WHY WORSHIP?

A lot of us would like to continue to move forward in our understanding of and participation in worship. And a lot of us includes me. I’ve been regularly going to church for almost 60 years, graduated from Bible college and two seminaries, and preached for over 45 years; but I still have a lot room for growth when it comes to worship.

A recent study of Psalm 119, and some reading about the Psalms in general, has sparked my interest in revisiting this matter of worship. The Old Testament book of Psalms is filled with calls to and examples of worship.

At its simplest, worship means to attribute worth to something or someone. Some other words we use to describe the word include glorify, adore, praise, bless, and revere. A dictionary definition of worship as a verb is “to show reverence and adoration for a deity.” As a noun worship is defined as “the feeling or expression of reverence and adoration for a deity.”

Yes, people can worship whatever they choose to worship, but for Christians there is only one deity—God in the three persons of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  We may not completely understand the triune God, but we believe it because the Bible teaches it.

Let me make some observations (you may or may not agree with) and quote some others that I hope will provoke your thinking about worship.

You can go to church and not worship – I’ve done it, and I would guess you have too.

Worship is about me, but it’s more about God.

Worship isn’t an event we go to.

Worship is not something done for us.

We worship both alone on our own as well as together with others in corporate worship.

We often speak of praising and thanking God in or as a part of our worship. We praise God for who he is and thank Him for what he does. Thanksgiving goes together with praise.

“Delight in God, arising out of the health of our relationship with God and enhancing the health of that relationship, is expressed in praise to God” (Pastor Mark Abbott).

“We delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment” (C.S. Lewis).

Unfortunately, some think of worship as a solemn and joyless activity. There may be occasions when that is true, but generally worship is far from joyless.

“The whole notion of God asking us to sit around saying nice things about him can seem rather alien” (Philip Yancey).

“God doesn’t need our worship, but he wants it” (C.S. Lewis).

“In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him” (C.S. Lewis).

There is a lot to this thing of worship, isn’t there? My goal, as well as my encouragement to you, is to keep growing in understanding worship and exceling in the practice of worship.

Here’s a final observation about the subject: God’s invitation for us to worship him is one we should accept – regularly (alone and with others), thoughtfully, and enthusiastically.

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Image by Aaron Cabrera from Pixabay

 

 

 

WHO ARE YOU MOST LIKE?

Generally speaking most blog posts are serious, but in this one I want to lighten things up and have some fun. I don’t know why, but for some reason earlier this week I started thinking about the seven dwarfs – strange, right?

The seven dwarfs were characters in the Walt Disney animated feature film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs originally released in January 1959. Prior to the Disney film the story was a classic fairy tale about a princess who is cursed to sleep for a hundred years by an evil fairy, where she would be awakened by a handsome prince.

Even though I have never seen the movie (or read the story), I am somewhat familiar with the dwarfs. In terms of the movie, I’m pretty sure they are good guys. But most of all I am intrigued by their names: Dopey, Sneezy, Bashful, Doc, Happy, Grumpy, and Sleepy. While their names are suggestive of their personalities, in my research I have found some additional descriptions (and shortened them):

Bashful is shy. He’s not afraid to blush and bat his eyelids. Bashful is sentimental and pensive.

Doc is bossy. He’s a born leader – if something needs doing, Doc’s the one coming up with a plan. That’s because he has a fast mind. Doc is the excited one whose words come out quicker than he forms sentences.

Dopey is bare-faced and bald. He is the youngest of the gang and sometimes behaves rather childlike. Dopey doesn’t speak, and he never really tries to.

Grumpy is a know-it-all. He says no to everything. And he’s just plain miserable! His stubbornness and resistance, though, is what helps the dwarfs come to the princess’s rescue.

Happy – don’t we all love Happy? He’s so jovial about everything. Happy stays happy. In fact, the only time he loses composure is when the princess takes a bite of the Witch’s apple and quickly falls into a sleeping death.

Sleepy is well named, really. He’s just as hardworking as the rest of the clan in the mine, but he never falters to keep that relaxed, laid-back working style. Even though Sleepy is forever yawning and exhausted, he always seems to have his wits about him.

Sneezy – you cannot miss Sneezy. You also cannot have any doubt about where his name comes from. He just can’t control those sneezes and they seem to have terrible timing, too! Of course, the other 6 dwarfs help their buddy out whenever they can.

Based on the descriptions, it’s obvious the seven dwarfs are different, just like us. We have different strengths and weaknesses. No two of us are exactly the same; that’s how God made us. And aren’t you glad? If we were all the same, how boring families and friendships would be! Different as we are, however, we are all valuable and have something to offer to others and this world.

Here’s what I thought might be fun: pick the one you are most like, the one you are least like, and your favorite. And if you’re so inclined, share your choices with your spouse or a friend.

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Image by <a href=”https://pixabay.com/users/blickpixel-52945/?utm_source=link-attribution&amp;utm_medium=referral&amp;utm_campaign=image&amp;utm_content=656147″>Michael Schwarzenberger</a> from <a

 

CONTENTMENT – DO YOU HAVE IT?

What is contentment? I’m not sure. I recently read a sermon by Jeremy McKeen on contentment and have been reflecting on its meaning the past few days. Is being content a good thing? My answer is yes, but it really depends upon our understanding of what contentment is.

One popular suggested definition of contentment is being satisfied. Is being content the same as being satisfied? It seems that would be true in terms of eating, but what about situations other than eating? Can someone be content and yet not satisfied at the same time?

In his sermon Pastor McKeen tells about a younger gentleman who came to him with a dilemma and told him, “I want to find another job and strive to serve Christ more and seek to improve my situation, but I also want to be content in life. And so I’m torn between self-improvement and self-contentment.” I don’t know the details, but I think I would have told the young man he could do both.

Here’s a personal illustration that I hope will make sense. I played golf today and didn’t play as well as I would have liked; but that doesn’t mean I am discontented. I enjoyed being on the course playing golf and competing with friends. I already look forward to the next time we play and I know I will enjoy it because my contentment does not depend upon my score. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t want to improve and win next time!

An indication that we may be discontented is if we preface our desire for something with the words if only. Putting a condition on someone or something to satisfy us may shine some light on our deficit of contentment.

One thing that greatly contributes to our discontentment is comparison. We see that someone has more than we do or has it better than we do and we dwell on what we don’t have. It’s not easy to be satisfied if we are focusing on what someone else has that we don’t have.

Something I think that greatly contributes to contentment is the cultivation and expression of gratitude. Instead of looking at what others have and focusing on what we don’t have, it may make a difference if we focus on what we do have and be thankful for that.

A final thought in this consideration comes from the Apostle Paul and his testimony in one of his letters. In Philippians 4:11b-13 he writes, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Apparently contentment is something that can be learned; maybe we should make the effort to do so.

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ON BEING A GRANDPARENT

I’m thrilled to be a grandpa and have been thinking a lot about what it means. A couple of years ago Jan and I went to a conference in Dallas called the Legacy Grandparenting Summit sponsored by The Legacy Coalition. Both the title of the conference and the sponsor make it clear their emphasis is upon the legacy grandparents can pass on to their grandchildren.

As important as the idea of legacy is, I was most impacted by the slogan Grandparenting is a Verb. I interpreted the slogan as suggesting there is a difference between having grandchildren and being a grandparent. To me being a grandparent suggests appropriate involvement with one’s grandchild or children.

I realize not all grandparents live close to their grandchildren, but I know you can be an involved grandparent even if you live far away. Before FaceTime became such a valuable tool of interacting with grandchildren, and before Jan and I moved, we communicated with our grandson by Skype.

Living close is a wonderful plus, but it doesn’t automatically ensure that having grandchildren means grandparents are engaged with them. There are lots of ways to be engaged with grandchildren; both the parents and the grandparents can work together to make it happen.

Three obvious observations I want to underscore are no two grandparents grandparent in exactly the same way, there aren’t any perfect grandparents, and being a grandparent is not the same as being the parent. As author Tim Challies notes, “Parenting falls primarily to mom and dad, not grandma and grandpa. Grandparents need to be willing to allow parents to be parents.”

Yet most grandparents worry about their grandchildren like they did their own children; we just can’t seem to help it. When a grandchild hurts, grandparents hurt as well – both physically and emotionally. I think it comes with being a grandparent.

Grandparents can have a tremendous positive impact and influence on their grandchildren; and that is what most of us desire. Our impact and influence, of course, starts with the example we set. And one of the most important things we can do in setting an example is to acknowledge when we are wrong and apologize.

One of the opportunities we have as Christian grandparents in terms of influence is having a godly and spiritual impact on our grandchildren. Pastor and writer Bob Russell offers the challenge that “Every grandparent should find ways to be a spiritual blessing to their grandchildren.” Beyond the example we set, perhaps as important as any spiritual blessing is our prayers for and with our grandchildren.

I don’t fully understand what it means, but I like the affirmation of Proverbs 17:6, “Grandchildren are the crowning glory of the aged” (NIV). Having grandchildren and being a grandparent is a wonderful blessing and privilege. The encouragement of Tim Challies’ words challenges me and I hope they do you as well, “Don’t just be a grandparent — be a distinctly Christian grandparent.”

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Here is the link to the article by Bob Russell cited in this post:
https://www.bobrussell.org › ten-ways-to-bless-your-grandchildren

For Tim Challies articles search for Tim Challies on grandparents

THE BIBLE AND THE MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIP

Not everyone agrees on what the Bible teaches about the relationship between wife and husband in marriage. Before I make a couple of suggestions about what I think the Bible says, I want to make a general observation: husbands and wives function differently in every marriage.

The foundation of what I believe the Bible teaches about men and women is that they are equal, but not the same. That foundational premise, of course, comes from the creation account in Genesis 1:27, “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” Mankind includes both male and female, but both male and female tells us they are not the same. However, the affirmation both are created in the image of God tells us they are equal.

The passage that has been the most controversial and debated the last several years about the marriage relationship is the Apostle Paul’s instruction to wives and husbands in Ephesians 5. I see some significance in the non-specific instruction of verse 21 that precedes the specifics for wives and husbands in verses 22-33: “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

While more is said, the core of Paul’s instructions in the passage is that wives are to submit to their husbands and husbands are to love their wives. I don’t think anyone would say that since Paul only tells husbands to love their wives that Paul does not expect wives to love their husbands. Even though Paul doesn’t say it, it goes without saying that wives are to love their husbands. Loving one’s spouse is not the exclusive responsibility of the husband.

If Paul’s instruction to husbands to love their wives is not restricted to husbands, and if it goes without saying that wives too are to love their husbands, then I think the same is true for submission in marriage. In the same way that wives are to love their husbands even though Paul does not specifically say so, so also husbands are to submit to their wives even though Paul does not specifically say so.

Some read these verses from Paul and agree that neither submission nor love is exclusive to a wife and husband, but that submission and love are the primary calls to each. I have heard some teach that the primary way a wife loves her husband is by submitting. If that’s true, couldn’t the same thing be said about a husband in terms of showing love to his wife by submitting?

I realize not everyone will agree with what I am suggesting, but I do think it is worth giving some consideration. No two marriages will be exactly alike, but the most fulfilling ones are filled with both love and submission, by both wife and husband.

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SURPRISINGLY, MOST OF US WILL AGREE

A news report I read on Monday both surprised and encouraged me.

On Sunday, along with several others, Ellen DeGeneres and former President George W. Bush and Mrs. Bush were invited to the Dallas Cowboys football game by owner Jerry Jones. Someone took a picture of the former president and DeGeneres sitting next to one another enjoying themselves.

The picture was posted on social media and there was significant response to it criticizing Ellen for spending time with and enjoying the Bushes.

On her show Monday, Ellen DeGeneres responded with these remarks: “Here’s the thing: I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have. We’re all different and I think that we’ve forgotten that that’s okay that we’re all different… but just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them. When I say, ‘Be kind to one another,’ I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean be kind to everyone. Doesn’t matter.”

Hats off to Ellen DeGeneres! What a thoughtful and mature explanation to those who had criticized her actions. I agree with her.

I too am friends with a lot of people who do not share the beliefs or same exact beliefs that I have. But just because we do not agree on everything does not mean we can’t be friends.

I don’t watch her show, but I learned today from someone who does that Ellen closes every show with the challenge “Be kind to one another.” Apparently she practices what she preaches. I am impressed by that and convicted to putting more of my preaching into practice.

Another report I read said that Former President Bush “appreciated her comments and took a stand against the Twitter mob shaming her sitting next to him. Bush’s spokesman told one news outlet: “President and Mrs. Bush really enjoyed being with Ellen and Portia (de Rossi) and appreciated Ellen’s comments about respecting one another. They respect her.”

Sadly, when it comes to both politics and religion we often seem to exaggerate our differences and suit up for battle. Even more disheartening, rather than showing respect to others we too often become disrespectful.

Surprising to some I’m sure, I think most of us (including me) agree that we need to be kind to one another even if we don’t think the same way. We do not compromise what we believe when we are kind and respectful to others.

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THE CHALLENGE AND BEAUTY OF FORGIVENESS

While some hardhearted people might disagree, most of us would agree that it would be difficult to overstate the importance of forgiveness. And its importance includes both being forgiven as well us forgiving.

I’ve been thinking about what I call “the four lines of forgiveness” for several weeks now, and a news report I just saw on TV reinforced both my premise that we cannot overstate the importance of forgiveness and that there are four lines of it.

The news report was about the trial of a police officer who was going home to her apartment and got on the wrong floor. She entered the wrong apartment, thinking it was hers, and shot and killed the resident thinking he was an intruder. She was convicted and sentenced to 10 years in prison.

What was so powerful to me about the news report was the words of the victim’s younger brother on the witness stand speaking to the woman who had killed him. He said he forgave her, loved her, and hoped the best for her while she was in prison. He then asked the judge if he could hug her, got the judge’s permission, and the two embraced. It was a powerful and moving demonstration to see. (To forgive someone does not mean we must put ourselves in a place or position to be hurt or wronged again by the person we are forgiving.)

One line of forgiveness that can be challenging and is beautiful is our forgiveness of others. I have no idea if the younger brother’s words to his older brother’s killer were challenging, but I do know they were beautiful. I also know in my own life, and probably in yours as well, that forgiving others can be challenging. But the reality is that God calls us to forgive others and forgiving them is good for us.

A second line of forgiveness is others forgiving us. I’m confident every person who reads this post has needed forgiveness from others. It is not always offered, of course, but often it is. In my experience admitting whatever it was that you did or said that needs forgiving, and asking for it, goes a long way in receiving it. Unfortunately, if forgiveness is not granted, we have to leave it there.

A third line of forgiveness is God forgiving us. We should never take God’s forgiveness for granted, but the Bible is clear that God wants to forgive us. That’s what the coming, life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus is all about. All of us, without exception, need God’s forgiveness. And while it is not necessarily automatic, because of his great love for us God does forgive us when we ask for it.

A fourth line of forgiveness is forgiving ourselves. We probably don’t think or talk as much about this line as we do the others, but for many of us, this is a need. We’ve all heard people say something along the lines of “I’ll never be able to forgive myself!” Certainly no one should be cavalier or flippant about forgiving themselves. Yet, my sense is we do need to forgive ourselves, not be totally defeated by our failures, and move forward rejoicing in God’s forgiveness in Jesus with a commitment and resolve to do better.

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