Monday, March 08, 2004

Worship that Pleases God

Chapter 13 of The Purpose Driven Life is called "Worship that Pleases God."

Worship in truth and spirit, Warren advises. "Worship must be based on the truth of Scripture, not our opinions about God." I'm not sure what Warren's getting at here, talking about worshipping a "politically correct image of God" that is idolatry.

Well, our opinions about God have created a lot of bloody wars over the centuries, because it seems there are a number of differing views, all based on the same Scripture.

We have to set that aside and just worship the Creator.

Father Jake has a great entry on worship: just look to your right, hit the button for "Father Jake Stops the World" and read his entry from Friday, March 5 on worship.

I defined worship as an outpouring of love and adoration for God.

Warren says be sincere. Adopt the style of worship that best represents your love for God. After all, we were all made differently, so we shouldn't be expected to worship in the exact same way. There are traditionalists, naturalists, activists, ascetics, caregivers, enthusiasts, comtemplatives, and intellectuals, each with their own approach. For me, it can be any of the above, depending of the time of the day!

Warren says "God is pleased when our worship is thoughtful." It must engage our mind - rote recitation, with our minds engaged elsewhere, does not glorify God. Be specific - praise God for what? It must be intelligible to others, to act as a witness. It must be rooted in the Word.

"One thing worship costs us is our self-centeredness. You cannot exalt God and yourself at the same time. You don't worship to be seen by others or to please yourself. You deliberately shift the focus off yourself."

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength" (Mark 12:30, NIV) is quoted at the beginning and end of the chapter.

Chapter 14 - "When God Seems Distant"

"God is real, no matter how you feel," says Warren. Amen.

There are times when we feel God's presence very closely, and other times when it seems that God has disappeared from our lives.

Warren says sin sometimes causes a disconnect in our lives. But sometimes God is testing us. "It is a test of faith -- one we all must face: Will you continue to love, trust, obey, and worship God, even when you have no sense of his presence or visible evidence of his work in your life?"

Even David felt abandoned by God at times -- the dark night of the soul.

"God's omnipresence and the manifestation of his presence are two different things," says Warren, a good point. Warren uses the story of Job to illustrate how we should praise God even when He is silent: "..The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away; may the name of the Lord be praised."

Focus on God's unchanging nature and trust that God will keep his promises. Don't focus on your emotions. Remember what God has already done for you.

"When you feel abandoned by God yet continue to trust him, you worship him in the deepest way." This, to me implies a realization that God has not abandoned me -- it may seem that way at times, in the depths of my misery. That's why my faith should lead and not my feelings.

Chapter 15 is "Formed for God's Family"

A child of God. Each one of us. God treasures that relationship. Warren talks about our rich inheritance as children of God.

Baptism is identified by Warren as "not an optional ritual, to be delayed or postponed. It signifies your inclusion in God's family. It publicly announces to the world, 'I am not ashamed to be a part of God's family.' Have you been baptized?...Baptism shows you are part of God's family."

I know Warren comes from a different denomination, so I'm jumping off here:
Baptism is one of the most beautiful and meaningful sacraments of them all in the Episcopal tradition, a covenant with God. It marks us each as one of God's own -- belonging to Him. It is a communal, a community act in the Episcopal ritual. See pages 299-308 in the Book of Common Prayer.

Each person in the congregation is asked to help uphold the candidate for baptism in the Christian faith, "with God's help." We renounce the evil powers of this world and turn to Jesus Christ, putting our whole trust in his grace and love. At each baptism, each of us is asked to renew our own baptismal covenant.

The celebrant sanctifies the water and the oil, thanking God for the gift of water, connecting the baptisms of John and Christ to this baptism, and consecrating the oil, "that those who are sealed with it may share in the royal priesthood of Jesus Christ."

The celebrant says, "(Name), you are sealed by the Holy Spirit in Baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever. Amen."

There is nothing better we can ask for.

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