Worship

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August 5

Monday, August 5th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Man Worship vs. God Worship.

I’m not sure if today’s devotion will be a soapbox or not. I hope not. But after reading a passage of Scripture this morning, I have to speak up.

Today’s “modern” worship has its moments. It has its good moments; its so-so moments; and its really bad moments. I’m not speaking about the externals-the lights, fog, instruments, style of music, etc. No, those are all externals- unnecessary possibly, but still external. I’m speaking about the content. The songs we sing.

Some of them are really good, i.e. really honest-to-goodness worship songs. Songs which lift up the name of Jesus; songs that draw attention to Him and give game to His Name.

Some are so-so. There is a mix of praise with a dab or dash or dollop of “feel good” vibe.

There there are those which are really, really bad. Awful may be a more descriptive word. The lyrics are totally self-centered; all-about-me oriented; I feel good because you made me feel good type of songs. If I may be so blunt and use a word I can count on one hand as using before: they are God-awful songs. Much (not all) of what we have coming out of the music factories like Bethel, Hillsong, and Jesus Culture are in this vein. Besides that, they have some really bad theology.

What got me to this point this morning? Psalm 147.  Here you go: “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises (about yourselves?) to God; for it is pleasant, and a song of praise is fitting.” (v.1). “Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure.” (v.5) But here’s the kicker: “His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of man,  but the Lord takes pleasure (wait for it) in those who fear Him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” (vv,10-11)

His pleasure is not in those who sing love songs where we aren’t sure who we are singing to or about. It is not in those who “play” at worship. It is not in those who repeat and repeat and repeat a stanza or two or three. And don’t get me wrong: I am not advocating going back to hymns. Some of them were awful as well. I am advocating songs which lift up the Name of Jesus; when there is no doubt who are singing about and to Whom we are singing.

“Father, may my lips sing your praise.  May my heart lift up Your Name- find its joy, meaning and purpose in Your Name.  And may I sing and speak and lift up the fame of Your Name.”

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I guess this does sound like a soapbox. I just think we need to be more conscientious about what we call “worship and praise” music. Songs of feeling good or songs which focus on me and my needs-while not totally illegitimate songs to sing-do not qualify as worship. I’ve said my piece. Now I will move on.  🙂

June 11

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

My title for this devotion is Wisdom Given vs. Wisdom Wasted.

One of the most intriguing, confusing, unbelievable, disheartening, and incredible stories in the Bible is Solomon.  At a young age, Solomon did not ask for riches or a big kingdom but for wisdom. It was seen on one occasion (the 2 prostitutes and the dead baby controversy), but it was also marveled at and spoken about (Queen of Sheba).

But in chapter 11 Solomon’s life takes a disturbing turn. After a description of his wealth in chapter 10, chapter 11 opens with these words: “Now King Solomon loved many foreign women…” The list of women reads like a list of Who’s Who of heathen nations. It even says he married women from nations God said, “You shall not enter into marriage with them…for surely they will turn your heart after their gods.” And turn they did.  For the sake of ease-and because this is the way my preacher mind works-here’s how I noted it in the margins of my Bible:

  • The warning: “You shall not…” [v.2]
  • The numbers: 700 wives/300 concubines  [v.3]
  • The fall: “And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned his heart after other gods.”  [v.3b-4]
  • The false gods: Ashtoreth. Milcom. Chemosh. Molech. A Who’s Who of false gods. [vv.5-8]
  • The consequence: The kingdom would be torn. [v.11]

Even the wisest man on the earth could not resist the pull of fleshly pursuit. Wisdom was asked for and given; wisdom was cast aside as he allowed the influence of his wives to grip and consume him.

“Father, if it could happen to someone like Solomon, who am I to think it won’t or can’t happen to me? Keep my focused on You and not the side attractions. Solomon’s foreign wives are not me, but I have those things clamoring for my attention, calling for my affection as his wives did for him.  Help me to resist and be strong in You.”

May 20

Monday, May 20th, 2019

My devotion is titled Change of Plans vs Staying the (Pre-planned) Course.

An interesting exchange takes place in 2 Samuel 7. It says that God gave David rest from fighting his enemies so with all innocence of thought (least that is what I believe), David looks around and sees his beautiful house (mansion of cedar) compared to the tent the Ark was in-where God lived. So David proposes building a house for God to Nathan the prophet. Nathan tells him to do what is in his heart. But God speaks to Nathan and says, “No.” He doesn’t want David to build Him a house. There will come a day a house is built but it will not be David but a son. We now know that son was Solomon.

David has two ways of looking at Nathan’s words:

  1. As a kick in the pants. He could have been offended, hurt, angry, even belligerent enough to say, “I’m building it anyway. All I’ve done for God and this is the thanks I get.” That would definitely have been the wrong approach…and one I don’t believe even crossed David’s mind.  
  2. Humbly accepting the counsel of Nathan and submit his plans to God’s.

So his choice can be summed up as either change your plans or adamantly stay the course. David wisely chose to change his plans. His words in 7:18-29 ring out like a modern worship hymn. He not only claims there is none like God (v.22), he also surrenders to God’s plan asking for confirmation of his offspring building the house (v.25). And all of this is not so David’s name can be great but that God’s name will be magnified forever (v.26).

Such a rich chapter! David’s desire to build a house for God so he’s not in a tent. David’s willingness to listen to Nathan. David’s prayer of worship and surrender.

“Father, may my heart be always as David’s was here. He was a man with flaws, obviously, so he wavered some, but this may be a watermark for him. May my heart always be this sensitive to your leading and be willing to change my plans to accommodate Yours.”

 

May 1

Wednesday, May 1st, 2019

My title is Pursuit of creation vs Pursuit of the Creator.

Worship. A word that conjures up all kinds of thoughts and pictures. Stained-glass windows. Monks. Reciting a creed. Quiet. Moving music. Raised hands. But for a moment let’s forget the outward picture and consider worship in its truest (inward) form.

Worship in its simplest, most organic state comes down to a choice: will it be pursuit of creation or pursuit of the Creator. By the former I don’t just mean the earth (like a tree-hugger or animist). It could be another person; an inanimate object; a job to name a few. But to pursue those means my pursuit of the Creator of all that will take a back seat.

Deep down we are all worshipers. What we worship is basically that which captures our affections. It is what I am living for. It is what is laying claim to my life. I have struggled with this a good part of my life. Baseball. Basketball. Men’s applause and approval. Sex. Cycling. My dream of being a pastor of a growing, vibrant, “big” church. And yes, even God. It’s almost like “Ok. What’s the flavor of the day?” Something is always laying claim to my life.  There is always something to look for to satisfy, to give identity, meaning, purpose and a sense of importance to my life.

The psalmist put it this way in several passages:

“O come, let us sing to the Lord, let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!…O come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker.” (95:1,6)

“For you, O Lord, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.” (97:9)

“Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things! His right hand and his holy arm have worked salvation for Him…Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth, break forth into joyous song and sing praises!” (98:1,4)

“Ascribe (give) to the Lord the glory due His name…Worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.”  (96:8-9)

There are many more verses, both in Psalms and elsewhere that speak of worship. “May I, Father, pursue You, the Creator, not your creation.”