The Heart Of Worship

Following the philosophical traditions of western culture which err towards stoic and unemotional worship and dry preaching our current culture is fleeing that dryness of deep thought and lofty words towards a wetness in our belief and especially in our outward and corporate worship of our God.

Songs of worship sung most often in modern evangelical churches tend towards emotional validation of our faith. “Let me lose myself in God. We want to feel your Holy Spirit moving inside us.” Demands for emotional validation. We want to feel good worshiping God.

Why?

We have had a bad week. We are feeling down and beginning to feel our own humanity and lack of ability to surmount the troubles of life. In other words we are right where God wants us and right where He can can work most effectively in and through us. And instead of thanking our loving and caring Father for placing us right where we need Him most we whine and complain and demand God validate our existence by making us feel good so we can scrabble through another week feeling capable because God must love me because He made me feel good last Sunday.

Emotion, the soul and feeling parts of our person are important and necessary and God delights in filling us with feelings that spring from Him and His love. God made sex and love and delicious food and warm spring rain and brisk fall winds and summer afternoons and swimming and friends and good stories and fireplaces and warm blankets and everything else good and enjoyable and pleasurable and beyond all these He has promised heaven will be beyond anything we can imagine even in our most lofty dreams and visions and there and back again experiences.

I am not discounting the importance of emotions. I’m challenging forgetting the mind, that necessary organ of thought and rationale and sense and consideration, in our schema of worship.

Any love worth holding is a love that begins with the mind, or one that quickly enlists and persuades the mind not of how it feels, but of whether or not it is sensible.

Your first crush in love is a wonderful thing. the sun shines brighter when your love smiles at you and darkens whenever you are apart.

But time passes, usually quickly, and our sensible and kill- joy mind gets through the delirium of ecstasy with warnings and cautions, eventually getting the better of our wayward heart.

In love and worship of our Lord and Savior there will never be a time of honest thought finding factual and substantive purchase in any thought contrary to the words of truth of our God. However, the senseless worship and blind love of our God leaves one vulnerable to attack in so many more ways. Emotions ebb and flow according to the prevailing winds inside and out. And when our love is based on the shifting sands of emotion, and that emotion changes, our love can fade as quickly as shadows in the morning.

When love is based not on mercurial emotions but is rooted in fact and sense, that love is not a feeling but a foundation. On that foundation I can build the flowery feelings of romance and the steady feelings of deep friendship and the protective feelings when the winds of trial blow. This steady and reliable love is based on fact and decision, not feelings. Feelings flow from it and are built upon it but because they are results and companions and not sources and causes this love lasts and is more worthwhile and substantial. And the feelings, because they flow from something resolute and sure are that much stronger for the trust you can truly put in them.

This is the love our spouse deserves. How much more does our God deserve such a love?

In the songs and stories of our church in the West we are seeking a selfish and unholy emotional gratification rather than a complete and utter trust in God birthed of our own inability and weakness illumined by His complete and utter ability and strength, and His love in sharing these abilities so freely with us.

To see that gulf between inability and ability and to accept His act bridging that gulf. To cross that bridge in His strength relying on Him to support us through the rest of our mortal life. To do this is to choose, first with our mind, and following with the love of our heart in belief, in Christ and experience salvation of our entire self, the mind, the will, and the emotions.

And then as we continue to live for Him, our mind, our will, and our emotions are each called upon individually and in concert to give themselves up before Him in abject worship of His ability. No longer are we prostituting our emotions to gain support for our will to tough it out a week at a time. We can rest sure, seeing His working in our past and trusting His plan for our future.

The heart of worship includes our mind.

Quake In Chile

First thoughts on the 8.8 quake that just struck Chile: Is this it?

The earth is heaving as if it is in labor.

The quake hit about 100 miles from Santiago, the capital of Chile. But reported death toll right now is only 78 people.

My thoughts and prayers are with those on the ground in Chile.

But back to the initial thoughts.

How long ago was it that seismologists were screaming the world was heading towards “the big one”. A massive quake level 9 or higher on the Richter Scale that would decimate a significant area of even highly developed and well constructed buildings.

A disaster of biblical proportions, it would be called, even by atheists and agnostics and dont’-careists.

I don’t know if this is it. I don’t have a crystal ball or special word from God that the end is here. But I know that God wants us to be vigilant, ready, always choosing our next steps based on His greater glory and with the continual awareness of the impending end of days.

The constant reminders in the New Testament, especially, though they are the words of men expecting a return of the Christ within their lifetimes or very shortly thereafter, are included nonetheless at God’s behest. God wanted us living between Christ’s first and second comings to live always in the hope of His imminent return, both as a justification for the struggles we deal with on earth as His ambassadors, and as a guide to our thoughts and actions.

Christ is returning, of that we are sure.

Whether He comes through the upheaval of earthquakes shattering the sure footing of this earth we each trust too much, or through the twisting terrors of tornadoes scarring the skies, or hurricanes or typhoons or the soft, sweet winds of a summers’ afternoon, He will still come.

And for the people in Chile now dealing with the aftermath of such destruction and ruin, I pray their succor will not just be of their physical homes, but also include a rebirth in their own lives in the salvation of Christ.

Red Letters

As a musician I’m dismayed by the cookie cutter melodies, simplistic harmonies, poor production values, and overall less-than-the-world’s quality of Christian music, overall.

There are notable exceptions, and today I found another.

In a dark, forgotten corner of my music library I found DC Talk’s Red Letters.

Musically interesting, regardless of the words. And then add the words and you have a shining example of quality music played by skillful musicians with passion and conviction that only come from singing the truth and singing it for God.

Enjoy Red Letters by DC Talk, from their album Supernatural.

My Life In History

A Century Turns: New Hopes, New FearsA Century Turns: New Hopes, New Fears is Bill Bennett’s latest book of current American History in a series that loosely includes the more formal series America: The Last Best Hope.

A Century Turns chronicles the last 20 years of American socio-political history from the perspective of a proud, cautious, involved, and hopeful American.

When picking up history books one expects to find events with which they cannot relate. I didn’t live during the Battle of the Bulge any more than I did the War of 1812. And there is a significant disconnect which makes study of history a true study, and not just an experience.

A Century Turns tells history, but the one telling is one who was there, one who was involved in the choices that shaped our country and the world as we know them today. And the story is one I lived through.

Perhaps my earliest memory of political affairs was the inauguration of George Bush, the senior. I remember watching on television as he spoke and watching him ride and walk in the parade from the Capital to the White House. I was 6 then.

When I started working at 14 I spent a lot of time listening to Rush Limbaugh on his original station, News Talk 1530 KFBK out of Sacramento. I was aware of events and began to be involved in them on a local level, writing letters to the editor of our local rag, speaking at City Counsel meetings. The events of the last 20 years are all memories to me. And Bennett wrote about them as history.

From the LA Riots to the OJ Simpson debacle. From the home grown terrorist acts of the 90’s to the growth of Islamic jihad to it’s breaking point over our shores and on our peace-seeking psyches. From the dalliances of politicians in the Democratic party to the indiscretions of politicians in the Republican party. Bennett chronicles the currents that have shaped our world so severely and significantly in the last 20 years.

I get the sense, reading old history, that the world changes slowly. It’s massive weight fighting change with inertia. And yet, in just my own brief lifespan so much has changed. From the dominant social theories to the scrappy upcoming ideas, change is coming fast.

One thing the book lacks, but not from purposeful omission, is the sense that history is perhaps always like that. While it is true that the more things change the more they stay the same, it is also true that things change. And some that is lost in that change can never be brought back.

A Century Turns is an excellent book for contextualizing the history of the lifetimes of me and my peers. It helps to see how far we’ve come and how far we have yet to go.

Bennett ends with the election of then Senator Barak Obama to the office of the President of the United States of America:

There was a deep recession in the land. There were unfinished wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri were still alive. Russia was flexing its muscles. And a new president, with a new approach to the country and the world, would take the reins of power with new hopes and new fears on many sides of him and the country he was charged to lead.

Raised In The Kitchen

Are you eating the food or just smelling it?I was raised in the kitchen, thanks to my parents.

Peter and David and the author of Hebrews each used the word “taste” to describe experiencing the divine.

Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!

Hebrews 6:4-6 For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding Him up to contempt.

1 Peter 2:2-3 Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation – if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Taste and see that the Lord is good! Tasting implies an up close and personal involvement in the act of experiencing the Lord. You may be able to see from a distance but you cannot taste remotely.

A danger for those who have been raised and lived their entire lives in the kitchen of the church and God’s word is that they may assume they have experienced the full extent of God’s experience and life when in fact they have only been seeing and hearing and observing from afar what they ought to have been tasting from their privileged place beside the stove and under the counter.

At the same time, being raised in the kitchen is a singular and increasingly rare event pregnant with benefits and possibilities that are available to those who do take advantage of them. To those who do taste the smorgasbord, the buffet of spiritual delicacies which may be eaten from a young age, a great blessing has been given.

While those who come later to the table often value the food at the Lord’s table more, the blessings of early exposure to the table are many, so long as we don’t content ourselves only with the smells of that feast.