At last, a public school makes a very wise decision. I’m impressed.
â€œWorship is an act of obedience of the heart. It is a response that requires the very core of who you are, to love the Lord for who He is, not just for what He does. Worship is more than singing beautiful songs in church on a Sunday. It is more than just instruments and music. As a true worshipper, your heart will long to worship Him at all times, in all ways, and with all your life.â€ â€“Darlene Chszech
I lead youth worship at my church, and for the past two years I have been horribly frustrated each time I begin singing every Wednesday night and Sunday morning. Something isn’t right. I’m distracted by the sound system not working quite right, the piano too quiet, my guitar out of tune, someone singing off key, the beat is way off, the words don’t come up on the screen, and although I see listeners in the audience, the worshippers seem to have not shown up.
I blamed the distractions for this frustration. I blamed others for the problems. I think we all do that in our lives at some time or another, blaming others for some of the problems we have, when in reality the problem is not with them. It’s with you and me. That’s the point where I finally came to. I realized that my view of worship was distorted. My focus was completely off. I sang the words, but didn’t truly mean them. I was going through the motions every time I hit the stage. I didn’t stand up and share about the songs, yet I called each night a bad one because it felt empty. I felt like I didn’t know what I was doing on stage, yet the reality was that I didnâ€™t move forward and try to understand and plan things out or take a lead. I just let things flow out of control, not caring what happened because my heart was all wrong.
In the end, it looked like I resembled everyone else. I was apathetic about worship.
Worship is an astounding thing — we, the minuscule men and women God has created, can actually enter into the presence of God with thanksgiving and praise (Psalm 100:4). We can have access to God through Jesus Christ, because of the gospel (Romans 5:2)! That truth is what we forget when we enter worship. So many times we go in “expecting something” for ourselves. It’s all about us, and not about the Lord. We may say we don’t want it to be all about us, but what we mean is that we don’t want others to say “what a great singer he is!” Itâ€™s false humility. As a leader in worship, I should be praying that I fade out of the picture so that everyone is led into the presence of God and is able to give God their all, and receive nothing, because only God deserves the entire honor and all the glory. We go to worship to give to God, not to be blessed by Him. Yet we understand that when we draw close to God, He draws close to us (James 4:8). His grace never ceases to amaze me.
I finally realized what was wrong as I drove home last night after worship. I wasn’t working to lead others into worship because my understanding of worship was distorted. I thought that I understood it, but it was clear that I was mistaken. My prayer that night was full of repentance — for so many years, I have been worshipping with myself in mind, and not God alone. Itâ€™s called idolatry. I’m telling God that He’s not as important to me. I’m the one who is important in this relationship, not Him. I want to receive. I donâ€™t truly want to give Him anything.
But this is so terribly wrong! Only by His grace will my view of worship shift from myself to giving my all to the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings.
This was a major step I was missing. I was not delighting in God and giving my all back to Him. I only wanted what I could get out of worship. Now, of course, we do receive edification from worship, especially when we are taught the Scriptures through our songs, but that was all I wanted. And I wasn’t even opening my Bible during the time we sang! I was missing the deepness of worship, the rich nature of worship, the beauty; because I was focusing on myself and the emotion I wanted to receive. But that cannot and must not be my ultimate goal. I want to enter into the beauty of God because He has saved me from my iniquity. I deserve nothing, but God deserves everything. He saved me from impending judgment and from my depravity and black sin.
“If we are truly to draw near to God in worship,” says Wayne Grudem, “there must be a striving for personal holiness of life.” He tells us of the verse in Hebrews that reminds us to strive for “holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). And that is where I have finally moved to in the realm of worship. It is about God, not about me. All the side benefits are wonderful, but I just want to give all I have to God. The frustration must end as I enter into the very presence of God, laying all of me at His feet.
â€œâ€™Hark!â€™ â€¦Do you know what that means? It means, â€˜To listen.â€™ Thatâ€™s right! It means â€œto listen attentively.â€ Which was something I was not capable of doing until last week. It was clearly more than just a coincidence that God used â€œHark! The herald angels singâ€ to draw me closer to Him. He knew my weakness and exploited it until it became my strength. He talks to each one of us differently, in ways we will know it is He who is talking.â€ â€“ Sam Sargent
Hark is a story about Samuel Sargent, a recently divorced man, who is now depressed and lost amidst his once beloved holiday. He concludes that he has â€œlostâ€ his way, and decides to return to his family with whom he has not spent Christmas for ten years. Yet the night before he leaves, a woman who broke his heart ten years ago enters into the scene claiming her life has been changed and that she is now a new woman. His spirits soar and he begins his journey to spend Christmas with his family and his long lost friend. However, a sudden blizzard hits the region, and Sam is involved in an accident, throwing him into a journey where he finds that he has truly â€œlostâ€ his direction. As he works to survive the night, the true meaning of Christmas is revealed to him, as the author puts it, â€œin a most unusual manner.â€
As an avid reader, I have found myself quickly turning into a literary critic. Whether it is Nathaniel Hawthorne or a modern-day author, my intense study of literature and writing this past year has improved not only my own writing, but also my understanding of what makes great literature. And speaking of Hawthorne, he just happened to be the last author I had read (in novel length), before reading Hark. So Hark was up against some high standards. But I have a love for Christmas novels, and this was no exception. The mood was quickly set as I found myself enveloped in a Christmas spirit, smelling the basting turkey and smiling at the glimmer and glow of the lights on the houses. I heard the blaring music and aroma of coffee in the local diner. I felt the cold of the night, and tiredness, the heartache, the pain, and all the emotions Sam and his family and friends experienced clearly. Hark is like watching a movie on the Hallmark channel while you snuggle up with your family and favorite cup of coffee.
One problem or criticism could be that Hark follows the formula nature of a typical Christmas novel. A man alone. A woman alone. A lost son returning home to the family. And the wonderful endings filled with tears and hugs. But Hark avoids being overly stereotypical by inserting interesting twists and a good bit of irony, all greatly appreciated by the reader. One of the purposes is to entertain, and entertain it will â€“ I read the book in one afternoon. Other shortcomings of the book are found at the beginning within the first three chapters, including some minor spelling errors and neglect of contractions which make the early dialogue somewhat cumbersome. Yet those are easily overlooked and do not detract from the story line, which appeared well thought out and planned.
Hark uplifted my spirits. It inspired me. It reminded me of the gospel, which is so clearly preached again and again in this novel. Topics such as sin, the law, grace, justification and forgiveness are all clearly spoken about. Verses relating the passages you are reading are placed on just about every two or three pages â€“ all 188 of them. This key element really hit home some of the points that were being made through fiction, and showed that the main purpose in this book was more than just entertainment â€“ it had a message that was clear, unlike many other pieces of Christmas fiction out on the market that help get you in the Christmas spirit, but only stir your emotions
Chris Breme obviously has some amazing talent in the fiction realm, and his future works can only get better â€“ and heâ€™s only a few books away from being nothing but stellar. The talent shown in setting the mood and crafting believable characters is not easy, but Hark holds that professional feel.
If you are one who loves a good Christmas novel that will prepare you for the holiday, remind you of the gospel, and get you in the Christmas mood, then Hark is well worth your time and money. In addition to the book, an amazing music CD by pianist Jason Brown is available for purchase along with Hark. This CD would be another great addition to your holiday music collection in your home.
Hark! Hear the Herald Angels Sing!
The doctrine of the Trinity has for ages thrown theologian’s minds into disarray and confusion, leaving many unable to accept the Trinity or at least remaining skeptical of such a doctrine as three beings in one. Many have come to the conclusion that the doctrine of the trinity is beyond understanding and therefore have denied it amidst the Trinitarian idea found within the pages of scripture. Theologian James Boice noted that some complain that â€œtheology should be â€˜simpleâ€™ because simplicity is beautiful, God is beautiful and must therefore be simple and so on.â€ He declares this a misunderstanding of reality.
Reality â€œis not neat, not obvious, not what you expectâ€¦â€ says C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity, â€œReality, in fact, is usually something you would not have guessed.â€ Lewis makes similar statements in his sermon â€œThe Weight of Glory.â€ In that sermon, he is speaking of the hereafter versus reality, and relating to us that human language and images cannot fully express heavenly things. It is similar to this when we examine the doctrine of the Trinity â€“ many of our words cannot fully express such â€œthe arithmetic of heavenâ€ as Daniel Webster put it when he was challenged for his belief in the trinity.
Countless verses that we observe in Scripture point us to the Trinitarian characteristic and understanding of God. When examined in Hebrew, verses in Deuteronomy 6, which states that the â€œLord our God is one Lord,â€ point us to an understanding of the trinity. The word â€œoneâ€ found in the above passage is echad, meaning one in unity. â€œIt is the word used in speaking of one bunch of grapes,â€ says Boice, â€œor in saying that the people of Israel responded as one people.â€ It is another example of not having a language to grasp fully the meaning within a text like that. (This interpretation of the original language could be further debated, but the ultimate point still stands, as my Hebrew scholar friends may conclude with me).
â€œOne of our difficulties at this point,â€ concludes Boice, â€œis that we do not have an adequate word in Englishâ€¦to express the nature of the different existences within the Godhead.â€
Yet additional verses in Scripture explicitly point to the trinity, such as Genesis 1:26. â€œThen God said, â€˜Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.â€ Or Genesis 11:7. â€œCome let us go down, and there confuse their language.â€ Or â€œWhom shall I send, and who will go for us?â€ stated in Isaiah 6:8. And these are only three verses â€“ there are many, many more.
The Importance of the Trinity
â€œThe doctrine of the Trinity is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith,â€ says theologian Wayne Grudem. â€œTo study the Bibleâ€™s teachings on the Trinity gives us great insight into the question that is at the center of all our seeking after God: What is God like in Himself?â€
So we examine some of the central tenets of the Trinity, namely God exists in three persons: The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The Father is fully divine. The Son is the second person of the Godhead and is fully divine, and also came to earth in the likeness of man. The Holy Spirit is also fully divine. Although each is fully divine, they are â€œrelated to each other in a way that implies some differencesâ€ (Boice) Finally, they all work together.
God exists in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
We have already examined just a few verses, but it would be wise to look at a few more to prove from Scripture the truth of the trinity. Take for instance Matthew 28:19: â€œGo and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.â€ If that is not obvious in informing us of the Trinitarian teaching of Scripture, I donâ€™t know what will.
Another passage that refers to the three persons, or as Calvin preferred, the â€œsubsistenceâ€ of the Godhead, is 1 Peter 1:2, which states that â€œAccording to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit that you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with his blood.â€ Another is found in Jude 20-21: â€œBut you, beloved, build yourselves up on you most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God; wait for mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.â€ (pg. 231, Systematic Theology)
The Son is the second person of the Godhead and is fully divine/The Holy Spirit is Divine
I do not know any of us who would not accept this teaching of the divinity of Christ and the Holy Spirit in an instant. Jesus told us that â€œI and the Father are oneâ€ (Jn. 10:30) and that â€œHe who has seen me has seen the Father.â€ It is quite obvious that if he was not fully divine, there was no way that he could have been perfectly holy, and therefore could not have been a pleasing sacrifice, a pleasing atonement for our sins. The entire saving work of the cross would all be for naught.
We also believe the if the Father and Son are fully divine, the Holy Spirit must be fully divine. Otherwise, our theology would fail.
Although the doctrine of the Trinity is hard to grasp, it is so important to work to understand. This significant doctrine is a true doctrine, albeit a difficult one to grasp. Perhaps a few human images or illustrations will help us to explain it in some way.
James Boice relays to us one illustration which is that of a cake which is made up of layers, slices, and ingredients. The Father would be the ingredients, the Son the layers (â€œby which God comes down to usâ€) and the Holy Spirit would be the slices of the cake (â€œby which he is passed aroundâ€).
Yet he does not feel quite satisfied with that analogy, and prefers the â€œlight, heat, and airâ€ illustration (used by none other than Donald Grey Barnhouse in his book, Manâ€™s Ruin.).
â€œIf you hold out your hand and look at it, each of these three things is present. There is light, because it is only by light that you can see your hand. In fact, even if the darkness of night should descent, there would still be light. There would be infrared light. Although you couldnâ€™t see it, it could be picked up by special equipment. There is also heat between your head and your hand. You may prove it by holding out a thermometer. It will vary as you go from a cold room to a warm room or from the outside to indoors. Finally there is air. You can blog on your hand and feel it. You can wave your hand and thus fan your face.â€
The point, he says is that all three of these things is distinct. Yet at the same time it is â€œimpossible to have any one without the others.â€ Ironically, these elements are all used in relation to God (see 1 Jn. 1:5, Heb. 12:29, and Jn. 3:8).
In a final conclusion, this confusing doctrine that has thrown theologians into disarray and theological dismay, and some into theological liberalism, is Scriptural. It is still a mystery to us, but we must understand what we see and are being taught as much as we can, and remain faithful to the infallible Word of God.