A Personal Devotional Journal

I invite you to journey with me. Sometimes we will look at short passages of Scripture and I will give my first thoughts and impressions. Other times, I will just share my thinking about spiritual issues. Always, you are welcome to comment and add your thoughts. Together, we could learn something.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Romans 1:21-32 "True Worship 2: Acknowledging God and Giving Thanks"

They know God, but they do not give him the honor that belongs to him, nor do they thank him. Instead, their thoughts have become complete nonsense, and their empty minds are filled with darkness. They say they are wise, but they are fools.... And so God has given those people over to do the filthy things their hearts desire, and they do shameful things with each other.  They exchange the truth about God for a lie; they worship and serve what God has created instead of the Creator himself.... Because they do this, God has given them over to shameful passions. Even the women pervert the natural use of their sex by unnatural acts.  In the same way the men give up natural sexual relations with women and burn with passion for each other....  Because those people refuse to keep in mind the true knowledge about God, he has given them over to corrupted minds, so that they do the things that they should not do.  They are filled with all kinds of wickedness, evil, greed, and vice; they are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deceit, and malice. They gossip  and speak evil of one another; they are hateful to God, insolent, proud, and boastful; they think of more ways to do evil; they disobey their parents;  they have no conscience; they do not keep their promises, and they show no kindness or pity for others.  They know that God's law says that people who live in this way deserve death. Yet, not only do they continue to do these very things, but they even approve of others who do them.  (Romans 1:21-32)

Mankind was created to worship God and have fellowship with God. Mankind was created to have a relationship with God. And it is within the context of this relationship that humans find purpose and meaning. As Paul so graphically pointed out in the Romans passage we just read, apart from the relationship, our minds become darkened and our thinking becomes futile, and we think we are wise when actually we are fools, and we begin a cycle of deceit and treachery and violence and aggression. And because we are essentially spiritual beings, we try to fill the spiritual vacuum that is produced when we leave God out, with created things rather than the Creator. We try to fill the spiritual vacuum with cars and houses and careers and education and family and alcohol and sex and drugs and movies and sports and hobbies and all kinds of thing –some of them good things, some of them not so good, but none of them actually able to fill the hole in our souls. It is a meaningless, pathetic existence and it leads to a horrible logical conclusion –eternal death. All this caused by refusing acknowledge and worship God.

Without a sense of gratitude to God, I begin to think that I am the most important thing –I need to take care of number one. I think that every good thing that happens I did for myself, and every bad thing that happens is because other people did me wrong. Not surprisingly, I lose any sense of responsibility to my neighbor –to those around me. And the ultimate consequence of this perverted thinking is found again in that list Paul gave us in Romans chapter one. We become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. We are filled with envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. We are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; we invent ways of doing evil; we disobey our parents; we are senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.

These are not qualities that make for good neighbors are they? They are not qualities that make good friends or husbands or wives or children or bosses or employees. And yet, these are qualities that we begin to see in ourselves when we are ungrateful and refuse to acknowledge God and give Him praise.

And that’s not all of it. There is at least one other arena of life in which sin has caused brokenness. Sin has broken our relationship to nature. John 3:16 tells us that God so loved the world that he sent His only Son. The word used here for world means His creation. When we read this verse, we most often think of the world meaning the people in the world –and it does –but it means even more than the people; it means that God loved everything He created. You might remember that at every step in the creation story in the book of Genesis –after God created, He paused and said, “It is good.” Mankind is the crown jewel of creation. Unlike anything else God created –even unlike the angels, we alone were created in the image of God –so, we are, indeed, special to God. But it would be a mistake to think that God doesn’t care about the rest of His creation. He does. God loves His creation. And in the book of Genesis, we are told that God gave man dominion over the world, over what He had created. What that means is that God entrusted the care of His world to men. We were to be the caretakers. But because our relationship to God is broken, and because our relationship to other people is broken, and because we think that the only thing that matters in life is taking care of number one, we have over the centuries used and abused creation to the point where our relationship with nature is horribly broken. The water is polluted, the air is polluted, and in many areas the very dirt is polluted. The depletion of the ozone, the so-called, “greenhouse affect,” the mass destruction of the rain forests. All of these are examples of how alienated we are from nature. What we were entrusted with to take care of, because we are sinful, we destroy.

Because we do not worship as God deserves, life has no meaning or purpose and we fail at everything we were created for -we fail to know and love God, we fail to love others and we fail to care for the earth. There is only one solution to the human dilemma. We need to acknowledge God and give Him thanks.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

1 Peter 2:9-10 "True Worship"

If we want to understand what worship is –or what it consists of, we need to start by looking at the Bible. Instead of looking at random passages about worship, I'm thinking more about the big picture of the Bible. If we look at the story of the Bible in its entirety, from beginning to end, we will notice that the story revolves around events. There are several defining events in the Bible –events that have shaped the Hebrew people, and the Christian Church. There is the act of creation, and the event of the fall. There is the event of the Jewish Exodus from slavery in Egypt. There is the Christ Event –the birth and life and death and resurrection of Jesus –and there is the promised event of Christ’s second coming. This is the story of the Bible in a nutshell, isn’t it? And since these are the events that shape the story of the Bible, and since the Bible is our official Book of Worship, these same events form the basis for our worshipof the God of these events.

What I’m suggesting is that true worship is not a warm fuzzy feeling that we get towards God. True worship is not an emotion. And, in fact, true worship is not even an action exactly. True worship begins at least as a remembrance. Worship begins as we remember the saving events of God. In the Old Testament, many of the Psalms, for instance, recount how God called them into being as the Children of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, about how God established a covenant with them, and how God, after the Exodus and the wandering in the desert, went before them into the land He had promised them and drove out the other nations before them. And as they remembered what God had done for them as a people, they also acknowledged how God provided for them as individuals. Again, in the Psalms, David wrote often about how God had saved Him from the miry pit, from destruction by his enemies, from despair.

These remembrances of God’s saving events became the basis for worship. In fact, throughout the Old Testament, almost always when we find people worshiping, we also find them remembering.

The primary saving event in the Old Testament was, of course, the exodus out of Egypt. Consequently, the vast majority of Hebrew corporate worship, including most of their holy holidays, Passover, for example, revolve around remembering how God saved them as a people from slavery in Egypt.

In the New Testament, we also have a saving event around which almost all of our worship focuses. Jesus lived and died and rose again from the dead. In the Christ event, God brought us out of our bondage and addiction to sin, and he forgave us and he restored our relationship to Himself. Through Jesus God gave to us a new covenant and we became His people and He became our God.

In 1 Peter 2:9-10, Peter tells us: “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”

In other words, since we once were not a people, but are now the people of God, since we once had not been forgiven, had not received mercy through the shed blood of Jesus, but now our sins have been forgiven, we declare the praises of Him who called us out of darkness into light. There is a cause and effect relationship between acknowledging and remembering how God has saved us and our ability to give Him praise.

In worship, God does what He has always done. He reaches out to us with compassion and mercy; He brings us out of bondage and addiction. He heals and restores us. He forgives both the guilt of our sin and the shame of our sin. And He calls us to gather around His throne and give Him thanks and give Him praise.