Tag Archives: why worship

You Should Have Been There, It Was Epic

“Then the Lord answered Job out of the storm. He said: “Who is this that darkens my counsel with words without knowledge? Brace yourself like a man; I will question you, and you shall answer me. Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” Job 38:1-5

From this point God goes on to chastise Job with pictures of creating the universe.    “Where were you when I measured the universe while a chorus of morning stars sang and angels shouted for joy?” “Where were you when I tricked-out the clouds?” “Have you seen the freakish stuff in the ocean depths?” “Have you seen my outrageous snow-machine?” “Have you seen my Van de Graaff generator for making lightning? It should be called the Van de Godd generator.”

For sure this is a rebuke from God in response to Job getting all up in His grill.  God had patiently listened to Job get all uppity about the injustice of his situation, albeit perceived injustice.  In essence God was saying, “Who are you to question me?”  It can sound like a rather caustic and abusive rebuke. “Man-up because I’m about to throw-down.”

But attributing such vindictiveness doesn’t reconcile completely with God’s character. It doesn’t align with God’s loving character in general or the character of God specifically toward Job revealed in the opening chapter of the book, “Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.” Sure, God may have finally had His fill of Job’s whining and accusations, but that doesn’t jive with God’s character, either.  God is infinite.  To think that man could test the limit of God’s patience is to think that man could also test the limit of God’s love.  That’s a non sequitur with The Infinite, The Beginning and The End.  I think that there’s another way to hear God’s words to Job.  I think that they can be heard with awe and wonder; one friend regaling another with tales of exploits past, a chum recounting adventures to the delight of his besty…

“Man-up, ’cause you’re not going to believe how it really went down!”

“Dude, you should have been there.  It was epic!”

“It was tricked out!”

“Absolute pownage!”

“I was en fuego; call me The Busdriver ’cause I took everyone to school!”

“The angels rocked out and even the morning stars threw down!”

“The whole time I kept thinking, ‘I wish Job was here. He would so dig this.'”

OK, it’s a paraphrase…maybe more than a paraphrase. But really, don’t you think God wants us to see amazing things?  Doesn’t He want us to experience the grandeur of His creation?  Don’t we rejoice when we experience the wonder of God?

And God didn’t stop His wonders after creating the universe.  He’s still driving the bus…He’s still en fuego…you know that He’s still buttah ’cause He’s still on a roll.  God is still all about The Epic!  And He wants you to be there for it.  What is He going to do today that He wants you to witness?  And then who does He want you to tell about it?  Who does God want you to regale with wondrous tales of yore and exploits to come?

As for my paraphrase, it’s not quite as far-fetched as we might think.  Jump ahead to the epilogue…

“After the Lord had said these things to Job, He said to Eliphaz the Temanite, ‘I am angry with you and your two friends, because you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has…my servant Job will pray for you and I will accept his prayer and not deal with you according to your folly.'” (Job 42:7-8) It seems that the one who got it right was Job who was willing to reveal himself to God so that God could in turn reveal Himself to Job.  The ones who truly suffered were the pious “friends” with the religious platitudes.  Job got to witness the wonders of God because He sought the wonders of God.

It must have been epic.

That’s why worship.

The Passion of the Christ and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups

“But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

If we understand that Jesus was fully, completely human and fully, completely God, then it can sometimes be easy to discount His death as a sacrifice.  By that I mean, Jesus, as God, knew that He would be resurrected following His death.  From our human perspective death is an overwhelming prospect, even if we understand that there is life afterward.  Heck, many of us aren’t willing to delay gratification long enough to pass up the super-sized Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups in the check out line at Walmart.  But on occasion, as we stare blankly at the delicious morsels that are food of the gods, we summon up the fortitude to deny the impulsive self and sacrifice a fleeting moment of peanut buttery goodness.  In that moment we say, “If this peanut butter cup should pass my lips but Father let it be your will.”

To an eternal being three days of death is similar, maybe not even as significant.  Three days in comparison to eternity is less meaningful than a speck of dust floating on wisps of light streaming through a window.  With that mindset, it’s easy to dismiss Jesus’ sacrifice of death as trivial; “What’s the big deal? He’s God.  To Him, giving up life for three days is easier than me giving up those peanut butter cups.” (OK, I’ve gotta stop dwelling on the Reese’s.    The sacrifice is getting unbearable.)

“But what about the horror of crucifixion? Aren’t you forgetting the agony of being beaten and whipped by the guards?”

Sure, sure from our human perspective those atrocities are almost unthinkable, particularly to our twenty first century sensibilities.  As horrendous and graphic as Mel Gibson’s depiction was, the reality of crucifixion is far worse. But again, viewed from the perspective of the Almighty they don’t even register a blip on the radar of eternity.

No, to reduce the cup from which Jesus drank to mere human suffering is cheap.  Jesus, as God, understood what we could never comprehend.  And just a sliver of understanding would have been more than we could survive.  He understood that there is no earthly description for the horrors of my sin.  Not for one minute would I be able to bear the weight of my own sin.  Should I have ever fully understood the horror of my sin I would have been annihilated, disappearing in what C.S. Lewis describes in The Great Divorce as “an acrid smelling puff of smoke.”  In fact, that is exactly what I was before the saving grace of Jesus, annihilated.  I was less than an acrid smelling puff of smoke.

And not only did Jesus bear the weight of my sins, He bore the weight of the sins of everyone that was, is and will be.  Does that sound familiar?  It’s the inverse corollary of “I Am.”  It would take the Alpha and Omega to overwhelm my sin and the sins that were, are and will be.

And while I was still just an acrid smelling puff of smoke occupying less than just a fleeting moment, while the very smell of my presence was still repugnant “Christ died for me.”  When I deserved exactly what I had coming to me Jesus didn’t simply save me from it, He took if for me.  As ferocious as the attacks were on His person, He bore spiritual horrors beyond description so that I, that we, might have life beyond imagination.

That’s why worship.

What Hockey, Emeril Live and Infomercials Teach about Fasting

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting.  I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full.” Matthew 6:16

Well, today starts the third half of my fast.  Are you wondering how one can have three halves; do you think that it’s a mathematically impossibility?  Not at all, my non-Canadian friends. (Our wonderful neighbors to the north will understand three halves because they invented the concept.)

I speak, of course, of hockey.  Unlike basketball or football which only have two halves, or baseball innings which are equally divided into halves, hockey has three halves.  Now you may say, “hockey doesn’t have halves, it has periods.”  I disagree.  Rather than think of one period of hockey as 33.3% of a game, I prefer to think of it as three periods of 50% each.  After two periods you have as much sports entertainment as two halves of most other sports.  But with hockey you get an extra half free.  Thats an additional 50% absolutely free!  So you don’t forget, order before midnight tonight; operators are standing by!  Right there is why when I was a child my answer to, “What do you want to be when you grow up, Little Joe?” my answer was, “Canadian.”

“O, Canada!  Our home and native land…”

(I’m not just preaching there, it’s a true story to which my mother will attest in her inevitable post comment.)

The fast I spoke of earlier is twenty one days long, three weeks.  Today starts the third week or the third half.  Of course, I could think of it as only 66.6% over, but that’s too close to thinking that I have to endure one more week of denying the flesh…er, taste buds.  Thinking of it as three halves means that I finished the fast yesterday, but God in His infinite brilliance and largesse, much like my Canadian neighbors to the north, is “gifting” to me another week.  In other words, I don’t have to tolerate, bear with, put up with, suffer through or withstand 6 more days of fasting; I get to celebrate, commemorate, party through, revel and rave in an extra week of feasting on God.

How can someone know what their attitude toward a fast is?  By taking a look at how they intend to break it.  First, I should say that I do believe whole heartedly in breaking a fast with a celebration and a feast, albeit a sensible feast.  In fact, the celebration of breaking a fast should just be the inevitable outcome of the celebration during the fast.  But too often we don’t just look forward to the feast at the end of the fast…we crave it, we covet it, we lust after it.  A friend of mine would watch Emeril live before going to bed during a fast.  He said it was akin to self-flagellation like monks would do.  I would tease him that is more like food-porn (oh, c’mon…lighten up, it’s satire).

Anyway, how we break a fast is the most telling part and how we look forward to breaking the fast will help us keep our heart in check during the fast.  If we can’t wait to get back to normal, we’re not fasting were coping.  If we find ourselves feel grateful that we have 50% free, then we understand Matthew 6:16.  If, when we finally break the fast, simply gorge yourself on our previous life, then we weren’t fasting, we were enduring it.  On the other hand, if we break the fast, but a bit of it stays with us, then we’ve worshipped in the fast; we’ve fasted and feasted while with the Bridegroom.

That’s why worship.

Gifts Unaware

“Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” I Cor. 9:15

I recently gave somebody a gift.  It wasn’t a big deal.  The gift didn’t cost me anything.  More accurately, it didn’t require a purchase.  It did require a certain amount of effort, emotional effort.  There was planning involved along with timing.  Follow through was required and it was also a surprise. The recipient had no idea of the gift.

In fact, it’s still sort of a surprise because the recipient still doesn’t know that they’ve received the gift.  You see, it’s not actually tangible.  You can’t see it or touch it; it’s the type of gift that isn’t experienced in the traditional sense.

How can this “intangible something or other” that can’t be touched, seen, heard, smelled or tasted be a gift?  It was a joyful experience for me to give it.  I knew that it would bring joy to the recipient.  Even though they didn’t know that they had received a gift, the experience of receiving it brought evidence of a joyful heart to their face.

I guess in some sense they knew that they were receiving something, but they didn’t know the extent to which the gift went.  It required me to do some things I wouldn’t normally do to make the gift possible; it meant that I would have to set aside my agenda so that someone else could experience joy.  For weeks I needed to abandon my wishes so that I could grant the wishes of the recipient.

It was well worth it and continues to be worth it.  Even though the person didn’t know that they were receiving a gift, and still doesn’t know that the gift is still being given, they have received it joyfully.  They continue to receive it joyfully.

Here’s “Kicker #1”: I thought the gift was going to be for just one person.  But while giving the gift I learned that it wasn’t appropriate for me to give it to just one person, but that there were others that would enjoy the gift.  Each new recipient has responded the same way, with joy.  And with each new person that I give the gift to my own joy increases.  There are more that will receive the gift and I can’t wait to give it to them!

And “Kicker #2”: The gift requires continual giving.  If I stop giving the gift it will no longer be a gift.  But the more of the gift I give, the more it brings me joy.

“Kicker #3?” I don’t think that the recipients will ever know the depths to which the gift goes, that the gift is indescribable.  And the fact that they will never know the extent of the gift makes it more of a joy for me to give.

I suppose that it’s much the same with the “indescribable gift” the caused Paul to use and exclamation point.  He doesn’t use a “!” often, but there it is.  We’ll never know the depths to which God loves us.  We won’t know the extent of the gift we’ve received through Jesus.  We think we know, but we don’t know.  It’s indescribable.

Kicker #1: God’s gift isn’t just for one.  It’s for many…it’s for all.  He’s a God that can defy the laws of physics where His gift of eternal life is intended for all individually and individually for all.  Indescribable.

Kicker #2: God’s gift is eternal.  It is truly the gift that keeps giving.  Again, God defies the laws of physics.  His gift was given once for all (I Peter 3:18).  And once you receive it it is eternal.

Kicker #3: We’ll never know the depths of His gift of salvation.  And I think that’s OK with Him.  I think He enjoys it that way; I think it blesses Him when we receive it with innocence.

Notice I didn’t say “receive it with ignorance.”  Just as the recipients of my gift know that something was received, they don’t understand the extent to which it goes.  And I want it that way.  Those who have received the gift I gave are receiving it in love because I love them and they love me; not because of the value of the gift.  They’re not ignorant of receiving something, they’re simply blessed to receive it in joyful innocence because it’s about a relationship, not a “thing.”

It blesses God’s heart when we receive from Him because of who He is, not because of what He gives.  Receiving in innocence is rejoicing in the gift without knowing the extent of the gift.  I suppose that we know less than one tenth of one percent of what God’s gift of grace really means.  We may know that we’ve received something, but we’re joyfully unaware of the extent.  And that’s by His design.  He designed it so that we might have eternal life through Jesus.  Who can understand the extent of a gift of a love that reaches all the way to the end of the eternal?

It’s indescribable; it’s a gift unaware.  We might not understand it.  We might not have words for it, but we can respond with a joy like we do.  That’s authentic worship.  That’s why worship.

Quantum Physics and King David

“O Lord, do not forsake me; be not far from me, O my God.  Come quickly to help me, O Lord my savior.” Psalm 38:21-22

Isn’t it fascinating that David, the man after God’s own heart, would also feel the crush of his own sin so intently?  One of the seeming dichotomies of Christian life is that the closer one gets to God the more one realizes how much further there is to go.  The blessing is that the more one realizes how much further there is to go the more one realizes how much closer God is.

I fancy myself an amateur theoretical physicist, particularly in the area of quantum physics.  What does this mean?  It means that I like to read about it and watch episodes of Nova, but not really apply myself to master the discipline required to adequately understand it.

Along with quantum physics I enjoy learning about chaos theory.  In some respects, quantum physics and chaos theory are related because scientists are learning that the laws of classical physics, i.e. Newtonian physics, break down at the sub-atomic level.  A recent discovery reveals that one sub-atomic particle can exist in two places at one time.  Further, the appearance of that sub-atomic particle cannot be predicted at any particular place in the universe at any given time.  However, the appearance of that particle does not seem to be random and certain probabilities of its appearance can ascertained. (For more information I highly recommend Brian Greene’s books, “The Elegant Universe” and “The Fabric of the Cosmos.”)

While chaos theory and quantum physics aren’t traditionally related, I believe they do support each other.  In essence, the closer you get to God’s creation, the more you realize how much the hand of a Grand Designer was and is necessary.  Also, the Creator must by definition be completely different than the created.

One allegory used in chaos theory is to ask, “how long is the coast of Great Britain?”  If one measures the coast as viewed from the International Space Station, then a very finite distance would be measured.  If the same person measures from an airplane, then the measurement increases due to the greater detail viewed from closer proximity, however it is still a finite distance.

Continuing on, one measuring the distance by walking the coast would be longer still owing to the greater detail as the measurer would have to circumnavigate many bays, harbors and inlets unseen from the air.  Imagine now that the surveyor is miniaturized to the size of a crawling insect.  The task of measuring the coast of Great Britain and the trek it would take now seems insurmountable.  Moving from the sublime to the ridiculous, if one shrinks to the size of a single cell organism, then the length of the coast become irrelevant and for all purposes ceases to exist.

The same is true with the Christian life.  The closer we get to God through Jesus, the more of Him there is to discover.  There is an inverse corollary, however.  Rather than God becoming irrelevant at some point, as did the coastline, we realize our own insignificance.

But God…

…in spite of our insignificance, in spite of our sinfulness, in spite of our filthiness, in spite of the impossibility and futility of the journey God carries us through.  In spite of the chaos, the unpredictability and capriciousness of our situation God is steadfast, true, faithful to forgive and love us.  And the more He fills our view of life.

That’s why worship.