Archive | April, 2012

Comment Worship

25 Apr

This week I’ll be without my computer.  And since this is the age of collaboration, input, and participation, this week’s post needs you.  Please submit a comment (just one sentence is fine) sharing the way you have been connecting with God and worshiping Him recently.  Your idea may inspire others to a deeper relationship with God!

Here’s my idea– In a quiet and still place, read a passage of Scripture, then write a dialogue between God and me based on that passage.  One of my favorites is Psalm 139 – what a tender love declaration that Psalm is!

(I won’t be able to approve comments until I have internet access again, but comment now and I’ll approve them as I am able.)

Worship Idols

21 Apr

Our church is reading Counterfeit Gods, by Timothy Keller.  His writing is very easy to read, and the stories he uses are engaging.  His razor-sharp logic, however, is a deftly-shot arrow that found its mark deep in my heart.

The definition of an idol, according to Keller is: “anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”

Every specialized group of people has its own particular list of insidious idols.  For those of us who lead others in worshiping God, what are ours?  That last phrase in the quote above is especially troubling to me.  Immediately, I think of my identity – only God can be the true source of my identity– not my ability to sing, not my position on the worship team, not what the pastor thinks of me, not the latest song I wrote, not how clever or creative I am.  Only God.

“An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel as if my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.’  There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.”

May it never be!

How can the very thing God has called me to do be an idol?  After thinking about it from another angle, I see that this makes perfect sense.  The one who is gifted in business is blinded to her fixation with the bottom line or her workaholism.  The one who went into politics to serve people denies he is now caught up in having power over them.  The plank is always in another’s eye, not mine.  Especially since leading worship is a holy calling and above more worldly pursuits.

But we are no different.  Our holy calling can also become our idol.  And maybe worshiping worship is the most heinous idol.  After all, our calling is to worship God.  We should know better.

To whom much is given (the ability and privilege of leading others in worshiping God); much is demanded (the responsibility of knowing Who we worship and what we should not worship).

“We think that idols are bad things, but that is almost never the case.  The greater the good, the more likely we are to expect that it can satisfy our deepest needs and hopes.  Anything can serve as a counterfeit god, especially the very best things in life.”

Throughout the book Keller emphasizes that the only way to get rid of an idol is by calling it sin and replacing it with a deep love for Christ.

God made us to be worshipers.  We cannot not worship – but we get to choose what we worship.

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Heart check for Sunday–

What are my idols?

Name them.  Confess them.

Memorize a verse that reminds me to dethrone the golden calf and bow before the one who holds my life in His hands.

Tomorrow, and always, I choose to worship you, Lord.

Quotes from Counterfeit Gods are from the Introduction, pp. xix-xx

He Gave the Body

14 Apr
 It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joseph saw where he was laid.                   —Mark 15:42-47

He gave the body to Joseph.

Pilate gave the body of Jesus to Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Jewish Council.

This week I have been thinking about the hours between Jesus’ death and entombment, and I have many questions.

  • Who took Jesus’ body off the cross?  The Roman guards?  Joseph of Arimathea?
  • Did they lower the entire cross?  Just the cross bar?
  • How did they get the large spikes out of the wood?
  • When Joseph picked Jesus’ body up, did he gaze into His lifeless eyes?
  • Did Joseph understand what he was doing in the grand scheme of God’s plan?  Did he wonder how everything would work out?  Or was giving Jesus a Jewish burial an act of love for One he believed was gone?

I imagine Jesus’ limp body in Joseph’s arms and a sob catches in my throat.  I see him struggle under the weight of a lifeless body, and watch him lay it down in a cold tomb with only a torch for light held at a distance by a curious on-looker not wanting to come in contact with death and become unclean for the Sabbath.  The water, brought in a bucket from a sympathetic woman, weeps, as Joseph solemnly washes blood caked with dust and human excrement from his Rabbi.  There was no time for the spices and compounds to be applied before the setting of the sun signaled the Sabbath, so Joseph swaddled Jesus in clean linen, and closed the tomb with a boulder.  He had done what he could.  He had honored his dead Lord.

—————

This week as I have contemplated the phrase “he gave the body” the above questions and scenes swirl together in my mind dream-like, with another, more immediate, idea.

(Before I mention my thought, I have to say that I know Mark 15 is not a symbolic or metaphorical passage.  However, I believe that the principles throughout Scripture are not opposed to my idea, and in fact support its essence.)

Pilate gave the body of Jesus, bloodied and broken, to Joseph who prepared it for the greatest miracle the world will ever know.

In a similar way God gives the Body of Christ to worship leaders every Sunday morning.  He places His Beloved in our arms– wounded, broken, abused, and weary people.  The Father allows us the privilege of leading them before His throne of healing and grace, where He tenderly binds up aches and washes away filth, preparing them for His Resurrection power.

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Heart check for Sunday–

What in me is broken, aching, or wounded and needs God’s healing?

Am I praying for the people I will lead tomorrow, asking God to show me how he sees them?  (Or am I preparing so that I will look good?)

Every good and perfect gift comes from the Father – my calling, my abilities, and the ones He gives me to lead – and is a sacred trust from Him.

Father, work through me for Your sake and theirs.

The Last Day of the Week

7 Apr

Since sundown last night, they were forced to be still.  No work to keep their hands busy was allowed.  An afternoon nap was acceptable, but who could sleep after yesterday’s events?  Everything they had believed in and lived for died with Him.  And now, by Law, they could do nothing.

The Day of Preparation (Friday, the day before the Sabbath) had been bursting with events like no other.  Jesus was marched through Jerusalem carrying His cross, crucified between two thieves, and left there to find His way to death during which He forgave His executioners.  He died, confirmed by the water and blood that flowed from the sword wound in His side, and was wrapped in cloths and laid in a tomb by Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.

The Passover Sabbath was especially holy as stories about the night before the escape from Egypt hundreds of years ago were fresh in everyone’s minds told at Seder meals a few days earlier.  Every Jewish household slaughtered a lamb and smeared its blood above the front door and on the side-posts from a bowl on the threshold.  Jesus’ followers had plenty of time to think on the Sabbath after His death.  Did they remember the Passover sacrifice and notice the foreshadowing of Messiah in the ritual?

Several main players, Pilate, the Roman Prefect, and the Jewish chief priests and Pharisees, were busy on the Sabbath making sure that the tomb was guarded and sealed.   They are the only ones mentioned in the four Gospels on Saturday.  The women who followed Jesus saw where He was buried on the day of preparation, observed the Sabbath, then made their way to the tomb at sunrise on the first day of the week.  The disciples aren’t mentioned at all until Mary finds the tomb empty and runs to tell them.

So what was everyone who had followed Jesus for the last few years doing the day after He died?  We don’t know.  We know that observing the Sabbath required two things: resting from all work and acknowledging God.  But what each follower of Jesus did on the Sabbath between His death and the first day of the week isn’t recorded in Scripture.  Did they go to the temple without their Rabbi to worship with the overflowing crowd who had come to Jerusalem for Passover?  Did they sleep, trying to forget the ache in their hearts?  Did they hide from the vicious occupying army that had just killed the One they thought was Messiah, the One who would free them from the Romans?  Did they wonder if they had imagined it all?  Did they decide it had been a too-good-to-be-true dream and return to their homes?  Were they able to rest?  Could they acknowledge God?

Maybe my imagination and curiosity are too active.  I always want to know the back-story.  It helps me understand and put myself into what was happening.  And when information is missing, I wonder why.  Why, when there is so much detail about all the other days surrounding this most important week of all weeks, is this Sabbath barely mentioned?  Was God too busy with what was going on in the spiritual realm to pay attention to a handful of His Son’s disciples?  Why are the details from this day not in the Bible?

I don’t have a clue.  I wish I did.  Every year on the day before Resurrection Sunday, I ask myself the same question.

And every year, looking at the context of Saturday – smack-dab in between Crucifixion and Resurrection-I come around to the same, somewhat cliché, observations which I humbly offer in the absence of definitive answers.

+  The horror of Jesus’ death needed to truly sink in before His resurrection.  (Of course, the three days in the grave also fulfilled prophecy and was medical proof that He was really, completely dead.)  Without the agonizing time to take in what had just happened, the joy of the Resurrection would have been more like a head-jerking surprise.  “Wait… didn’t you just… die??”

+  God often does His greatest work when everything we see and know is absolutely dark, and waiting is part of the process.  We don’t know what His followers actually did, but we DO know they were distraught, probably in the darkest days of their lives, and unable to do anything except rest and acknowledge God.  I find it interesting that the chief priests remembered that Jesus said He would rise on the third day, so they asked that guards be posted and the tomb be sealed.  None of the disciples goes to the tomb on the third day in expectation or just plain curiosity to check out whether Jesus’ prophecy comes true or not.  On the contrary, the women only discover that that the tomb is empty because they are bringing spices to complete His burial anointing.  They didn’t expect Him to rise.  They thought it was over, and God lets them wait.

+  Timing is one of God’s most creative tools.  He often does what I think He should, but not according to my timeline.  He gets it right every time and at the right time.  Our part is waiting.  Waiting is part of what it means to be human.  We are bound by time– He is not, yet He works within time for our benefit, orchestrating each event masterfully.  Providing a day before displaying His power over death brought glory to His Son and proved that He is God.  Ultimate good came from temporary agony.

I still want to know what was going on during that Sabbath when it seemed to the scattered followers of a not-yet-risen Messiah to be the longest Sabbath rest of their lives.  Maybe the not knowing, at least for me, intensifies the search for Truth.

That is a good enough answer for me.

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Heart check for Sunday

Set aside time to wait with your Lord.

Acknowledge Him, especially in any situation you are waiting for Him to act or to receive His answer.

Get ready to celebrate: Death is defeated; He has won!

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