Showing posts with label Worship. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Worship. Show all posts

Monday, March 27, 2023

Thinking Right and Worship


Worship is an essential part of the Christian life. It is the act of recognizing and praising God for who He is and what He has done. Worship is not just singing songs or attending church services; it is a way of life that centers on the recognition of God's greatness and our utter dependence on Him.

N. T. Wright, in his book Simply Christian wrote,
"Worship is at the very center of all Christian living. One of the main reasons that theology (trying to think straight about who God is) matters is that we are called to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. It matters that we learn more about who God is so that we can praise him more appropriately." (pp. 148-49)
In this quote Wright highlights the importance of theology in worship. He points out that the more we understand who God is, the more we can love and praise Him.

This idea is supported by Jesus' teach ing on the most important commandment found in Mark 12:30 (CSB):
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
In other words, to mature in our worship of God, we must engage our entire being, including our intellect. Our love for God is not just an emotional response; it is grounded in a knowledge of who God is and what He has done for us.

Theology, the study of God and His character, helps us understand God's nature, His attributes, and His actions.

As we learn more about God, our worship becomes more meaningful and authentic. To properly worship God we need to grow in our understanding of who God is. This allows us to praise Him for His holiness, His love, His mercy, His justice, and His faithfulness. Theology informs our understanding of God so we can sing songs that reflect those truths and offer prayers that are in line with His character.

Good theology also helps us avoid false worship. It helps us discern between true and false teachings and helps us avoid worshipping idols. It reminds us that our worship is not just about what we want or feel but is primarily about honoring God.

Worship is not a passive activity but a vital aspect of the Christian life. To worship God fully, we must engage our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Theology is not an activity reserved for academics, but it is a vital part of a Christian’s worship of God. Theology helps us understand who God is and what He has done, which empowers us to praise Him more fully and avoid worshipping a false god created in our own image.

As we continue to grow in our knowledge of God, our worship will become more authentic, meaningful, and life-giving. We shouldn’t neglect theology, but instead we need to let it inform our worship of God.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Proper Worship


In his book The Air I Breathe Louie Giglio wrote:
You only have one life. And you only have one life of worship. You have one brief opportunity in time to declare your allegiance, to unleash your affection, to exalt something or someone above all else.

"Don't waste your worship on some little god, squandering your birthright on idols made only with human imagination. Guard your worship...and carefully evaluate all potential takers.

Louie Giglio's quote reminds us that worship is not just a Sunday morning activity, but a way of life. It is a declaration of our allegiance, an unleashing of our affections, and an exaltation of something or someone above all else. However, we must be careful not to waste our worship on "little gods" or idols made only with human imagination.

The Bible also speaks to the importance of guarding our worship and carefully evaluating all potential takers. In Matthew 6:24 (CSB), Jesus says, 
"No one can serve two masters, since either he will hate one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money."
Money, success, power, and other things can easily become idols in our lives. We can start to place our trust and hope in them, thinking they will bring us happiness and fulfillment. However, they will always disappoint us because they cannot satisfy the deepest longings of our hearts.

In Psalm 115:4-8 (CSB), the psalmist writes, 
"Their idols are silver and gold, made by human hands. They have mouths but cannot speak, eyes, but cannot see. They have ears but cannot hear, noses, but cannot smell. They have hands but cannot feel, feet, but cannot walk. They cannot make a sound with their throats.Those who make them are just like them, as are all who trust in them."
We must guard our worship and make sure that we are not placing our trust in anything or anyone other than God. He alone is worthy of our worship and devotion. We must evaluate all potential takers of our worship and make sure that we are giving it to the One who deserves it.

We only have one life and one life of worship. We must guard our worship and carefully evaluate all potential takers, making sure that we are giving it to the One who deserves it. Let us not waste our worship on "little gods" or idols made only with human imagination. Instead, let us exalt God above all else and declare our allegiance and affection for Him alone.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

America's True God


As a person reads through the Hebrew Scriptures it is easy to notice how Israel continually turned to idol worship. With all that God had done for them, Israel, time and time again, turned their back on God and worshiped the gods of the nations around them.

We think this is odd because we give no power to idols. We see them as nothing but objects of metal and wood that superstitious people worship. 

Idols are not false gods, rather they are the images of false gods. While we may not worship a "statue," the spiritual forces behind those idols are still at work. This video from BibleProject will help you understand what is going on.


 The United States of America is not immune to these spiritual forces. 

I think, because we don't acknowledge them, they are able to have far deeper hold on people than we realize.

Today is January 7, 2021 and yesterday I saw a surreal scene as people who supported President Trump were able to break through security and enter the Capital Building as Congress tried to certify the Electoral College vote. The whole country was shocked by the events.

It is easy to condemn the violence and talk about how this is not the American way. I think to go for this low hanging fruit is to miss what is really going on.

In addition to condemning violence, I think it is time to call out the false god that has its grip on many American Christians.

I know that when we see American flags, hear the Pledge of Allegiance, and witness other trampings of American patriotism that it is easy to point and say the idol is Nationalism.

I am not denying that is a part of it. 

People on the right certainly have the tendency to worship the United States as an idol (this is why I think it is dangerous to say the Pledge of Allegiance and celebrate State holidays during our Sunday worship times).

Yet, pointing to Nationalism misses at least half the problem. The other half of the problem is the Left's love of State Power. They want to use the power of the State to shape the country into their ideal nation.

While there are great differences between right and left, their hopes converge on one thing: democracy.

Democracy is the great god of the United States.

Jeff Deist, former chief of staff for Ron Paul, tweeted:

It is not hard to find this type of religious language used for the American system of government. 

In an article written about election integrity, Kay James wrote, "The right to vote is among the most sacred rights we have as Americans. It is fundamental to our democracy."

We love democracy.

Take this opening paragraph from an article from The Atlantic for example:
We have promoted democracy in our movies and books. We speak of democracy in our speeches and lectures. We even sing about democracy, from sea to shining sea, in our national songs. We have entire government bureaus devoted to thinking about how we can help other countries become and remain democratic. We fund institutions that do the same.

C. S. Lewis was right, we do venerate the word democracy. 

I know you are skeptical and that you think I am crazy, but stop and listen to what we are being told. Look at these headlines.

We are being told that our god is in trouble and needs to be defended. 

We are going to be told that to honor this great god we need to make some sacrifices. 

We are going to applaud as it happens.

We have done it before. 

We cheered as the government sent men and women to fight wars around the world to spread democracy.

The reality is that the demonic force behind democracy is not in trouble. What we are witnessing right now is what false gods always want: chaos and destruction. 

They don't care about you, all they want to do is corrupt and destroy God's good creation, and if they can deceive you and use you as a pawn they will do it.

So what is the solution?

I don't know if I have the answers, but let me offer a few suggestions.
  1. We need to commit ourselves to God and His Kingdom. I firmly believe that American Christians need to think through our relationship with the State. For far too long we have allowed an unhealthy relationship to exist between our loyalty to God and our loyalty to America. As a starting point I would recommend thinking through whether or not you should say the Pledge of Allegiance. If you are pledging your loyalty to America how loyal are you to God?
  2. We need think through our relationship with politics and political parties. This is another area where are loyalty to God and His Kingdom gets divided. A good place to start here is discovering the value you place on voting. Voting is the greatest way we can honor the god of democracy, and that is why I believe Not Voting is a Legitimate Option.
  3. Commit to treating other people with respect. One of the best ways we dehumanize people and rob them of God's image (at least in our eyes) is by name calling. Long ago, back when I was listening to Rush Limbaugh and calling President Clinton "Slick Willie," I was convicted of this point. Ever since then I have done my best to refer to people by their names and titles. It is what God expects me to do as His representative. This directly pushes back against the chaos and division the false god of democracy wants to plant in our families, churches, and communities.

I know you are probably thinking, "All this pondering stuff has made Paul a little nutty."

I am not denying that that is a possibility, so let me add one last thought. 

This is not a plea to scrap the whole system or to say that Christians should not involve themselves in politics. Rather, it is a word of caution. Democracy is more than just a political system and there is a spiritual reality behind it. We need to be careful in our interactions with it. 

God's people are commanded to only worship Him. So once again I will stand with Joshua and say:

“So fear the LORD and serve him wholeheartedly. Put away forever the idols your ancestors worshiped when they lived beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt. Serve the LORD alone. But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD.” (Joshua 24:14-15; NLT)

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Worship in Thanksgiving

{Psalms 9:1-2; ESV}

I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;

I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exult in you;

I will sing praise to your name, O Most High.

Heavenly Father, my great provider, open my eyes to the blessings You have generously given me. I have begun to take these great blessings for granted and I have not thanked You for Your generosity. I have come to expect these blessings as my right rather than as great gifts.

Move my heart to be thankful and open my eyes to see You at work in my life. I thank You for the food I enjoy, the clothes that I wear, the relationships that enrich my life, the work that uses my creativity, and the ministry that allows me to complete the good works You created me to do.

I worship You because You are the Creator, giving the universe beauty and meaning. I worship You because You are the Savior, giving me hope and freedom. I worship You because You are the Provider, giving me all that I need for life and righteousness. I worship You.

In the name of the Son, Christ Jesus, I pray, amen

Sunday, April 19, 2020

The Outcome of Worship

"Worship is a deliberate, steady, focused time with God. Worship anticipates not only an encounter with God, but also a clear next word from God. Worship is totally God-centered! God-focused! out of worship comes a clear and more focused relationship of faith and obedience with God. Worship is God's way of developing character and directing the life into the center of His will...The ultimate outcome of consistent worship is a life totally yielded to God, on God's terms." ~ Henry Blackaby, Created to be God's Friend, p. 83

We worship God out of recognization for who He is and what He has done for us.

God is our Creator and we want to thank Him for giving us life. He is our Savior and we want to praise Him for rescuing us. He is our Father and we want to bless Him for loving us.

In worship we re-orient our focus on God. We need to do this consistently because we continually turn our focus on ourselves. Life becomes about what we want, our desires, and our will. The result is that we push God out of the picture.

When we consistently worship God, allowing our focus to leave us to be put on Him, our perspective changes. We come to understand the bigger picture of life and be reminded that God is calling us to join Him in His work.

This renewed sense of perspective challenges us to surrender our lives to God, because we can't truly worship until we put God on His throne and take our place in His Kingdom. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Don't Give Away Your Heart

{1 Kings 18:36-37; ESV}
And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O Lord, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word. Answer me, O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”

It is easy to give our hearts away.

Many of us do it without thinking. It is part of our culture.

We are encouraged to give our hearts away to all sorts of things.

This reality is seen in the die hard Denver Bronco fan who says, “I bleed orange and blue.”

It is seen in devoted fisherman who wears the shirt, “Fishing is life, the rest is just details.”

It is seen in the patriotic veteran who declares, “I regret that I only have one life to give to my country.”

It is seen in the love struck young man who tells the girl of his dreams, “I give you my heart.”

None of these things are necessarily bad.

The problem is that each one has the potential to become the most important thing in our lives.

Idols are often good things that we have given our hearts to.

I know we don’t often think that we have an idol problem. We don’t have statutes of wood, silver, or even gold that we bow down to and worship. Christians living in the West believe they are much too sophisticated to do something so silly.

It is easy for us to talk about how foolish these ancient Israelites were to give their hearts to idols. We see ourselves as much smarter. After all, we would never worship something that we had created with our own two hands. Our education has taught us that these things have no power.

In spite of this reality,  if we would take a little time to examine our hearts, we would discover that we are not very different than this ancient people. We too worship equally worthless things.

Part of the Gospel is the declaration that even though we have given our hearts to inferior things,  God still loves us and longs for us to return to Him.

In 1 Kings we are told that Elijah proclaimed to the crowd that God was the One turning their hearts back to Him.

He was the One calling people to Himself.

They weren’t looking for God.

They weren’t loving God.

But God was calling to them!

God continues to call to us. He still desires that we give Him our hearts.

We have guilt because of our sin. God is calling to us to return to Him.

We are discontent with life. God is calling to us to follow Him.

We experience constant pain. God is calling to us to find hope in Him.

We believe we are worthless. God is calling to us to discover our purpose in Him.

No matter who we are, no matter where we have gone, and no matter what we have done, God loves us. He wants our hearts!

God uses the guilt, discontentment, pain, and worthlessness to get our attention. He wants us to see how fake our idols are and the great love He has for us.

Think about the events surrounding Elijah’s challenge to the prophets of Baal. For three years it hadn’t rained in Israel. This was the mother of all droughts.

Don’t you think that many people in Israel experienced pain because of these circumstances?

Hunger and thirst couldn’t ever be quenched because there just wasn’t enough food and water.

It took these difficult circumstances for the people to begin to question the power of Baal and Asherah and to seek the powerful God of their ancestors.

God had to tear down their delusions before they would be ready to love Him.

When it was all said and done and the divine fire had consumed the sacrifice that Elijah had presented, God ordered the death of the false prophets of Baal. These men had to be destroyed if Israel was going to have a hope of being free.

This is where many of us are weak.

We have heard God’s call and realize the powerlessness of the “idols” in our lives.

The problem is that we are not willing to do whatever it takes to eradicate them from our hearts. We allow them to continue to live there. This enables them to continue to plague us and prevent us from truly giving God our hearts.

In order to be free we must carry out the death sentence of our idols. God will not exterminate them for us.

God desires for us to be part of His family and He is calling us to join Him.

We have to make a choice: we are going to give our hearts to God or  are we going to continue to serve our little puny idols?

Even today we must answer the call Elijah gave to Israel:  “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”  (1 Kings 18:21; ESV)

Who are you going to follow?

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Glory be to God Forever!

There seems to be more bad news in the world than good news.

Bad things happen to us or to people we care about, and we wonder where God is in all of it. Tragedy hits our nation and we wonder why God didn’t protect us.

To be honest, the evil in this world can overwhelm our thoughts and emotions. It is hard to remain positive when everything around us seems to be falling apart.

Though we wouldn't admit it out loud, we know that there are times in our lives when it is difficult for us to worship God.

I have experienced those moments of wanting to stay away from God.

For me, these are times when life did not turn out the way I had hoped that it would, and I decided God was the right person to blame for my disappointment. This attitude killed any desire I had to worship Him.

Have you been to a similar place?

It is okay to admit. You are not some horrible person for feeling like God has abandoned you. There are plenty of people in Scripture who felt that same feeling.

The book of Psalms contains over 60 psalms that fall into the category of lament. These psalms are raw and reveal the questions and disappointment people have with God.

Through the ups and downs of life it is normal to experience periods of time when worship is not something we want to do.

How do we overcome these feelings?

The best way that I know is to commit to worship.

To commit to worship requires that we schedule regular times of worship in our lives and we honor those times as scared. During these times we go through the motions of worship, because we know that worship is essential to life. In this way we declare that our feeling are not the final judge of our actions, rather it is our faith that determines what we do.

If we are going to worship God, we need to know why it is important to worship.

This is what the apostle Paul wrote:
May God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.  Jesus gave his life for our sins, just as God our Father planned, in order to rescue us from this evil world in which we live.  All glory to God forever and ever! Amen. (Galatians 1:3-5; NLT)

Paul said that God deserves all our honor and praise forever.  Why does God deserve our praise?

God deserves our worship because He sent Jesus to rescue us from Satan, sin, and death.

This was God’s plan from the very beginning. Even before He created us, even before the first sin, God knew what it would cost Him to love us. God planned, from the beginning, to show us His love to us through the sacrifice of Jesus.

How much does God value you?

He values you enough to send Jesus to rescue you from death. He did this even though it cost him his life.

That is not the only reason.

Because of Jesus, not only can we be confident in God's love for us, but we can also experience new life.

Yes, it is true that our lives are still tied up in the drama of this world, but our hope has shifted. We now have new life that will out last the things of this world. Life is still painful, yet our focus is set on the moment when Jesus returns and makes everything right.

We worship God because we know that our present circumstances are not the final word about our lives.

If God never gave us another blessing He would still deserve our endless praise because of the gift of eternal life that we have in Jesus.

Glory be to God forever!

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

The Parable of the Honored Painter

What does it mean to glorify God?

It can be explained like this:

There was a man who desired to be a painter. He spent many years painting magnificent pictures that beautifully captured sunrises and sunsets, rainbows and storm clouds, mountain peaks and oceans waves.

Finally came the day when his paintings were displayed in an art gallery. Person after person were struck by the beauty displayed in each painting. They stood in awe before the paintings, totally immersed in the painted scenes.

Then came the big moment when the painter was introduced to the crowd. People praised him for his skill and his eye for beauty.

The artist was honored with good reviews from art critics and money from those who wanted to place his paintings in their homes.

While people were taken in by the beauty of the paintings, they did not stand there and sing the praises of the pictures. They honored and praised the one who had painted them.

When we live according to God's will, truly bearing His image, we bring glory to God in two ways:

  1. We glorify God by living the way He created us to live. Our faith displays the reality of our honor and trust of Him. 
  2. Our good behavior causes other people to glorify God. The way we live provides evidence for God and His love for us, and thus give our neighbors to reason to praise Him.

People may appreciate our good behavior, but when the Creator is introduced, they will worship Him.

"Be careful to live properly among your unbelieving neighbors. Then even if they accuse you of doing wrong, they will see your honorable behavior, and they will give honor to God when he judges the world." 

1 Peter 2:12; NLT

Prophetic Revelation and the Gospel

  1 Peter 1:10-12 (CSB) Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who prophesied about the grace that would come to you, searched and careful...