Category Archives: Worship

Of Cabbages And (The King Of) Kings

king-jesus

Cerebral Palsy has all sorts of interesting or annoying by-products (depending on one’s point of view), such as difficulty chewing food. As a result,  a shred of cabbage from a serving of coleslaw could slip down the throat prematurely, causing several hours of discomfort and pain on its journey down the upper GI tract. I rediscovered this unpleasant reality Saturday night.

As you can imagine, I didn’t sleep very well that night. At one point, I found myself pretty much ordering God to relieve my pain. Not asking with humble trust in a loving heavenly Father, but demanding with the self-centered attitude of a spoiled brat.

And before you charitably try to tell me that I judge myself too harshly, let me assure you that I know, quite well, the attitude of my heart at that particular moment. I viewed the Lord, just then, as a servant, expecting Him to cater to my wishes. Whether my perverted petition came from my Charismatic background or it merely exposed my sinful old nature, it clearly dishonored the Lord Who bought me with His blood and therefore has authority over me.

Jesus indeed came as a servant, demonstrating humility as an example for Christians to follow. And He commands us to pray for our needs, knowing that He will faithfully care for us because we belong to Him. But notice what I just said: we belong to Him! As such, we have the privilege of requesting things from Him, but not the right to demand His compliance.

Christ’s humility, while certainly giving us a pattern to emulate, directs our attention to His unique position as the king of Kings.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. ~~Philippians 2:5-11 (ESV)

Despite His humility, the Lord Jesus Christ is our Almighty King Who will one day cause even His enemies to bow before Him. How dare we treat Him as if He has any obligation to answer our “prayers” according to our expectations! Shouldn’t we instead approach Him in grateful humility, asking Him for mercy and grace to honor Him whether He removes our trial or decrees that we go through it?

I didn’t exactly enjoy my experience with the cabbage Saturday night. But I treasure my experience of remembering that Christ is my King, not my slave.

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And, Adoring, Bend The Knee

“Holy God, we praise Thy Name.” What beautiful words expressing purity of devotion! Sometimes, though, I wonder if the self-centered fads of postmodern evangelicalism might obscure our adoration of this holy God. Do we forget that the very angels, transfixed by His holiness, think of nothing but worshiping Him?

The sweetness of the hymn I feature this week tugs at my heart because it focuses on our God and His holiness. It makes no mention of anything He does on our behalf, nor does it ask for His blessings. It simply calls us to praise Him for Who He is. And, as we begin a new year, I can think of nothing more appropriate than turning our attention fully towards Him.

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The Main Reason To Learn How To Be Discerning

Open Tulip

Christian women, particularly in Reformed circles, seem almost enamored with the whole matter of discernment. In some ways, that’s not completely good, since many bloggers and podcast personalities turn “discernment ministry” into an excuse for gossip and sometimes even slander. I’ve written about such problems several times in this blog, so I see no purpose in revisiting that theme today.

Instead, I’d like to address discernment in a positive light, affirming that the Lord indeed desires Christians to exercise discernment as we grow in Christ. Consider the apostle Paul’s prayer for the church in Philippi:

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. ~~Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV)

Through Paul, the Holy Spirit makes it clear that He wants us to have abundant and increasing discernment. These verses actually explain that practicing discernment ensures purity and blamelessness when Christ returns. Obviously, that’s an admirable aspiration (and probably one we should think about more often). But I believe there’s an even deeper reason to develop Biblical discernment.

Verse 11 gives us a strong clue into that reason. True discernment fills us with the Lord’s righteousness, which in turn results in the praise and glory of God. Rather than being a prop to enhancing our own reputation of being able to identify false teachers and skillfully refute them, Biblical discernment enables us to direct people to Christ. It directs us to Him. He alone is the reason we desire to make distinctions between good and bad, false and true.

Before I come to God’s Word each morning, I pray that (among other things) the Holy Spirit would use it to develop discernment in me. But not so that I can be an acclaimed discernment blogger on par with Elizabeth Prata and Michelle Lesley. As lovely as it would be to be in their league, I don’t believe I ought to seek discernment for that selfish purpose.

Instead, when I pray that Scripture will teach me discernment, I regularly remember Christ’s words to the Samaritan woman at the well:

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” ~~John 4:23-25 (ESV)

I’m learning to ask for discernment in order to worship Him as He wants to be worshiped. Understanding right from wrong and distinguishing between truth and error enables such purity of worship because we learn to love what God loves and hate what God hates. As we conform better to Him, He receives praise and glory.

I intend to continue blogging about discernment. I may even name names once in a while. But even then, dear sisters in Christ, I want to draw attention to the Lord Jesus Christ and not to any knowledge I might have about false teachers and wrong teaching. Unless He receives praise and glory, my attempts at discernment mean nothing.

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Rejoicing Like The Prostitute

Forgiveness

Every time I read the first few verses of Psalm 32, I remember the joy I experienced as a new Christian.

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
    whose sin is covered.
Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity,
    and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away
    through my groaning all day long.
For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
    my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you,
    and I did not cover my iniquity;
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,”
    and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah ~~Psalm 32:1-5 (ESV)

The relief of the Lord’s forgiveness absolutely exhilerated me, flooding me with a desire to pour out my gratitude. I of course served the Lord imperfectly (to say the least), making myself more obnoxious than useful to the Kingdom, but my zeal came from sincere motives. Jesus had forgiven me, changing my eternal destiny from the torments of hell (which I deserve) to the joys of heaven. For that extreme mercy, I adored Him then and adore Him even more today.

God’s forgiveness isn’t something we should take lightly. The person who truly understands the enormity of his or her sin appreciates His forgiveness in ways that someone who doesn’t take sin seriously never will.

When we believe in our own supposed goodness, thinking that we somehow merit salvation, we end up robbing ourselves of tremendous joy. We expect God’s forgiveness, almost viewing it as an entitlement rather than a gift that calls us to love the Giver.

We most clearly see this principle demonstrated in Luke 7:36-48, which I beg you to read. Jesus, in this passage, was dining at the home of a Pharisee named Simon when a known prostitute entered the house. Coming up to Jesus, she began bathing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair. This unwelcome interruption confirmed to Simon that Jesus couldn’t possibly be a prophet! Otherwise He would have realized what a contemptible creature was touching Him.

Look at the Lord’s response to Simon’s secret thoughts in telling, and then applying, this parable:

41 “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42 When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” 43 Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” 44 Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” 48 And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” ~~Luke 7:41-48 (ESV)

Jesus knew exactly who touched Him! He knew the gravity of her sin, and her horrendous reputation. But He also knew her sorrow over her sin, and her faith that He would forgive her.

I identify with that woman. Knowing the vileness of my sin, and yet the wonder of His forgiveness, brings me immense joy and causes me to love Christ. From the backdrop of Luke 7:36-48, I can claim Psalm 32:1-5 as my testimony. I can experience the blessings of forgiveness because I know how desperately I needed forgiveness. And I know He has been gracious.

 

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Veiled In Song, Good Teaching See God’s Incarnate Deity

Few Christmas hymns are as beloved as Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. Featured in A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s A Wonderful Life, this hymn reaches millions of people each year, enjoyed by Christians and non-Christians alike.

The almost universal love for this hymn delights me because it teaches a boatload of Biblical doctrine easily and in a pleasurable manner. In particular, it proclaims with incredible clarity that God came to earth as Jesus, the newborn King.

The various repercussions of His Incarnation dance throughout the song, teaching us so many glorious truths about the Lord. How many doctrines can you find?

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Sometimes It Causes Me To Tremble

Intricate Boarder 01YouTube has almost everything! Including R.C. Sproul’s Holiness of God series, which John and I have been watching all weekend.

The Lord’s timing in getting me interested in watching this series couldn’t be more fascinating. Throughout 2017, I’ve opened my private prayer time by worshiping God for His holiness and recalling the opening scene in Isaiah 6.

 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.” ~~Isaiah 6:1-7 (ESV)

Perhaps that’s a familiar passage to you. I hope so in the sense that I hope you read your Bible regularly and thoroughly. But I hope it’s not so familiar to you that you gloss over it without trembling at the description of God’s powerful, almost dreadful, holiness.

And yes, I realize I blogged about holiness less than two weeks ago, quoting this same passage. In that article I focused on how casual we are toward God in contrast to Isaiah and the apostle John. Although they trembled and fainted when they encountered God’s holiness, we consider Jesus our buddy who will overlook our sin and give us whatever we ask.

Today I want to briefly remark that truly coming into contact with the holiness of God confronts us with our sinfulness. When we recognize His absolute purity and see His separation from even the slightest degree of corruption, we can’t help but also see our wretchedness in comparison. Isaiah certainly saw the contrast, and immediately wailed over his unclean condition.

The Lord cleansed Isaiah by applying a burning coal to his lips. While we shouldn’t interpret Isaiah’s experience as allegorical to our own, may I suggest that cleansing us from our sin also requires pain. In our case, it’s often the pain of separating from sinful habits, relationships or situations that corrupt our souls.

Encountering God’s holiness demands that we repent of our unholiness. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit Himself empowers this repentance as we walk in obedience to Him. Our flesh won’t like this obedience any more than Isaiah liked the searing coal on his sensitive lips, but the joy of having the Lord make us holy is well worth it.

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Who Should Come And Worship?

The hymn I present today may begin with angels, but it quickly moves to various groups of human beings. Each stanza highlights a unique aspect of doctrine that compels that group (and by extension, all of us) to come and worship.

As Christians, we now have the responsibility of calling people from all walks of life to come and worship. True, only the elect will respond, drawn by the Holy Spirit, but the Lord has decreed that we be His instruments in putting forth the call to salvation. Since God alone knows whom His elect are, we must proclaim the Gospel to all people, just as angels from the realms of glory did.

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