemptive work in their military victory over the city of Ai. The centerpiece of this celebration was the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord, and the priests were the ones who were leading the nation in both substance and in the form of this great victory party. Yet, as they transition from focusing on the tactics and the methods of war and return to the task at hand of settling the land, the people are reminded of the true power that was behind their success and of the basis for all that defines their national and individual character.

 

They are a people who have been given their identity by God, and they have gained their understanding of morality and of justice through God’s Law, His Holy Word. There is nothing that stands before this recitation of God’s will in the law of the land or in the ordering of their society. This was a special time and place in the history of the world, and it has really never been duplicated since. Even under Joshua’s strong and Godly leadership, the people were very quick to depart from the Lord’s way and to set out upon their own course of thought and action. Today the best that we can hope for is an off-handed reference to God or a quote from His Word, but our nations seldom express any real interest in following the Lord or in even hearing and utilizing His truth as counsel or as direction to be followed. It is as if God were now an irrelevant part of ancient history and His Word is granted the status of troublesome and obscure literary fiction.

 

None of these modern attitudes can possibly be pleasing to God. He is not amused by our self-reliance and negation of His wisdom and direction. Although a modern day turning to God on the parts of people, our leaders, and nations might not look exactly like that assembly in a natural amphitheater at Shechem. Yet, the location is not really the point. The idea is that the entire collection of people were giving praise and honor to God as their one true King, and as they did this they engaged in group recitation of God’s Word in its entirety. They left out nothing; so, they made no editorial or cultural changes to the message of that word. In sharing it in this highly public manner, they were also affirming its priority as their singular point of guidance for their moral, cultural, and spiritual lives. Thus, they were affirming that the Lord was the singular and final authority over all aspects of life and over its conduct into the future.

It seems to me that this might not be such a bad idea in our world. There is an aimlessness to the way that our nations and our leaders are going that might find focus and valid purpose in God’s Word. The degree to which the people of this earth have become self-reliant and absorbed in actions and enterprises that we think will benefit ourselves primarily and that often work against the well-being of others must be troubling to the God of justice and peace. God’s design for this world works, and our redirection of it has not. Although I am not so naïve as to think that the leaders of nations or the people of those countries would actually do what the people of Israel did on that day, I do wonder what effect such a turning to God would have on us all. So, how might our world be different if each of us began to do the sort of things that Joshua led them into as they centered their day upon worship of God, devoted themselves to reading and to sharing His Word, and gathered openly in a universal fellowship of faith? What might that world look like?

For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.

John 5: 21

 

God is the creator of all. There is noting that exists in the universe that comes from outside of His touch. Now there are certainly aspects and elements of the world around us that have gone radically off track from the Creator’s design and intent, but the initial work and crafting were engaged in and completed by God. As He is both the force and the intent behind all that is in our visible world and in the unseen realm of the spiritual, all that was set into existence by God’s hands was good and perfect in its inherent state of being. When things have gone astray, it is because of the brokenness that our sinful departure from God’s will, law, and rule over our lives has caused. Our ancestors listened to the seductive voice of evil, it spoken by a created being that chose to depart from God’s way for one that seemed to offer personal glory. Then they likewise determined that their true fulfillment was to be found in a self-determined path.

 

As we know from the narrative of all that followed, this was a disastrous decision. A life that was lived out in the ongoing presence of God and that was situated in the perfection of a lovingly crafted world had been granted to them, but then, after their rebellion against the one who loved them perfectly, they were forced into a separation that placed distance between people and our God and that brought about death where life had ruled. We are all born into this new reality where life is tenuous and too short and wherein our years a filled with the hard labor that existence demands. There is no other option that we are given except to endure it all and to live out our days in the isolation from our Creator that this beginning of time decision demanded. Yet, God did not desire for it to remain so. Even from those first moments when humanity was estranged from Him and from His holy presence, the Father set out His plan for redemption.

 

First of all, God did reengage with His children. He sought us out and He determined to continue to do this for the rest of time. The Father is a loving pursuer of our souls, and He is relentless in doing this. He also sent His Son, Jesus, into our world to dwell with us and to provide a complete and a perfect answer to the separation that sin had formed in our relationships with God. As the Father is the creator of life and holds it as His unique and total possession, so He has also granted this authority and power to the Son. Thus Jesus, by virtue of His sacrifice on the cross and His overcoming of death in the resurrection, has become the way and the means for all people to know life again. As we come in faith to Christ, we are redeemed from the death that grips our souls and that leads to an unending separation from our Creator. Christ utilizes the authority over life that the Father granted to Him to impart a form of life that transcends the duration of our earthly bodies. He grants to us the touch of eternity in this life, and in Christ we are also given the gift of life that continues beyond our days here into an unending future that is enjoyed in the presence of the love and the glory of the Lord.

Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

1 Timothy 4: 4, 5

 

There is much in this world that I take for granted. It is with us. It is a part of the background of life. These may be things that are relatively necessary such as food and water, and there may be the background of existence such as trees, earth, and sky. The point is that I don’t think much about them, for they just are. It comes as no surprise that God might want for me to hold all of this differently as interacting with and viewing these things is a rather frequent occurrence. God has an annoying way of showing me that my perspective is distorted and how His passion meets my indifference. I guess that this is another in the long list of reasons why He is God and I am blessed to serve Him as my King.

 

In this passage Paul is reminding us that God expressed a benedictory blessing upon all of His creation. In the creation account of Genesis we hear that God proclaimed that it was all good. I believe that He meant what He said. All of creation was good, and it was all intended to be of benefit to the people that God had fashioned in His image to dwell in the land and to hold dominion over it on behalf of and in honor to our Lord. That is how God intended for it to be. However, sin entered in, and all of it became broken and God’s perfect plan was distorted by Satan’s deception and by our acceptance of those half-truths and lies. We have created false rules to live by. We have turned away from God and to the worship of various aspects of creation. Humanity has become diminished from our God-ordained position of authority and responsibility by our fears and our arrogant and self-centered need to gain power and control.

 

God wants us to view our entire world with a thankful heart. Everything that we see, touch, and experience is here for a purpose. Even the smallest of organisms was crafted by the hand of the master craftsman. Whether we view this world through the lens of a microscope or we look out into the universe with a telescope what we see is the handiwork of the King. Yet, none of it, not even the most amazing and magnificent of the things that we see, is worthy of praise or worship. All of creation points to the loving and orderly heart of the Creator, God Almighty. Perspective on it all is gained as we express our thanks to Him for this incredible gift that He made for our benefit. The Lord provides understanding of our role and responsibility in its management and care as we search His heart and will in His Word and through prayer. In this way God reveals the magnificence of His generosity, and He directs His people to live in a manner that points others toward the Creator.

By awesome deeds you answer us in righteousness, O God of our salvation,

you who are the trust of all ends of the earth and of the farthest sea.

Psalm 65: 5

 

Everything about God is extraordinary and beyond the scope of my imagination; yet, everything that I need is completely and readily within the Lord’s command and grasp. The things that I view as impossible are routine for Him, and the issues that cause me worry, concern, and fear are things that He can handle in an instant. Additionally, the Lord knows when I actually need what sort of response from Him. He gives to us in the way that the best possible parents desire to give to their children; for, the Lord provides the sort of response that makes us stronger in our faith, that brings us closer to Him, and that shows His gracious love to the world.

 

The issue that gets in the way of my ability to fully appreciate and to enjoy the peace and live with the faith and courage that comes from this intimate trust relationship is my own combination of doubt and desire for self-control. I have this tendency to believe that my issues and concerns are really big deals, for they are from my perspective. Then I try to hold onto them and to solve them with my personal skills and wisdom. Unfortunately, when I do this, I am ignoring the source of all true wisdom and understanding in the universe, and I am operating my life at a self-determined distance from the most powerful resource for solving problems that will ever be available.

 

The same God that created this world and that holds it together is the Lord over all of my life. He simply wants me to trust Him with that role. He blesses my days with a continual stream of caring and responsive actions, and the Lord provides me with answers to challenges that I have not even identified. Living with this sort of total trust is simple to say but often much harder to do. Yet, all that God wants is for me to trust Him to the level that before I expend one ounce of energy on worry or take even an instant to work on solving my problems that I would turn to Him in prayer and humble submission to His will.

 

O LORD, our Lord,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

Psalm 8: 1

 

Almost everyone has read poetry. Most of us have written some of it, too. You may read or write it because you were required to do this by a teacher or a parent, or you may do it out of interest and even with great enjoyment and pleasure. Regardless of the personal reason for the contact with poetry, its highly stylized and emotion-charged words can be very impactful. These words are often fanciful and chosen for the way that they sound over what they actually say, or, at least, so it seems. In the two simple lines above we are granted the opportunity to look into the mind and the heart of one of history’s great poets, who also happens to be a passionate follower of God and a keen observer of His hand at work in our world.

 

From his early days as the young son that was left out to care for the family’s sheep on through his years of serving God and Israel as king, David was very much aware of the presence of the Lord. He experienced God’s creative hand in the land where he walked each day, in the animals that he cared for and that he encountered, and in the manner by which his needs were met, whether that was accomplished in the mundane course of the day’s occupation or through means that were nothing if not miraculous. The eyes of David’s heart were open and attuned to the touch of the Creator in everything in his world. The sun and the moon, the sky and the earth, the mountains and the valleys were all formed and placed by David’s God. The animals that fed his family and the ones that sought to kill and devour them and him were also a part of that Divine tableau. Even the flea that would bite and suck blood and the Swallowtail butterfly with its tuxedo-like appearance told the story of a God who was intimately involved in the details.

 

Thus, David could shout and sing out about the nature and the character of the God who it seemed had fabricated and maintained the world for the sake of His beloved child. Every experience of life was one more episode in the story of dwelling in the glorious presence of the Lord. For David and for us, the exquisite and splendid beauty of this world speaks of the One who formed it and of the remarkable way that His creation is designed so that my ancestors, my descendants, and myself would be fed and cared for in both body and in spirit. David’s poetry may be fanciful, beautiful, and highly creative and mine is not, but that doesn’t really matter. We both travel the roads that God sets out for us, and I can do exactly what David did in his days. I can go about everything that I do with my eyes open and my heart surrendered to the presence of my Lord. Then, His name will be on my tongue as the song of my heart, and every step of the journey can be taken in worshipful response to His name.

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