What precedes worship?

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2 Samuel 22:4 I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, And I am saved from my enemies.

Psalm 50:15 Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me

Isaiah 43:7 .…..everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made

Prayer is our life blood, in this body.  But we will not pray forever. When we find ourselves face-to-face with Jesus, we won’t need to ask for anything. We won’t need faith. We will SEE.

ONE activity we WILL continue in heaven is worship. Praising God, enjoying His worth, and making much of Him will be a pleasure.  If joy in worshipping God seems fleeting here and now, it won’t be when we are in His presence.  After all, scripture gives us glimpses of the angels thriving on worship.  Their experience seems so qualitatively different from mine.  But when we join the angelic host, worshipping God will be a natural and beautiful way of life.   And if that is so, then doesn’t it makes sense to take it seriously now? To practice it?

With that idea as a backdrop, something I read triggered the following thought.  When I rely on myself, I deprive the LORD of worship.  And I, myself, LOSE an opportunity to grow in my enjoyment of making much of God.

What do I mean?  Just this – when I rely on myself and things go well, whom do I thank? I probably don’t even think to ask. Why should I thank anyone since I was the one who came through?  My own initiative, experience, skill and wisdom led to the good outcome, right?

What’s wrong with this thinking? For one, if the situation turned out well, it wasn’t because of me, but God’s mercy.  I’m just blind to that FACT.  And second, who granted me the necessary tools to do ‘good’ work?

But worse than my faulty analysis is that I have just stolen worship that belongs to God.  Yes!  Number me among the glory thieves.

For how does God get any glory when I rely on Maria? And if I do acknowledge the Lord, my hat-tip to Him is more like the smug pharisee who thanks God he is not like the tax-collector. He’s really praising himself, not God.

But when I throw myself totally on Him to come through in the ‘hards and impossibles’, when I count on Him to provide energy and wisdom in the ‘ordinaries’, THEN after every provision, I have AMPLE reason to thank and praise the Lord!

It’s plain and simple.  Isn’t this why God in His Word commands us:

  • to hand over our situations that drive us nuts and count on Him?
  • NOT to trust ourselves or our insight in situations but to look to Him to show us what to do?

The Lord has even built into this broken, fallen universe a practical design feature to help us REMEMBER to depend on Him.  What is that?  He has created us as needy, finite, people desperate for help. Why pretend otherwise!! The psalmist knew this fact and was not ashamed to announce it.  See how his very dependence on the Lord produces praise:

Psalm 71:6  I depended on you since birth, when you brought me from my mother’s womb; I praise you continuously. (ISV)

How has this realization changed my attitude?  Each morning when I am getting dressed, I bring to mind how my neediness is God’s good gift to me, not a deficit.  Not only can I relax and count on Him coming through in all my situations for the day, I am also practicing my eternal career – worshipping and enjoying the One who is the most worthy person in the universe.

 

Was it a good day? How do you know?

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Isaiah 43:6-7  I will say to the north, ‘Give up’,
    and to the south, ‘Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
    and my daughters from the end of the earth,
 everyone who is called by my name,
    whom I created for my glory,
    whom I formed and made.’

How do you evaluate your day?  How do you determine if it was a GOOD day?  Is it based on your To-Do list, how much you cross off?  Or do you call it ‘good’ if no problems surface, if the kids go to bed and stay asleep, if you have enough energy to meet everyone’s needs?  Maybe it’s a good day if you don’t binge or fall back into a harmful habit you’re trying to shake.

I’ve fallen prey to many false and harmful frameworks for looking at the hours the LORD gives me.  From the get-go, if I go down the path of viewing the day as MY day, MY time, I’ve walked away from how my Father views the time He allots.  For years I was wrong. I wore ‘glasses’ that saw standards such as:

  • productivity,
  • not overeating or
  • having my students respond favorably to my teaching
  • problem-free relationships

Those turned out to be self-shackling measurements.  I felt great on the days I ‘succeeded’ and somewhere between SAD and DEPRESSED on the days when I felt short of my expectations.

By God’s grace, in the past 2-3 years I’ve been allowing His Word, His truths to shape how I think about each day.  Change comes slowly, but I FEEL less stuck in unhealthy patterns of thinking. This past week I caught a powerful glimpse of what I believe is more in line and more FREEING to me of how God measures the daily hours given me.  The relief came from the Westminster Shorter Catechism.

Question # 1 goes like this:

Question: What is the chief end of man?

Answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

If I understand what this question and answer teach about my life’s purpose, then I will set my focus and invest my energy to that end.   What exactly does glorifying God mean?  Since God is the most important person in the universe and the most praiseworthy, then He deserves my ongoing happy attention, my grateful praise, and relieved reliance on His promised provision.  My thoughts, my words, my posture, my choices and my hourly interactions with Him and others should highlight His kindness toward those who belong to Him.  With these two Meta Purposes for my life which focus more on the MANNER of living each day, I am free to do what is at hand without giving the way I complete it such POWER to make or break my day.

If it were you who was explaining all the above, I’d likely ask: But what does that LOOK like across your various actions/activities? It sounds lofty, but can you bring it down to the man in the street level?

That’s what the 2nd part of the answer provides.  People can recognize our high esteem and praise of God primarily in our visible, sincere satisfaction, relief and gladness in being a covenant member of His family – that is, ‘a son or a daughter,’ as the text from Isaiah describes family members.

If I trust God and rely on His promises, then I should have a relaxed, peace-filled, gentle demeanor.  Paul explains in his letter to the Philippians (4:4-8) that he learned to hand over his problems (aka:  how to be content) to the Lord:

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. 

So, I take it that my body language and tone of voice should visibly show this peace and contentment with all that the Lord is for me. I think that is what ‘enjoying the Lord’ looks like in Christians.

I am now trying out this simple way of looking at my spent day. It goes like this.  “Maria, how did you do today in:

  • showcasing God’s goodness in your life?
  • heaving and leaving all your cares with Him because you believe Him when He promises to take care of them?
  • thinking about and savoring your adoption as His beloved daughter?

Realistically, I know that this will be a practice that grows more natural over time.  There’s no A or F for the day.  The Father loves me SO much, that He is pleased at my toddler-like stumbling to be more like His daughter.  Repentance with His promised forgiveness takes away my fear of being honest.

The other freeing aspect of this evaluative framework is that it suits ALL of our conscious days we live in our current body. It’s appropriate for our ‘prime times’ and it works for the periods of life when our health is poor and we are physically in decline.

What do you think?  What’s your journey been like in how you deem a day ‘good’ or ‘eh’ or ‘bad’?

I could still be completely wrong in my thinking – maybe He doesn’t want me to evaluate the day at all!  I’m open to having Him align my seeing with His.

Do you dread anything?

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If you’re somewhat like me, there are certain things you dread.  They could be activities like doing laundry, sitting through meetings, resolving a hurt between you and someone else, packing for a trip, exercising or doing taxes!

What I’ve begun to see in my case is that when I ‘dread’ something, it’s because I have a pre-determined picture or scenario already fleshed out in my mind.  The imagined mini-drama is never fun, somewhat or majorly painful and an ordeal to ‘get through’ in order to arrive at an anticipated more pleasant activity that I enjoy.

At age 61, however, I have to admit that my actual experience of what I dread compared to what transpires is rarely in sync.  The dread is far worse than the event.

What helps me, these days, is to say to myself:  “Maria, who made you clairvoyant? You only THINK you can predict how something will be.  You don’t know at all.  And past experiences do not determine future experiences.”

This FACT should be obvious for Christians, when they actually reflect, for God teaches that He is sovereign over every molecule in the universe.  Remember, if He is NOT in control, then He is not God.

So now,

  • when I dread the army combat movie my husband has picked out for us to watch, I say to myself, “Who knows, maybe you WILL enjoy it tonight!”
  • when I dread doing my exercise routine in the morning upon rising, I say to myself, “Who knows, maybe you’ll feel really strong and finish encouraged!”
  • when I dread going back to school on a Monday morning, I say to myself, “Who knows, maybe a student’s eureka moment will leave you feeling grateful to be teaching French!”
  • when I dread a meeting, I say to myself, “Who knows, maybe I’ll acquire some new information that makes my work easier!”
  • when I dread being with someone who ‘always’ complains or adopts a negative or critical demeanor, I say to myself, “Who knows, maybe God has transformed his/her heart and I’ll be surprised!”

I find I can catch and correct my inner monologue more easily these days.  I also draw heart from God’s Word in Isaiah 43:19:

See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland. (NIV)

 

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