Archive for December, 2008

Un-skewing Worship

 Today in worship our church had a sharing service.  God was at work moving hearts with what to share.  Wanting my own worship to be raised to a higher level I was contemplating the following song.  After reading the verses read my thoughts below on bringing balance to worship.                                                                                                                        

              My God, How Wonderful Thou Art                  by Fredrick Faber


My God, how wonderful Thou art
Thy majesty how bright
How beautiful Thy mercy seat
In depths of burning light


How dread are Thine eternal years

O everlasting Lord

By prostrate spirits day and night

Incessantly adored


How wonderful, how beautiful

The sight of Thee must be

Thine endless wisdom, boundless pow’r

And awful purity


O how I fear Thee, living God

With deepest, tenderest fears

And worship Thee with trembling hope

And penitential tears


Yet I may love Thee too, O Lord

Almighty as Thou art

For Thou has stooped to ask of me

The love of my poor heart

Our worship must always be skewed for lack of knowledge of God, or for knowledge we have but our own or collective blindness willfully or unwittingly neglects.  By skewed I do not mean to necessitate sinfulness (though willful neglect of knowledge is) but rather leaning to one side and therefore lacking or incomplete.  There are those who see God as harsh so that their worship is wrong and skewed away from grace.  Those of us who know grace are frequently skewed toward grace away from a true understanding of all that God’s character entails.  Grace and truth are not the paradox of God’s character, the harsh versus the warm fuzzy.  Grace is God’s truth applied; truth is the full extent of God’s grace understood.

God is pure and good and just and wrathful and loving because He is so separate and other than we, that is, holy.  His grace is that justice satisfied, that wrath poured out but not on us, that goodness reaching us, that purity transferred to us, and that love passionately pursued because He is so holy.  Grace and truth are in no way opposed.  They seem to me as two sides of the same coin, equal in value, both representative of the same thing, God’s character.  I have need of balancing my view of grace by reminder of how awesome and holy and just He is so that I better understand how kind and patient and forgiving He really is.




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Which way?

Coming?  Going?  Staying?  Wandering?  So am I.  Read my poem about getting there.

Direction to choose the prong of the fork

Go right, go left which is the course

The pressure builds like a drink under cork

Your will be the compelling force                     


Pace to follow Your path without delay

Speed up, slow down how do I race

The course is unknown must not lose the way

Following close behind in step with grace


Destination to find, oh lead me there

Start here, stop there where is the place

Seems lost from sight the next step I will dare

May God reveal the way leave a strong trace

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 What are you focusing on this Christmas?  Even if your focus is noble it is at least harried with distractions of life in general and the Season especially.  Temptations to distraction were part of Christ’s earthly stay as well, but He was above the frey.  Consider His purpose and priority:

Why did Jesus come to the manger?  Why was this child special above all others?  Why do people both admire His life and dismiss much of what He taught?  The angels proclaimed, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased” (Luke 2:14).  They are certainly good words and true, but they are lacking as a purpose statement.  How will these two great goals be accomplished and how will we know when they are?  The angel’s declaration to Joseph is more specific: “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).  But what are sins?  And what does it mean to be saved from sins?

            Many people want to strip the true meaning of Jesus’ coming by saying what we need is political salvation.  Those following Him believed He would set things straight, seen by the fact that when “He was near Jerusalem, and they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately” (Luke 19:11).  But Jesus said to Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).  Others think the salvation we need is rescue from poverty or prejudice, but Jesus said, “The poor you have with you always” (Matthew 26:11).  It was not that He did not care for the poor, for He said things like “when you give a reception, invite the poor…” (Luke 14:13).  Instead, He had a narrower purpose and a higher priority on this trip to Earth.

            Just before He left His disciples to return to heaven He explained His purpose succinctly, noting its agreement with previous Scripture, “Thus it is written, that the Christ would suffer and rise again from the dead the third day, and that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations” (Luke 24:46-47).  This was not plan B after the crowds and religious leaders rejected Him.  He had been trying to explain it to His disciple frequently, but they didn’t get it.  “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things…and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Matthew 16:21).  Of what benefit is this “forgiveness of sins”?   “He died for all so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf” and “God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them” (2 Corinthians 5:15,18-19).  That’s salvation.  We can have a relationship with God.  Our problems are not political or poverty or prejudice or disease or war or hatred.  Our problem is separation from God.

            As I listened to Charles Colson in Charlotte recently He stated the case so clearly, “Only the gospel will change people.”  He quoted a Russian proverb that Solzhenitsyn used to say, “Men have forgotten God, that’s why this happened.”  Regardless of whether we have allowed falsehoods to seep in or turned all belief in God on its head Colson said, “False worldviews bring disaster.”  He continued by stating what he calls “Colson’s Law: Politics is how we organize our common lives together which is a reflection of our culture shaped by religion incarnate.”  Or to see the cause and effect more clearly:  Practical religion results in culture which results in politics.  We have strayed so far from true belief in God by embracing a soft babe in manger who will solve poverty and prejudice and political turmoil and bring peace.  Peace begins in the heart reconciled to God through belief in what Jesus did on the cross.

            One way my family remembers that at Christmas is a non-traditional advent wreath beginning with a red candle for the blood of Christ which we call the “Savior” candle.  We read prophecies about Him coming to save His people and sing one song of the cross before we begin Christmas carols.  My prayer for this Christmas season is that you would refocus on the forgiveness and reconciliation you have in Christ and how to bring it to others or if you have not yet known Him you will turn away from sin and trust Jesus as your Savior.  He is the Source of peace and reconciliation and the beginning of restoration.








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Overflows from the Heart

"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart…" Matthew 15:18


Pointing to the One who made, saved, and sustains