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Sunday, November 6, 2016

What does it mean to glorify God and how do we do it?

Kathy and I have been listening to an audio version of Joni Earechson Tada’s book,"A Place of Healing: Wrestling with the Mysteries of Suffering, Pain, and God's Sovereignty,” in which she, herself is the reader. It has become one of my “must have” books and I highly recommend it, especially for those that are going through difficulty and hardship.  I lift a quote from Joni's book that has really cause me to stop and think:

"And what does it even mean to “give God glory,” anyway? In the Old Testament the principle word for glory seems to indicate “weight” or “heaviness.” Its primary uses convey the idea of some external, physical manifestation of dignity, preeminence, or majesty. The principle New Testament word makes reference to “brightness, brilliance, and splendor.”  There are plenty of textbook definitions out there, and I could give you one of those, but you could look it up just as easily yourself. Just for a moment, allow me to combine the Old and New Testament concepts of glory to make a simple observation. When we glorify the name of our God, He gives us the opportunity of adding weight or significance—including adulation, respect, and honor—to His reputation. He allows us the unspeakable privilege of showcasing the brightness and splendor of His great name in our dark world."

What does it mean to glorify God?  When we glorify the name of our God, He gives us the opportunity of adding weight or significance—including adulation, respect, and honor—to His reputation. He allows us the unspeakable privilege of showcasing the brightness and splendor of His great name in our dark world."

How could I possibly add significance and honor to God’s reputation? How could I showcase the splendor of His great name in the world?

First, let’s look at some biblical examples. The following is not an exhaustive listing, but will help us as we attempt to answer the question of how we might glorify God, and how God is glorified:

By our praise and thanksgiving: 
Psalm 69:30 I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.
Psalm 86:12 I will praise you, Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever.

Recognition of God’s power and sovereignty 
1 Samuel 6:5 Make models of the tumors and of the rats that are destroying the country, and give glory to Israel’s god. Perhaps he will lift his hand from you and your gods and your land.

God’s deliverance over enemies
1 Chronicles 16:35 Cry out, “Save us, God our Savior; gather us and deliver us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name, and glory in your praise.”
Psalm 106:47 Save us, Lord our God, and gather us from the nations, that we may give thanks to your holy name and glory in your praise.
Isaiah 24:15 Therefore in the east give glory to the Lord; exalt the name of the Lord, the God of Israel, in the islands of the sea.

Fulfillment of Prophecy
Isaiah 35:2 it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.

Repentance and acknowledgment that God’s ways are right 
Jeremiah 13:16 Give glory to the Lord your God before he brings the darkness, before your feet stumble on the darkening hills. You hope for light, but he will turn it to utter darkness and change it to deep gloom.

Telling the truth and so reflecting God’s nature and character:
Joshua 7:19 Then Joshua said to Achan, “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and honor him. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me.”
John 9:24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

Bearing fruit as a result of our obedience and discipleship:
John 15:8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.

Miracles and healings
John 11:4 When he heard this, Jesus said, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”

Christ’s obedience to go to the cross
John 13:31  When he was gone, Jesus said, “Now the Son of Man is glorified and God is glorified in him.
John 13:32 If God is glorified in him, God will glorify the Son in himself, and will glorify him at once.
Acts 3:13 The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go.

Recognition of Christ as Divine
2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.

By recognizing what God has done:
Luke 2:20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

By our obedience to what He ha called us to do:
John 21:19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”

Living in unity with other believers:
Romans 15:6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For His mercy in offering salvation to all that would come to Him:
Romans 15:9 and, moreover, that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written: “Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles; I will sing the praises of your name.”

When we go through suffering
1 Peter 1:7 These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.

When those that do not know Christ recognize what God is doing in your life:
1 Peter 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

If there is an overall pattern in these passages, it seems to be
[1] a recognition of God’s rightful authority and power,
[2] a recognition of God’s work and moving among us, and
[3] our responding in gratitude, obedience, and in ways that reflect His nature and character.

So if we are to truly “give glory to God” then we must recognize that God is all powerful, all knowing, and everywhere present; that from His infinite love, mercy, and grace Christ became one like us, lived a perfect life and died as a sacrifice so that we might have a restored relationship with our Creator. We must realize that God has not abandoned us, that He is actively working in the world today, that His Holy Spirit is in us, drawing us to Himself, longing to remold our lives to reflect His nature and character and our thoughts and minds toward His own. We must respond in obedience to all that God has commanded us with grateful hearts for all that He has done, is doing, and will do, even in difficult times.

As we pray that “God would be glorified” in a worship service, or in an activity, then there must be that recognition of God’s supreme authority, His working, and a complete surrender to all that He desires. It is much more than a “catch phrase” that we use in prayer that sounds great, but means little. I pray that as we pray that God would be glorified, that He truly would be and that we aren’t living and working in ways that are a contradiction to all that it means.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

How do we guard ourselves as leaders from the entertainment mindset, and how do we teach our congregations to do the same?

I would like to take this and answer a question asked on the blog yesterday:

I greatly appreciate your article, [worship and entertainment]  especially the attention you gave to the tendency we have to begin focusing on the benefits of worship as opposed to the obedience of worship. We say things like, "Man, God really showed up in worship today," but how often do we simply say this because of the emotions provoked within us by the sermon or the music, and is our assumption at that point that God has not "shown up" at other gatherings where our emotions weren't tickled? How do we guard ourselves as leaders from that mindset, and how do we teach our congregations to do the same?

I would like to thank Tyler for his sensitivity to the situation in which we find ourselves. I believe we could spend a book on that questions alone, but let me try to propose a few things:

1. We must really learn and practice biblical worship ourselves: we don't invite people to where we have not been ourselves. It is easy to talk about, but not consistently practice. We must honestly evaluate what we do on Sunday or whenever to see if we are worshiping. One of the most difficult things I do as a Worship Leader is worship because I get too involved in everything else that has to happen in the service, sound, instruments, etc. I literally find myself having to stop and re-focus. It is not a simple thing for me, perhaps for most as well, to maintain an awareness of what needs to be done and at the same time that awareness of God’s presence in the service.

2. We must teach biblical worship to the congregation, perhaps in bits and pieces, but it must be repeated and reinforced. Hearing something one time is not enough; we must repeat it week after week and aid them by showing and explaining how it all fits together. For example, just as a small beginning: Rather than saying, "We know worship is all about Jesus, so we're just going to stop thinking about everything else and think about Him," is about as effective as telling someone not to think about pink elephants--that's all they will think about. It would be better to just lead in prayer directed to Christ, not trying to preach through the prayer, but focused prayer and adoration to the Son of God. We never stop teaching and we never stop learning.

3. Knowing that the Spirit of God lives in us is fact enough to know that the Spirit is in a service; I believe the bigger issue is that because of our distracted nature, we are not aware or paying attention to the fact that He is there in us and among us. God speaks; the issue is not that God is not speaking, but that we are not able to hear. [The chapter on Isaiah 6 in Worship HeartCries deals with this, which is much to long for this post.]

4. We need to learn to change the measure of our worship experience from our feeling to more by our  obedience and sensitivity to God's direction and leadership in our lives.  If we are not immersing ourselves in the Word every day, meditating, memorizing, spending time with the Father, how will we recognize His voice on Sunday? Worship becomes the natural obedient response to God as He reveals Himself in His Word. We can celebrate His grace and goodness in the service, but it must stem from regular fellowship and intimate time with God, not drummed up emotion from the rhythm and music.

5. I would add more element under teaching worship: Find another person in which you will invest time, over a cup of coffee, pizza, walking, etc., but invest in a regular time together to pray, share struggles, to share what God is teaching you about worship.  Worship leadership is taught and caught; it is not an either/or option.

I hope this has been helpful.