September 30, 2010


Last week I was ranting a little about trends in ‘worship’ that seem to me to be unhealthy.  In the words we sing we petition (that feels better than ‘invoke’) God to please show up in power.  And we keep singing. And singing… while we wait for something to happen that will make us feel… well, feel something!

We sing words like:
“God of Heaven come down. Just to know that you are near is enough [but is it really?] God of heaven come down...” which (as much as I do like the rest of the song) does sound rather bossy, and contradictory besides). 

Or we tell God to “Arise, take your place, be enthroned on our praise, arise”, as if He is obligated, because we are singing, to make Himself known to us in some mysterious way.

This feels backwards to me and here’s why:

I can tell my dog to ‘Come!’ and once-upon-a-time I trained my toddler(s) to come when I called because I’m the boss and they’d better or else. A child should not be giving orders to his parents anymore than a soldier would his captain.  Remember the Roman centurion? (Mt.8)  He desperately wanted his servant to be healed but he approached Jesus with utmost respect—“I am not worthy that you should come to my house”.  He understood the way authority works and he knew that in His Position Jesus could do anything, even from a distance.  Jesus marveled at his faith (and didn’t hesitate to meet his need).

God is no reluctant judge doling out justice only in the face of abject and incessant pleading.  He delights for us to know Him; after all, it was His design in the very beginning!  And ever since the Cross, we are invited to ‘draw near’ to His throne, to come right in to where He is and present our requests.  Then why the need to ‘coax’ Him to do our bidding?  I think of wide-eyed Peter out in the storm at sea, hanging on to the edge of the boat looking out at Jesus (‘could it really be Him?’)  and I love his words “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” (Mt.14:28) Other versions say, ‘command’ me to come.  And of course Jesus said, COME!.  Now that’s the command going the right direction…Other instances that come to mind are:

‘Come to me all who are weary; I will give you rest’ (Mt.11:28)

‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.’ (Ja.4:8)

‘Come follow me. I’ll make you fishers of men.’ (Mt.4:19)

Jesus is clearly in the position of authority.  He invites us to come to Him. That seems straightforward to me.

How does this apply to worship then?  Well, if He is our God and we are His people—actually His wild and crazy, not too brilliant, sheep—our position is one of humble sheephood.  We don’t need anything He’s not glad to supply.  Our posture need not be one of  bleating pitifulness (ple-e-e-ease bless us; pet us; hold us; love us).  If we’re not satisfied with some aspect of His care, it’s not His doings.  Maybe we’re the ones that have wondered off into a bramble bush thinking the berries looked mighty tasty…In which case there’s a little something to say to our Shepherd before we start bleating our self-centered, conditional praises and “please’s”’, something I see as a missing prerequisite to worship.  This is “something” even the E-how writer seemed to know about.  His third step for ‘praying to invoke the Holy Spirit’ was:

Confess wrongdoing in order to become a humble vessel. Those who are too proud and not meek in their hearts can not be told differently than what they believe. Confessing your sins to the creator will allow you to step into his presence with a clean heart. When you ask for forgiveness, you are also admitting guilt and imperfection. This can be a tool to humble and signals that you at least acknowledge that you are not the omnipresent deity.

If God seems far-away, who moved?  (And who needs to ‘Come’)  [Hint: He is the Omnipresent one, and the Omnipotent One…]

I wonder if we get so caught up in begging, pleading and trying to manipulate God to meet our perceived needs as we ‘worship’ that we fail to recognize He is standing at our heart’s door, knocking and asking, “Can I come in?” (Rev.3:20) This verse is not about salvation but repentance. “Those whom I love I rebuke.” It’s about God at my door wanting to come in and share a candlelit dinner with me!  That’s possible only as I agree with Him about the state of my ‘room’ and invite Him to take charge. “Yes, Lord, you’re right. I’m wrong…” and now I can appropriately say, ‘Come in! make yourself at home, You are welcome here!’ It’s no longer about demanding Him to meet me where I’m at with no questions asked, but about coming His direction with a heart confessing His Lordship, worshiping Him from a whole and satisfied heart.

“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.
Enter His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise…”

Oooo—this is where I want to be in my heart.  Let it not be said of me: “this people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth and honoreth me with their lips but their heart is far from me.” (Matt.15:8,9)

There’s no denying the God of Heaven will come down.  Jesus said: “Behold, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done…blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city…” Rev.22:12

And we rightfully respond, “Even so come Lord Jesus”.  But let it be with joyful, faith-filled singing,  not discontented pleading.  For we know that He is not slow regarding His promise but  patient with us, and not willing that anyone should perish but that all should come to repentance…(IIPet.3:9)

“Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  And count the patience of our Lord as salvation…”(IIPet.3:14)

Let’s be found worshiping, not whining.  Adoring, not begging. Let our worship be about Him, not us.  He is worthy.



If you have made it through to here I thank-you for trying to follow my thoughts.  And if any ring true in your situation I would be really tickled to know—via ‘comment’ or a quick e-mail.

If you’re interested in more (and better) reading on this topic may I point you to Timothy Ralston’s well thought out article examining the Holy Spirit’s primary importance in worship entitled:
The Spirit's Role in Corporate Worship

And for the really determined here is an article from a different denominational point of view than I am but one well worth examining.  It is dotted with brilliant gems of insight and a well-constructed discussion of many aspects relating to the way we worship.  Read with a highlighter in hand!  To peak your interest here’s one of my highlights:

“Waiting for the Mediator to return from the heavenly summit, we fashion golden calves of our experience to assuage our impatience.”
from the article:
Heaven Came Down: The Mission of Christ
by Michael S. Horton

September 24, 2010

Worship--what are we doing?!

I am seeing a disconcerting trend in ‘worship’ songs lately.  In fact I’m struggling not to let this become a ‘rant’!  So let me just say, I’m not here to ‘blast’ any particular song writers, though I may make mention of particular songs.  My concern is with a growing number of songs that put the worshiper in a stance of attempting to invoke the Holy Sprit. 

I know invoke sounds a little harsh—all sorts of folks out there are into ‘invoking’ spirits and wondering if there’s anything different about what they see as the ‘Christian’ version.  I had my education on that via an online discussion thread titled: 'How is invoking the holy spirit substantially different from invoking Pagan deities?'  Disturbing conclusion: no difference.  And I was surprised to find there’s even a 5-step E-how on ‘Praying to Invoke the Holy Spirit’.  Not exactly an authoritative source--the contributor of this article also offers instruction on ‘How to Throw a Halloween Party for Teenagers’ and ‘How to Dance Really Well in a Club’.  But even he recognizes there’s more to it than praise and worship… But I digress.  I’ll get back to that later, maybe….

Let me explain my objection.  Picture this…the music is playing, smooth and mesmerizing.  And we begin the refrain: —“Holy Spirit come…” or “Come, Lord Jesus, come” with its requisite repeats.  A certain mystical mood has been created and we are all expecting something… but what?!  Are we prepared for our wish were granted? We sing, “Holy Spirit rain down…”  Is He not already here?  Are we not gathered in Jesus’ name?  Does the Holy Spirit not indwell each and every follower of Christ?

Of course I’ve heard it explained (as if the worship leader were reading my mind) that yes, God is present with us but we are asking for Him to show us He’s here, to touch us in some way.  We want more of Him.  My mind darts off to Jesus’ rebuke of those who demanded signs and wonders in order to believe God was in fact among them.  And do we really need something more if we have been blessed already with ‘every spiritual blessing in Christ’ (Eph.1:3)?  What is it we’re really after and why does God not seem to be showing up?!  After all, here we are singing our hearts out.  We’ve made the effort to come.  Now it’s His turn.

A recent chorus goes so far as to beg God to open the sky and fall down on us like rain, and not only that but like fire!  In fact we aren’t going to be content with anything at all ordinary!  What on earth?  I think the sense of the songwriter is that we’re desperate for a ‘move of God’, sick of the status quo, sick of life as we know it, and in this case even fed up with God’s blessings.  Now we just want the real commodity—God Himself.  Wow.  What do you do with a song like that?  And what about this habitual beckoning to God to come do something spectacular.  Does it honor Him, or is it pure self-centered worship?

The way I see it, we’ve got things backwards… But I’ll save that thought for next time.  I’d really like to know how you see it?  What are we after when we worship?  and what needs to be corrected?  Or perhaps where you are things are different.  I’d love to hear what you’re learning about worship.  Please tuck in a comment or send off a little e-mail.  I’ll leave you with the concluding remarks of an excellent article I hope to say more about next time:

Emphasizing the experience of the worshiper as the evidence of the Spirit depreciates his more significant functions, often leading to misunderstanding, pragmatism, narcissism and an idolatry of self rather than the worship of God.
                                                                    --Timothy Ralston

September 17, 2010

Taking Darshan


One of the lovely things about summer is the long uncharted days when duty doesn’t call so loudly and it’s possible to slip away to a sunny spot with a good book.   I am particularly interested in biographies and find writer’s own autobiographies to be a real treat, because they are so well written!  A British author, Rumer Godden, caught my attention earlier this year when I read her London based story, An Episode of Sparrows, aloud  with Rachel.  I went on to thoroughly enjoy her short somewhat autobiographical fiction, The River. It is set in India where she grew up, the child of British parents.  Rumer’s evident love for the natural beauty of India and her respect for its people gave me a whole new appreciation for this place I mostly think of as squalid, wicked and needy.  It also peeked my interest in the autobiography of her childhood and early years of motherhood there—A Time to Dance, No Time to Weep, which became one of my summer reading projects.  I’ve been ruminating on a tidbit from this book lately, a remark about the Hindu practice of ‘darshan’.  See if it reminds you of something as it did me ( :

‘Indians have a custom of taking ‘darshan’’ of significant holy places or revered people or even a renowned view such as the Himalayan snow peaks which means ‘they will travel miles, make pilgrimages simply to take ‘darshan’ of that person or place, not trying to make contact or speak—certainly not taking photographs as we do—but, simply by looking, to let a little of the personality, sainthood, holiness or beauty, come into their souls. They go away, usually without speaking and so keep it for the rest of their lives.’ (p.100)

Is it just me, or do you hear Paul echoing:
“And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another”(2Cor.3:18).
I love this concept-- transformed from who I seem to be to who He is—from glory to glory—till He is seen in me. (My family could get excited about this too I think!).

One catch in this gazing with reverence though… the object of our awe is Himself invisible!  Not like a mountain or a Ghandi or a molten image, but invisible.  Where do I look?!  Now, to a point there is something of God to be seen in His creation.  I can sit quietly beside Powell Lake for instance hearing the lap of rippling water, looking and listening to know and be known… Last week I could be found nestled on a mossy seat up  the side of Scout Mountain looking out to the horizon through sinuous arbutus branches and fir boughs feeling the

Fresh breeze of fall
Intoxicating rush
A Lover’s gift
Wrapped round with Son…

God was there, this custom gift of a beautiful moment clearly communicated to my soul through His creation.  Is this what it means to behold His glory?  How do we ‘fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith?’

I ran into a couple tourism ads lately, one of which is now stuck to the front of my new Teacher Notebook.  It depicts a serene lakeside view stretching off to a horizon strung with clouds of sunset hue and in the center of the picture the words:   " Come as YOU ARE
                   LEAVE a changed person. "

Oh, so even our culture recognizes the virtue of solitude and silence in the midst of God’s creation…

Or how about this one:

   ‘In UTAH you will discover…a part of yourself you never knew existed.
    Your life is Changed.
    You are Elevated!’

Wow, so maybe we have this concept of ‘darshan’ too?

But there’s got to be more to it.  There are rumblings in the Church nowadays to go back to some neglected practices—things like solitude and silence—and I’ve been hearing some anxious feedback that this stuff could be dangerous…So when are these practices ‘safe’ and even productive for the genuine God-follower?  What would a Christian version of ‘darshan’—a gazing with awe and being transformed in the process—look like?

This transformation is clearly our destiny:
“For those whom He foreknew He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, in order that He might be the Firstborn among many brothers.  And those whom He predestined He also called…justified…(and) glorified!” Romans 8:29

And the process is clearly His work, even if it will not be perfected until we see Him at His coming:
“When He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” I Jn.3:2

“For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face…” I Cor.13:12

So in the meantime?  What’s our stance to be?

I guess it starts with looking UP—setting our minds on things above, where Christ is (Col.3:1).  No mention here of navel-gazing to see if I’m measuring up. Hmm… this is a hurdle for me.

It’s also about learning to set our hope on what is unseen, ‘waiting for it with patience’, rather than all the stuff we can see (Rom.8:25).  Next time I say, “I sure hope…” maybe I better listen in on my heart and get it in for a Tune-up!

Gazing in awe at the Unseen One has everything to do with walking by faith, not sight, keeping step with the Spirit—listening for His prompts, walking with my mind set on His business (Rom.8:5). 

For me that’ll include lots of quiet times in God’s creation with His Word at hand ‘cause that’s how I hear His whispers best.   In these moments I learn to tune into things above and let go of my preoccupation with external cares and internal woes. 

But somehow it’s also got to mean keeping an eye God-ward in the nitty-gritty of my day:
--believing God’s at work in every little thing and refusing to be discouraged.
--praying without ceasing when groaning seems more natural.
--and smiling a whole lot more, as if God truly were a very present help and His joy my strength!

Every day can be full of ‘darshan’ moments as I gaze at what’s before me through His eyes—a holy thing meant for my transformation. And could it be God gazes back with a Father’s delight in His eyes at the prospect of what this eager bumbling child is becoming, all because of His love?  I hope so ( :

Thanks for ruminating along with me. I’d love to hear your thoughts…