2015 Verse of the Week #46: Psalm 100:1-3

This week the passage is from Psalms again. It’s fitting that Seeds Family Worship included so many Psalms on their album Seeds of Praise. The song for this passage is called “Shout,” and while you might be expecting to hear screaming children on this track… it’s actually quite a calm, peaceful tune. Check out the verses in the NIV below:

Psalm 100

A psalm. For giving grateful praise.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness;
    come before him with joyful songs.
Know that the Lord is God.
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

There is a lot to this passage, but unfortunately I am a bit short on time and motivation today. In fact, I don’t feel like writing at all. It’s dreary outside, I have household tasks to do, errands to run, and the entire Internet to distract me from it all.

But a distracted, busy life does not open the heart to love or the mind to wisdom. Thanks to God’s leading me beside still waters and restoring my soul (Psalm 23) in the past, I recognize the need for quieting my heart, contemplating the Word, and acknowledging who God is. So I will try my darndest to do those things he is leading me to do, fighting against everything else that wants my attention (but is not as worthy of it as the Lord) and focusing on this passage for a brief slice of my morning.

Worship: Obviously, the phrase “Worship the Lord” makes me think of worship, but so does the phrase “Know that the Lord is God.” My study of Revelation through BSF is increasing my understanding of worship. This week in our at-home study material we looked at Revelation 4, which weighs in at only 11 verses and describes the throne of God in heaven. The beings who occupy the space closest to God’s throne are in a constant state of worship, and this is a description we find throughout the Bible. Any being that is in the presence of God, whether it is an angel/heavenly being, or if it is a human encountering the glory of God (such as Moses, Joshua, or Jesus’ disciples during the transfiguration), their responses include postures and behaviors signifying humility, unworthiness, maybe even fear, and ascribing all glory to God.

Here on earth it is difficult to get into that posture. Not only can we not physically see God, but our sinful souls get in the way of focusing on his Spirit, his Word, and his character. Our eyes, hearts, and minds are clouded by the sin within us and in the world.

I think that’s why the reaction of humans in Scripture faced with God’s glory is often one of fear. When presented with holy, blinding perfection, one would be immediately aware of the darkness within. Last week I mentioned that I’m working on love and enjoying some softening of my heart. One of the times during which I notice this is worship time at church. To join with my church family in singing praise to God using words of truth is a little taste of heaven, and I feel it in my heart.

But in studying Revelation and thinking about how angels and heavenly beings worship God continually in heaven, I see the contrast between earthly and heavenly worship. My understanding of worship here on earth can and will change, yes– I will have a deeper understanding of how to worship, God’s worthiness of all worship, and the Spirit can bring about a more God-centered, heartfelt experience as I worship in church and at other times. But I think what changes more is my understanding of and my longing for the true worship of heaven. Those in heaven can worship God fully because they are not weighed down as I am by sin within and around them. They are in God’s very presence. His presence floods the heavenly realm with glory. It is the only thing that matters, the only thing to focus on. When we get there it will feel right, not like a fight against distractions and sin as it is here. I look forward to the day when I am free of sin, free of the world, and free to worship.

In the mean time I desire more of God’s Spirit to take over my eyes, heart, and mind so I can experience a little more of God’s presence (which is heaven) even while I am here on earth. He allows me to do this because of Jesus’ sacrifice for my sin, and he sent his Spirit to literally dwell with me. Thankfulness for these gracious gifts is where the “gladness” comes in!

God’s People: When I read “we are his people,” again I think of Revelation. We have studied Romans 11 and Ephesians 4 to see the unfolding of God’s plan to include not only the Jewish people in salvation through Christ, but also Gentiles. Looking at these chapters increased my appreciation of being adopted into God’s family, and therefore also increased my awe and gratefulness to God for being welcomed to heaven someday as a co-heir and co-ruler with Christ as Revelation describes. This is part of what it means to be “his” as Psalm 100:3 states.

Sheep: Just one more thought, and this is perhaps where my distraction shows the most. There is a lot of information (and possibly misinformation) out there about how stupid sheep supposedly are. I’m not going to go there because I have never actually met a sheep and I wouldn’t want to hurt any sheep feelings. 😉 What I do know is that, throughout history and still today, these are creatures that always need help. They seem to be defenseless, whether this is due to low intelligence or physical construction, and require the guidance and care of a shepherd. If we are God’s sheep, I don’t know that this means we are stupid (maybe it does– even the best of us have “moments”), but it does seem to mean we were created to need the care of the Good Shepherd. I see this in different ways: from the very basic fact that we humans require sleep and must cede control for at least a few hours each night, to the more complex ideas of “eternity in our hearts” (Eccl. 3:11) or the longing of the human soul to connect with God (Acts 17:22-32). Because of what I know of God’s character from the Bible and the assurance of the Spirit, I am happy to be a sheep in his pasture.

A sheep.

Wrapping it up: I’m thankful to God for guiding my mind to truth about his Word and his character today, and pray that he will grow good things in my heart from the seeds planted there. This is what the Spirit does for us, God’s people.

I would love to hear form you: what sticks out to you about this passage from Psalm 100 or the other Scriptures I have mentioned? Where do the words cause your mind to go?

this image is from Logos Bible Software

2015 Verse of the Week #36: John 4:23-24

This week’s verses can be heard in the song “God is Spirit” on the Seeds Family Worship album The Character of God. Here is the passage:

John 4:23-24

23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.”

I’ve been enjoying Labor Day weekend, so I hope I can keep this post short in order to enjoy a little more rest before preschool and youth ministry kick off this week. I also hope I can keep it short because I chopped my hand up while slicing some carrots Sunday night. Boo! I mandolin-sliced chunks off of the edge of my hand and the tip of one of my fingers. This is all on my right hand, so writing, typing, self-care, and pretty much all routine tasks are challenging at the moment. And probably for the next several days.

Anyway, after Sunday’s church service I am ready for this passage! I was given the privilege of leading worship, and because the message was focused on the Spirit (Galatians 5) I chose songs that I prayed would tune our minds and hearts in that direction. And, as always, God came through. I got to see and hear evidence of his faithful presence in the praises of his people. By the grace of God we were worshiping together in spirit and truth: celebrating who God is, his love for us, the sacrifice of Jesus, the presence of the Spirit with the redeemed, and recognizing corporately our humble position before God’s righteousness. I love hearing the sound of hundreds of voices praising the Lord, and our congregation was really going for it! I am so encouraged by that sound and feeling.

So with that image, sound, and feeling in mind I will be meditating on John 4:23-24. These words of Jesus were spoken to the woman at the well in Samaria, and the entire story can be found in the first 45 verses of John chapter 4. It’s an amazing story! In the verses of interest, Jesus is telling the Samaritan woman that soon “true worship” of God will not be about going to the correct temple but about the heart of each worshipper. Jesus’ sacrifice as part of God’s great plan to reconcile creation to himself would– and did– change everything.

It is the same now. Worshipping God is not about going to the right church, singing the right songs, or doing a specific set of religious actions. Church services and music and religiosity are actually only a very small part of our worship. We are to serve God with our entire lives, following his Spirit and allowing him to cultivate his fruit in our hearts.

My prayer for myself this week is that God will use the powerful memory of the voices of my church family and the feeling of unity in worship to remind me to seek him in everything I do. And to remember what matters most to him: the heart of the worshipper… my heart. All I need to do is surrender it to him and he will work, as he always does.

I’m also praying for my slices to heal. 🙂

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2015 Verse of the Week #33: Isaiah 6:1-3

This week’s passage corresponds with the song “God is Holy,” track 2 on the Seeds album The Character of God. This theme is reviving my writing motivation, because I think it is so important for Christians to study God’s character (inasmuch as it is revealed to us). As this passage alludes to, we can’t know it all, but we are given enough to come to the conclusion that God is, indeed, holy. We are also given a model for how to respond to this truth. Here are the verses in question:

Isaiah 6:1-3

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

As with most of my verse posts, there is so much I could say! I can’t believe I’m about to say this “out loud” (in print), but I could write a paper on each one. This is coming from a girl who hopes never (NEVER!) to go back to school. School had its time, but now it is done. And yet, I find myself wanting to dig into the Word in a cross-referencing, bibliography-ing, footnoting style. Yikes! I’m sure the urge would pass if I actually sat down to do it, so I will just thank God for the desire he has put in my heart to study the Word and press on in typing out a nutshell’s worth of thoughts one week at a time.

This passage is another common one, and one that was set to music quite notably in the 90s by Chris Falson and published by Maranatha. It’s a great song, and still in heavy rotation in many churches today. Here’s a little musical flashback for you:

But as with many things that are familiar, we can lose some depth and forget some of the meaning over time. This passage has important things to say to us about the nature of God and the appropriate response to who he is.

And as much as I feel like I could write a fully annotated paper on it, I’m going to focus on what these words say to me right now as I begin a new week.

Right now in my walk with God I am working on humility and trust. Or, more accurately, God is working on cultivating those things in me and I’m trying to surrender and let him do his work. Each verse in this passage says something to me about how to walk in humility and trust.

Verse 1: In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. God allowed Isaiah to see him, yet the way he inspired Isaiah to share about the vision was not to describe God’s facial features or his bodily form (except to say he was seated), but rather to say that the train of God’s robe was filling the temple with glory. This reminds me that we can’t handle God. His power, his justice, his purity, his love, even his form… he is too much for us. But still, he allows us glimpses of who he is in all his other-ness (aka holiness) to show his mercy and grace and goodness; he shows us enough for us to see our need for him, to desire him, and to trust him. This week I want to remember that God is too much for me, and when I say that I really mean that he is more than enough. He’s too much for me to handle, but so great and powerful and perfect that he can handle anything I bring to him… if I will bring it to him.

Verse 2: Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. Biblical descriptions of heavenly beings are so fascinating to me. As I read the verse now what speaks to me most is that I can model my response to God after that of the seraphim. The seraphim’s humble behavior tells me he knows he is not worthy, but he continues to serve the Lord. First of all, he covers his face– this reminds me that my thoughts and words are flawed and I should seek God’s guidance and redemption as I think and speak. This includes private thoughts and words as well as my words to others. Second, he covers his feet– a reminder that I walk on a broken, sinful earth that makes my feet dirty. The way that I walk needs to be redeemed by God. Although I have a sinful nature and live in a sinful world, God will work to renew me as I seek him. Third, the seraphim flies– he continues to live out the purpose for which he was created! He continues to worship and serve his holy God because God is worthy and, in his grace, allows the seraphim to remain close to him. I need this reminder that, although I am unworthy, God allows me to discover things about him and help him build his kingdom.

Verse 3: And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” First of all, the words spoken by the seraphim are important to my everyday life: God is other, separate, and perfect, the king of creation. He deserves my devotion, and the practical side of this is what I give my thoughts and time and gifts to. I must not live to serve myself, but to serve God, which often takes the form of serving others. When I must do things for myself I need to keep my motives in check so I am not serving myself, but being a good steward of what I was given (body, mind, materials). The second thing that sticks out to me is how the seraphim are calling to one another. It’s easy to breeze past that statement when we read, but that is what they are doing– they’re not telling God that he is holy; God already knows. They are reminding one another of God’s holy nature. Practically, this is something that I can do in my life. I can participate in calling out God’s holiness to others through corporate worship at my church when we sing and recite the Word, but also through encouraging others in the Spirit and through acts of service to my church body and community. The seraphim also say that the earth is full of God’s glory. This kind of ties into last week’s passage about God as Creator, so I want to continue to delight in his creation, but also to remember that the earth itself longs for God’s redemption.

Whew, those 3 verses contain enough calls to action to fill more than just a week (which is the point)! I’m glad I didn’t go for the fully annotated version. 😉 My prayer for my own heart this week is that I heed the call of the seraphim and live out a proper response to God’s holiness.