The Joy of Glory

Discovering endless joy in the boundless glory of God…

Tag: worship

Lent Devotional: Psalm 139

Psalm 139 (click here)
O LORD, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O LORD, you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it. (Psalm 139:1-6)

Reflection
Often, as I read through Scripture, I find myself asking if I really believe what I’m reading. If I did…it should change me more than it seems to. I mean…do I really believe the Lord sees all I do? That he searches me and knows me better than I know myself?

Do I really believe he knows my thoughts and words before they are formed. How does such knowledge not reduce me to a shaking leaf, exposed before the holy one in all my un-holiness?

I think the Psalmist answers my question in verse 6, “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”

It’s not that I don’t believe these things are true, they are just such lofty truths my brain cannot possibly hold on to every aspect at once. I can’t wrap my mind around something so fathomless…something so far outside my own experience.

I cannot fully grasp the vastness of God. No one can, but God himself.

So what should be the effect of such unattainable truth in my life? Why does the Psalmist spend so much time pondering things he can never fully grasp? One word…worship.

The Psalmist stands before the vastness of God much in the way you stand before the ocean, the grand canyon, or the night sky…simply in awe of the vastness you cannot even grasp no matter how long you gaze.

The Psalmist wants a glimpse of God…and even a glimpse is beyond anything he can handle. Is God this big to us? Is he this beyond us? Is he this worthy of our worship? If he’s not…then are we even attempting to look at him?…or have we satisfied our spiritual curiosity with a vision of something much smaller than the real thing…an idol?

True worship of the true God should always leave our hearts beating with the same awe-filled words… “Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.”

*The complete SVCC Lenten reading guide is available here.

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2015 Lenten Daily Devotionals

Each day the Lenten season, I am emailing out a devotional to many of the members of SVCC. I will also be sharing these devos via blogging. Hopefully, I will post first thing each morning, but definitely by 12pm. The first devotional may be found below. These are designed to accompany the SVCC Lenten reading guide which may be found here: 2015 Lenten Reading Guide.

In these devotionals I will give a link that will take you to the entire reading for the day if you would like to read it. I will actually include a few of the verses upon which I will focus my reflections. In the reflection section I will make a few brief comments which I hope will spur your own thinking and prayers.

Lent is meant to be a season of repentance and fasting that prepares our hearts for the coming celebration of Easter (fuller explanation here). Repentance is a reminder that we need to be saved from our sin…we need a Savior. Fasting reminds us that we are not in need of the things this world offers, but in desperate need of Jesus.  So the point of Lent is that we need Jesus…we need Easter. It is my prayer that these daily devotionals will simply help remind us daily of our need for Christ.

Genesis 4:1-16 (click here)
In the course of time Cain brought to the LORD an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions. And the LORD had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. So Cain was very angry, and his face fell. The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:3-7)

Reflection
Why did the Lord have regard Abel’s offering and not Cain’s? This is the first question which pops into our minds upon reading the passage. Truthfully, we ask this question because of a deeper question pushing in our hearts, namely, “How can I know the Lord will have regard for what I offer to him?” Unfortunately, this is the wrong question altogether!

Our question about Cain and Abel assume that the difference must be in the offerings they made. There is something about Abel’s offering that makes it acceptable and something about Cain’s that renders it unacceptable. This type of thinking reveals that we are looking in the wrong place. We are looking at the offerings when we should be looking at the offerers! The text mentions the people before the offering! God had regard for ABEL…and his offering. God did not have regard for CAIN…and his offering.

Abel presented his offering in faith. Cain, apparently, did not. The problem wasn’t with what was offered, but how it was offered.  Abel’s was offered in faith while Cain’s was offered to earn the Lord’s regard.  This is why Abel received the grace, because it can only be received through faith and never by works!

Our sacrifice to the Lord is the perfect lamb, Jesus, who offered himself! And by faith in his sacrifice, we receive the grace of the Lord.  If our hearts resemble that of Cain, angered by the grace that others have received, then that is simply evidence we have not actually received grace ourselves because we have been trying to earn it…which is impossible. Grace, by it’s nature, is undeserved, unearned, and unmerited.

This Lent… do not be angered by grace… receive it by faith and be saved by grace.

The Pursuit of Work Through Redemption (Side A)

*This is part three of the blog series: A Mini-Biblical-Theology of Work. Part 1 can be found here and part 2 can be found here.

Sin has infected everything, but the good news of the gospel is that Christ died to redeem everything! We typically focus on the fact that Christ died to redeem us… and that is key! It is central to the gospel!

Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed US from the CURSE of the law by becoming a curse for us…”

Yet, through his death, Jesus is not just redeeming US from the curse of sin…he is redeeming EVERYTHING!

Revelation 21:5, “…Behold, I am making ALL THINGS new…”

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Sin infected all things, Jesus is redeeming all things! This includes our work! Jesus redeems our work from the problem of the fall back to the purpose of creation! Because of what Jesus has done we can worship through our work once again! How? What does it look like for us to worship through our vocations?

The apostle Paul helps us think through this in Ephesians 6:5-8.

“Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man, knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a bondservant or is free.”

Now, I realize this passage is specifically speaking about slaves serving their masters and not employees working for their employers. My purpose in this blog is not to explore all that the Bible has to say about slavery…although I do plan to tackle that in the future.

However, amidst our present vocational concerns, I do think that what Paul is saying here applies to us in our work because of the end of verse 8.

“…knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a BONDSERVANT or is FREE.”

What Paul is saying applies to the slave and the free worker. So why is his primary focus slavery? Two reasons… First, more abuses existed in slave/master relationships than in free employee/employer situations. Thus, it would have been a higher priority for Paul to aim the bulk of his instructions at that institution.

Second, if most of us struggle with the futility of our work, how much more so a slave? They didn’t pick their job, they don’t get paid for their job… it really seems pointless. Yet, Paul can look at what appears to be the most dead end task in the world and still offer hope for worshipping amidst one’s labor. If he can say this to slaves, how much more so to those who are free?

By aiming his instructions at those in forced labor, Paul simultaneously instructs those of us in free labor situations all the more!

Jesus has freed our work from the problem of the fall back to the purpose of creation…worship! Paul points us to two primary ways in which we now worship through our work. We will tackle one today and one tomorrow.

First, We do our work for God!

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This addresses the sin of Genesis 3 in which we attempted to work for our own glory. Now, we do our work for the Lord.

Ephesians 6:5, “Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, AS YOU WOULD CHRIST…”

Ephesians 6:7, “…rendering service with a good will AS TO THE LORD and not to man…” 

Colossians 3:24, “…you ARE serving the Lord Christ.”

We worship through our work by working for God and his glory…not our own! Do you feel the freedom in that? Working for my glory leads to the endless rat race of self-promotion. Satisfaction is always to be found in my next promotion or raise. My goal is always moving and so I can never truly attain it!

However, working for God and his glory sets me free from all of that! I no longer have to kill myself working overtime to promote me…because it’s not about me anymore! My goal has changed from my glory to God’s and the best news is that this is a goal that doesn’t move!

Working for the glory of God is about doing my work in such a way that “images” him to others. I am to work in such a way that shows what he is like, that reveals his character and in doing so I find joy and satisfaction…not because of what I do, but who I’m doing it for! Ephesians 6:5-6 help us see what it looks like to work in a way that “images” God to the world.

“Bondservants, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, WITH A SINCERE HEART, as you would Christ…not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God FROM THE HEART…”

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Setting before ourselves the truth that we ultimately do our work for Jesus transforms our hearts! We work with a sincere heart! We begin to display the character of Christ in our work! Do you have a horrible job? A horrible boss? A mind-numbing job? One that feels pointless? You know, it’s the temporary job you took until you get the real one that will really be fulfilling. Wonder how you could ever work with a sincere heart? Remember… you work for Jesus!

When you work for Jesus, you will begin to display the character of Jesus!

You serve HIM with a sincere heart and your work becomes an act of worship! It points to Jesus!

Ephesians 6:7, “…render service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man…”

Notice what Paul is saying. We render service…we serve others (our employers, our employees, our customers, our clients, our families) as if we were literally rendering that service to the Lord, not to man.

That is mind blowing and paradigm shifting!

How does that truth change the way you approach your boss? Remember, you’re rendering service to the Lord! How does that change your interaction with clients? How does that change the way you are serving your family through working?

The truth that we do our work for God transforms us to display his character and “image” him through our vocation.

And it is vital to note that we can do this, point to the glory of God through our work, whether we are “successful” or whether we “fail” according to the world’s standards!

Working for God may take you down the path of promotion. David went from being a shepherd to being a King. Yet, working for God may lead to nothing but lateral movements in your career. I think of Lydia who sold fabric when she became a believer and as far as we know that is what she kept doing for the rest of her life.  Working for God may even lead to demotion! Paul went from being a respected Pharisee to a despised prisoner. I’m afraid that demotion is part of God’s plan more often than any of us would like to admit or even think about.

Yet, promotion/lateral movements/demotion no longer determine the true success or value of your work! Your work is no longer defined by what you do, but by who you work for… and success is faithfully working for Him! Putting him on display no matter if you “succeed” or “fail” in the eyes of the world!

failure_successJesus has freed our work from the sin of Genesis 3! We no longer worship our work, we worship God through our work by doing our work for him and not ourselves.

Work is no longer our everything… he is!

This is the first way in which we can worship God through our work because of the redeeming work of Jesus.

There is a second, equally important, truth about worshipping God through our work…and that we will tackle tomorrow.

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