Last week we began our discussion trying to really understand worship. We began to appreciate who God is, who we are, the infinite difference, and why that should get us into a worshipful attitude.
Pastor John guided us further in trying to appreciate what worship is supposed to be this last Lord's Day. He began as you each will remember by reading Isaiah 6:1-8, and showing us how this sums up the “what” and the "why" of worship:
First, worship happens when we clearly see the holiness of God. We read Isaiah 6:3 – “And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” If nothing else, do you fellows remember the photos of the galaxy and of the microbiota last week in the chatroom. Surely these dazzling photos help point to the infinite wonders of God. This is what “awesome” really means, right? We know that God is infinitely mighty, and also totally perfect. In other words, He is holy!
Then, worship happens when we clearly see our own sin. We read Isaiah 6:5 – “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!” Each of us is grown up enough to know that we are all very imperfect, in enormous contrast to perfect God. Each of us by nature is most definitely not holy.
Finally, worship happens when we receive amazing grace. And again, Isaiah 6:8 – “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.”
Having begun with this outline, Pastor John then read to us a quote from William Temple. This fellow was an English churchman who spoke up for persecuted people in the 1930s and 40s until he died in 1944. He also had a pretty good picture of what worship is:
"Worship is the submission of all of our nature to God. It is the quickening of the conscience by his holiness; the nourishment of mind with his truth; the purifying of imagination by his beauty; the opening of the heart to his love; the surrender of will to his purpose—all this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable.”
Worship begins with remembering:
We remember God’s faithfulness in the past. When we read Psalm 42:3-5 “My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?” These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival. Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.
Lamentations 3:20-24 – 20 My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me. 21 But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; 23 they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”
Pastor John also read to us a much more recent poem that celebrates the faithfulness of God. That poem is called “Footprints”. I first heard this poem when I was about your ages. As decades of my life have gone by and I have gone through this and that, it is ever more meaningful to me:
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You'd walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me."
He whispered, "My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you."
Worship continues with trusting: we trust in God’s promise for our future. We read Psalm 102:12 – But you, O Lord, are enthroned forever; you are remembered throughout all generations. We remember this when we are confronted with hardship. We push through the pain we feel to the point of praising eternal God: He is still on the throne, still in control, still my God, still caring for me, still there for me!
There may be sickness in my family BUT YOU GOD – You can do all things
I feel rejected, BUT YOU GOD – You will never forsake me
My family is financially struggling, BUT YOU GOD – You are my provider
I have medical problems, BUT YOU GOD – You are my healer
I fear for my future – about this or that scary thing that may happen, BUT YOU GOD - You do not let me be frozen in fear or worry, but instead You give me a bright future and a hope for a share of your glory!
In reading our Bible verses we know that God has never lost a battle, and He is for us - His children – who totally TRUST in Him, because He is good and He is worthy
Suddenly our PAIN in whatever we are going through turns into PRAISE for our loving righteous Father.
So then, fellows: we throw ourselves into WORSHIP by remembering God’s faithfulness in the past and trusting in God’s promise for the future.
Beautiful day it is today. Hope each of you fellows reads this in good health, and that each of your dear family members also is faring well.
Lord's Day last Pastor John mentioned the recently-deceased basketball star Kobe Bryant. Actually, Pastor John did a lot more than mention him, he illustrated to us how quite a lot of people were so entranced by Mr. Bryant's athletic skills and achievements that in effect they worshipped him.
Worship? Yes. When you give some thing or some body all your adoring attention and when your happiness is pretty well controlled by the ups and downs of that person or thing, then that is worship. I am pretty sure most or all of you fellows can illustrate better than I can how some people lose themselves getting wrapped up in awe of some celebrity such as was Mr. Bryant. Probably you each can list other items of popular rapture and worship these days.
But Pastor John cautioned us strongly by reminding us about what our real attitude should be.
Read from the Gospel of Luke 4:8 (NIV) “Jesus answered, 'It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only. '” That's pretty clear, isn't it? Quite different from what the world all around you tries to get you to do.
Similarly in the Gospel of John 4:23-24 But a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth, for the Father is seeking such as these to worship Him. God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”.
In the Old Testament try Psalm 95:1-6 (NIV) Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
Also in the Old Testament we can read from Isaiah 6:5 (NIV) "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." This verse should tell you that you need to be totally REVERENT towards God who is infinitely powerful, knowing, present everywhere. That if you have ever truly encountered Him you have felt the presence of a force infinitely greater than a star of the hoops or silver screen. That almighty Being must be, as Jesus said above, the sole focus of your worship.
At the end of the Bible in the Book of Revelation 1:17 (NIV) “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: 'Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last'”. Why did the Apostle John, about 90 years old when he penned Revelation, fall down like that? Clue...he was overwhelmed in awe of what he saw, right? That should inspire REVERENCE. That is where having the right attitude for true worship comes from. Maybe God won't place His right hand on your head...or...maybe He will! But you fellows all know from the incredible hugeness of outer space and the incredible tiny-ness of the atomic and molecular world that our Maker is utterly apart in power from you and me. And...being perfect, as we are not, He is Holy!
Holy holy holy! As Pastor John explained to us, true worship can be when we encounter God's holiness. Fear and trembling is an elementary act of worship. Pastor John explained further: When the Israelites were traipsing about in the Sinai Desert, Moses went up the mountain itself in response to God's summons. Meanwhile his brother Aaron and the rest of the people went and played video games made a golden calf. When they did that it meant they were saying "we are going to worship God in our own way. In their days making a model calf was a usual response to the need to worship, in your own way. The Israelites were saying “I will worship in my way on my terms when I want.” But if you KNOW God then you will respond to Him in perfect worship.
When you have the right attitude then the shoe is on the other foot: no matter what happens to you, no matter how bad the situation is that you are in, you know that your almighty Father is watching over you and you can confess your troubles all to Him and in His way in His time He will bring you through them. Your prayers then are perfect worship!
Finally, Psalm 94:12 (NIV) Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O LORD, and whom you teach out of your law. You remember that Pastor John told us the story of his loving father. Pastor John says that he was a pretty wayward little kid. Because Pastor John's father truly loved him, he disciplined Pastor John as was necessary from time to time. We all need God's correction now and then. But especially when Our Father in heaven corrects us, we run into His loving arms, just as when he was a little boy after being spanked as he needed, Pastor John still wanted to be in his father's loving arms.
He who we all must revere above all things or people: do you want to know Him more? The more we see about Him in the Word we read and meditate on in the Bible, the more we know Him. The more we know Him the more we want to spend time with Him, in...worship!
Wednesday lunchtime greetings!
You remember last Lord's Day Pastor John read to us a couple of passages from the New Testament that help illustrate for us the meaning of true love, the kind of love the Greeks called “agape”, which is selfless “love in action”.
First Pastor John read from 2 Corinthians 9:7 (NIV):
“Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
If you really perceive the VASTNESS of the love of God, then you gratefully and easily give of yourself in self-sacrifice that imitates Jesus's ultimate self-sacrifice for us.
Pastor John gave as an example of this is a charity whereby an adult can sponsor a child. The adult helps support the far-away poor child through a monthly cash gift as the child grows up. The giver stays in touch with his sponsored child through letters and photographs that the charity helps transmit. Hopefully someday each of you fellows will find in this kind of selfless giving the unique joy of knowing that giving is part of something much bigger: agape - true love! We get to CHOOSE to serve others; we don't do it through some loveless compulsion.
Then Pastor John read from Mark 12:13-17 (NIV)
“13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words.
14 They came to him and said, 'Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?
15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?' But Jesus knew their hypocrisy. 'Why are you trying to trap me?' he asked. 'Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.'
16 They brought the coin, and he asked them, 'Whose image is this? And whose inscription?' 'Caesar’s,' they replied.
17 Then Jesus said to them, 'Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.' And they were amazed at him.”
Do you fellows remember the picture of the old coin that Pastor John put on the big screen? A denarius was a genuine silver coin of the Roman Empire that had the current Caesar's image on it. By contrast to that, we are in “coins” in God's image. The denarius is symbolic of everything of this imperfect world. On the other hand, believers must be symbolic of God's perfection. How is that? If you truly love God, then in awe of His love for you, you love others without worrying about if or not they love you back. That is the choice: love God, and those He put around you, or love the things of this world, and love only those people who you are sure love you.
As Pastor John explained to us, giving sacrificially for others is the real act of worship. Every such points us to the greatest sacrifice ever. The truth of this does not oblige us; it INSPIRES us!
When the one boy was carrying another boy away from a disaster some adults asked him: “Isn't he too heavy for you?” And the boy replied “He isn't heavy; he's my brother!” In serving the God who loves us, all men must be our brothers.
Wednesday afternoon greetings!
Lord's Day last we started out by reading 1 Peter 1:23-25 together with Pastor John:
23 For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God.
24 For, “All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall,
25 but the word of the Lord endures forever.” And this is the word that was preached to you.
So, right away in reading this we learn that we need to think about the difference between stuff that is soon gone no matter how attractive, and that which lasts. Why? Because we must decide even now what we honestly care about the most, so that we focus our time and attention on it. I will lay it before you fellows right now - this is the reason why daily QT must be a priority.
Do you remember that Pastor John showed us on the big screen in Vision Chapel an island treasure map? Suppose we were a visitor to that imaginary island, just as we are all only visitors to this earth. Suppose in a contest we had the choice of taking for a prize a sum of money, or a larder full of food. How to choose?
If you are quite sure that you will soon depart the island, you will take the money, right?
But suppose you are in the same spot as all those school boys your age in that novel Lord of the Flies which I expect that either you have already read or you will soon read in your school English class. Situation: it looks like you will NEVER get off that island that your plane crash-landed on. So, what good is the money? Of course you will choose the larder full of food.
Pastor John also illustrated for us the question of values and choices by mentioning how many people playing various video games on-line enhance their abilities or image or whatever through buying “game skins” with... real money(!), and often times with lots of real money. Their choice to do so tells you a lot about WHAT THEY VALUE.
Pastor John then flipped back a page in his Bible and read from 2 Peter 1:16-19.
“we're not going by myths we're going by personal experiences.” This was Peter explaining how belief in Jesus Christ as Son of God becomes deeply rooted. Pastor John explained to us that the personal experience of the Christ, like he had, is far superior to Greco-Roman myths. But, Pastor John went on to tell us that experiences are not powerful, that the Word of God is where real power comes from. But power from the Word of God, the Bible, it is not just a matter of reading it. It is also absolutely necessary to think deeply about what you are reading in the Bible so that you measure your puny self correctly and reverently relative to God ALMIGHTY.
Cartoons were okay for you when you were little kids, but if we only have a cartoon view of the Bible our growth will be stunted. We must grow up, for sure we must grow in our faith.
If we grow in faith then we will have the right VALUES so that we make the right CHOICES. The goal is to be so filled with the Word of God through reading the Bible (daily) and thinking deeply about what we read that we no longer crave the things of this world, because our VALUES are elsewhere....focused on God.
Yes indeed! You fellows are not the cute little kids that you were just a short time ago. Not any more. Even now you all old enough to make these crucial value choices, and to act on them, day-by-day.