Tag Archives: worship

You Are What You Love!

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You are what you love! Interesting thought, isn’t it? It’s one that has been causing me to think quite a bit about the way we teach and disciple others. Notice that it’s not what we think, but what we love that forms us. It’s not that our mind is not important, but there is more to us than just the intellect. And thus, this is why James K. A. Smith has written extensively about what shapes us as humans.

So what do you love? The answer might not be so obvious. Naturally, for those of us who follow Christ, we would tend to say “Jesus.” But what we really love can be see from our actions. It’s not just what we say we love, but what we do that displays where our affections lie. And not only do our actions display what we love, but they also reinforce what we love. Our “cultural practices,” writes Smith, can be dangerous “when we fail to realize that these aren’t just things we do but things that do something to us.”

We must realize that what we do daily changes us. “Our deepest existential hungers,” according to Smith, “are being trained and habituated (“automated”) without our realizing it.” And the tragedy is that what our culture trains us to hunger and thirst for will never satisfy. So what do we do? We change our habits. “You can’t just think your way to new hungers,” writes Smith. It requires changing what you do which in turn, recreates new desires and new loves.

So you want to be conformed to the image of God? According to Smith, it’s more than just thinking God’s thoughts after Him. It is also desiring what He desires. But to learn to desire what God desires must be bigger than just an intellectual exercise. It must also involve the body and imagination. And for Smith, it is worship that accomplishes this. “Christian worship doesn’t just teach us how to think,” writes Smith, “it teaches us how to love, and it does so by inviting us into the biblical story and implanting that story in our bones.”

It is our gathering to worship in which God calls us, communes with us, listens to us in prayers of worship and confession, and then sends us out to live in obedience to His word that we are shaped and then led to love Him. It is in worship that we are led to see the beauty of who God is and what He has done along with His desires for His creation. And as this captures us, it moves us. Thus, the importance of the act of worship both weekly with a local church and privately each day.

Smith shares a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupery which seems to capture much of what he is writing about and hopefully of what I have tried to briefly mention above. Antoine writes…

If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.

A Hymn We Need To Recover

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Written by Henry F. Lyte in 1824, Jesus, I My Cross Have Taken is a hymn that we would do well to recover.

Jesus, I my cross have taken,
All to leave and follow Thee.
Destitute, despised, forsaken,
Thou from hence my all shall be.
Perish every fond ambition,
All I’ve sought or hoped or known.
Yet how rich is my condition!
God and heaven are still my own.

Let the world despise and leave me,
They have left my Savior, too.
Human hearts and looks deceive me;
Thou art not, like them, untrue.
O while Thou dost smile upon me,
God of wisdom, love, and might,
Foes may hate and friends disown me,
Show Thy face and all is bright.

Man may trouble and distress me,
’Twill but drive me to Thy breast.
Life with trials hard may press me;
Heaven will bring me sweeter rest.
Oh, ’tis not in grief to harm me
While Thy love is left to me;
Oh, ’twere not in joy to charm me,
Were that joy unmixed with Thee.

Go, then, earthly fame and treasure,
Come disaster, scorn and pain
In Thy service, pain is pleasure,
With Thy favor, loss is gain
I have called Thee Abba Father,
I have stayed my heart on Thee
Storms may howl, and clouds may gather;
All must work for good to me.

Soul, then know thy full salvation
Rise o’er sin and fear and care
Joy to find in every station,
Something still to do or bear.
Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father’s smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine.

Haste thee on from grace to glory,
Armed by faith, and winged by prayer.
Heaven’s eternal days before thee,
God’s own hand shall guide us there.
Soon shall close thy earthly mission,
Soon shall pass thy pilgrim days,
Hope shall change to glad fruition,
Faith to sight, and prayer to praise.

(Check out Indelible Grace for an updated musical version of this hymn.)

Analyzing God?

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While reading Philip Yancey’s book Disappointment With God, I was halted by a personal discovery of his. Writing about his research for Disappointment With God, he comments: “After two weeks of studying the Bible, I had a strong sense that God doesn’t care so much about being analyzed.”

“God doesn’t care so much about being analyzed.” So what does this mean? Do we dispose of  any serious thinking and discussing of God’s nature and actions? I don’t think so. Plus, if that were so, then Yancey’s book goes against his own conclusion.

What I think Yancey is pushing us to reflect upon is not whether we should do theology and think about God and who He is, but the way we do it. Martin Luther wrote that one must grow “worried when people become scholars through writing lots of books—but do not have the slightest idea what it means to be Christian.” Such scholars were termed by Luther to be theologians of glory. These scholastics spent a great deal of time in speculating about God, but they did not know him.

“What God wants,” writes Yancey, “is to be loved.” Not loved because  He is in need, but to be loved because it is our need and His passion. Our estrangement from God is what God seeks to reconcile. And He does so by the cross. For it is by the cross that we know what love is. John writes that this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).

Walter von Loewenich has written that it is the cross that “leads a person out of his or her spectator stance and propels him or her into the decision of faith.” In other words, when considering the cross, it cannot just be “analyzed,” but moves those who are Christ-followers to a deeper relationship with God characterized by trust and obedience.

I believe we ought to think deeply about God. We should not be afraid of theology as it is the task of the community of God. But Yancey does well at calling us to remember that our task of “studying God” is more than just attaining some facts. It’s about pushing us into a deeper love relationship with our Creator. Doing good theology should leave us in a sense of awe of who God is and what He has done.

May we, as we grow in the knowledge and grace of God, declare the words of Psalm 100…

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!
Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!
For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

A Hymn We Need To Sing

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This is a great hymn by Isaac Watts. It has been reworked by Caedmon’s Call. Powerful words of the gospel. We need to sing this more!!!

No more, my God, I boast no more
Of all the duties I have done;
I quit the hopes I held before,
To trust the merits of Thy Son.

Now, for the love I bear His name,
What was my gain I count my loss;
My former pride I call my shame,
And nail my glory to His cross.

Yes, and I must and will esteem
All things but loss for Jesus’ sake:
O may my soul be found in Him,
And of His righteousness partake!

The best obedience of my hands
Dares not appear before Thy throne;
But faith can answer Thy demands
By pleading what my Lord has done.

How Great Is Our Salvation?

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Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.

-Hebrews 2:1-4

Do we understand how great a salvation we have? Consider the word of Martyn Lloyd Jones:

Do you habitually think of your own salvation as the greatest and most wonderful thing that has ever happened to you? I will ask a yet more serious question: do you give your neighbors the impression that you have found the most magnificent thing in the world?

I have a terrible fear that many people are outside the Christian church because so many of us give them the impression that what we have is something very small, very narrow, very cramped and confined. We have not given them the impression that they are missing the most glorious thing in the entire universe.

Our salvation is no small thing. It is that which angels “long to look” (1 Peter 1:12). Do we think about this daily? Do those around us know how wonderful it is?

We must daily preach the gospel to ourselves and think on the glorious truth of our salvation. For by doing so, we are reminded and therefore transformed by the amazing grace of God.

Starving For The Awe Of God

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Some stirring words by Drew Dyck in his book Yawning At Tigers: You Can’t Tame God, So Stop Trying

People are starving for the awe of God.

Most don’t know it, of course, they think they’re starving for success or money or excitement or acceptance–you name it. But here’s the problem. Even those fortunate enough to satisfy these cravings find they are still hungry. Hungrier, even.

Why? Because they’ve left untouched the most ancient and aching need, the one stitched into the fabric of their souls: to know and love a transcendent God.

I believe that once you strip away all our shallow desires and vain pursuits, it’s God we’re after. And not just any god. We have enough friends. We need a great and awesome God. A God worth worshipping.

We thirst for transcendence and long to be loved. In the full portrayal of God found in Scripture, we find both.

Our souls find satisfaction only in the God who is grand enough to worship and close enough to love. We need a home, but we also crave adventure. The greatest adventure is to seek God.

Everything Exists For Christ

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For by him [Christ] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).

For further clarification of this passage, consider the words of John Piper…

All that came into being exists for Christ–that is, everything exists to display the greatness of Christ. Nothing–nothing!–in the universe exists for its own sake. Everything–from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the mountains, from the smallest particle to the biggest star, from the most boring school subject to the most fascinating science, from the ugliest cockroach to the most beautiful human, from the greatest saint to the most wicked genocidal dictator–everything that exists, exists to make the greatness of Christ more fully known–including you, and the person you have the hardest time liking.

As David Naugle wrote, let us “love and give praise to things according to their worth.” And since Christ is the most worthy, let us place Him supreme in our love, devotion, and affection. For when we do so, our lives will be reordered towards the peace for which God created us.

Stir It Up!

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What are you going to do in church today?

The writer of Hebrews helps us to decide…

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near (Hebrews 10:24-25)

Are you going to “stir up” someone to “love and good works?” Are you going to be a catalyst for someone to be “salt” and “light” this week?

It’s easy to go to church and forget about our role. You may not teach a Sunday School class or serve in any “official” capacity (whatever that means), but according to the writer of Hebrews, you have a part to play.

You are to be one who “stirs” things up!!! The phrase “to stir up” is actually a pretty harsh phrase. It has the idea of spurring a horse to get it to gallup. It has the connotation of “provoking” someone.

The writer of Hebrews wanted to make sure that those He was writing to remained in the faith and continued to bear fruit. Therefore, he urged them to “spur one another” to get things going.

This is not always a comfortable thing to do. And yet, sometimes people need to be “stirred up.” We occasionally need people to challenge us to think about what we are doing. There are times in our lives that we need to be kick-started.

So are you willing to “stir things up” today? Or it could be that  you personally need to be “spurred on”?

Do remember that as you “spur one another on,” and as others “spur you on,” it is done for the purpose of producing “love and good deeds.” So stay humble today and be willing to “stir” and be “stirred.”