is worship only for services rendered?

merry christmas! (this post might be a little scatter-brained, but cut me slack. it is christmas, after all…)

something that hit me the other day when contemplating the christmas account in luke 2, was the reaction to Jesus’ birth.

luke 2:8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid ; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people ; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” 15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

celebration and worship! this might seem like an obvious reaction to jesus’ birth, but you have to realize that we look at it backwards through history. we see the ascension, resurrection, cross, miracles, ministry, etc. and most likely celebrate Jesus’ birth in light of what He went on to do.

the angels and the shepherds and mary and joseph did not worship and celebrate in light of Christ’s finished work. they worshiped in anticipation of it. they celebrated God’s faithfulness in the incarnation, but we have the finished resume to prompt us.

i wondered how much of our worship is based on what God has already done, while those in the christmas account are worshiping mostly for what God will do.

have we reduced christmas to simply another day honoring a man who did noble things like presidents day or mlk day? these are holidays instituted, after the fact, in light of what men did . “christmas” was instituted in light of what a man would go on to do.

yes, He went on to do AMAZING things that should be worshiped and celebrated. but the wonder of God’s faithfulness coming to fruition sparked the praise at Jesus’ birth with anticipation of fulfillment, not completion of it.

i have to confess, i don’t think i worship or celebrate with anticipation as much as i do in retrospect for work accomplished. while the Bible often speaks of future truth as if already accomplished, i think many believers (myself included) suffer from a “wait and see” mentality. we believe in the second coming, but because it’s “not yet” our worship is slightly muted.

however, the believers in luke 2, i think, believe in the salvation that baby Jesus would grow up to secure.

no sermon on the mount. no miracles. no cross. no empty tomb. just a swaddled infant, but a promise unfolding! and worship and exultation!

because, in one sense, He didn’t have to come to earth as a man. but He did if men were to be saved…

Galatians 4:4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, 5 so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

we obviously don’t have the opportunity to celebrate christmas with the same mentality as it was celebrated in luke 2, but we can learn a thing or two about hope and anticipation in God’s faithfulness. and we can certainly keep celebrating christmas in light of what was accomplished! just don’t forget to worship God for what has yet to unfold!

Hebrews 10:23 “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;”

“halfway” there!

as of a week ago, i have completed 56 hours of my master’s degree with southwestern baptist theological seminary.

that’s actually a little over halfway, but before this semester i was just under halfway. it seems like it was a long time ago that i took my first class (new testament II with dr. woo) in the spring of 2009. and it feels like it will be a long time before i finish, but i know i’ve come a good ways.

i’ve seen a couple of friends graduate already and more (including my amazing fiancĂ©e) will graduate before me in the next year. i know i shouldn’t get distracted by what others are doing, but they are natural reminders of my future (distant) graduation.

i’m VERY grateful for those who have supported my education, as it would have been impossible without them. i’m also grateful for the new friends i’ve made and the godly professors that have invested in me over the last few years. and i’m grateful for a church that allows me to pursue further education as another aspect of my call to ministry.

i know i haven’t worked my hardest at all times and i know, at times, that in balancing work/ministry, school and the rest of life that i’ve deprived some aspect in favor of another. still, i hope and pray that kingdom work has increased along the way. i know that i’ve grown and been blessed and will keep trying to figure out the balancing of those commitments as life goes on.

in the meantime, i’ll try not to focus on the distance between now and graduation! one. semester. at. a. time.

A: a shepherd boy and horseshoes

A: a shepherd boy and horseshoes.

Q: name two things that can prove the sovereignty of God.

just wanted to share a few thoughts on God’s sovereignty. some cool reminders have popped up recently, so i thought i’d write them down.

the first reminder that caught my attention was an aside of sorts spoken by matt chandler at a conference in maine last month. it caught my attention because it was a fresh take on a passage i have heard quoted NUMEROUS times in my life. i know that a healthy caution should be employed when anyone has a “fresh take” on scripture, but i see much truth and insight in what matt said. he referred to the story of esther, specifically mordecai’s famous “such a time as this” line in esther 4:14. instead of taking the oft-used angle of “if you don’t do this, it won’t happen” or “if not you, who? if not now, when?” as a means of motivating people to action, matt talked about how God’s sovereign plans will be executed because they are up to Him, not us. mordecai even emphasized this thinking in the same verse (“relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place”).

it was an invitation for esther to, as matt says, “come and play.” how humbling and encouraging that we get to take part in what God has planned! yes, we should be motivated to action by this thinking, but the emphasis is on God controlling the results, not us.

a much less significant reminder of God’s sovereignty, that i “have” to mention because i put it in the title, occurred at our annual cys fall retreat. we were playing horseshoes and when i would toss a shoe that seemed like it was going to hug the stinking pole, it would crazily bounce off of the ground at some ridiculous angle and land several feet away. i needed my uncle phil’s magic touch, apparently. anyway, it was laughable and made me comment, “if you don’t believe in the sovereignty of God, play horseshoes.”

fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. we are going through 1 samuel on sunday mornings and the account of david’s anointing came up. i was reading in the preaching the word commentary series (which i have found a great teaching resource, btw) and came across another “fresh perspective” on a familiar passage.

this perspective is a bolder statement and, remember, i am not a hebrew scholar (or any kind of scholar, for that matter). the commentary on 1 samuel 16:7 mentioned that the phrase “the Lord looks at the heart” could better be translated “the Lord sees according to the heart,” meaning God sees with His heart, not His eyes.

this translation would then also affect the meaning of “a man after His own heart” in 1 samuel 13:14. rather than taking this to mean that david has a heart like God’s, it means that God has set His heart on david. to support this perspective, in 2 samuel 7:21, david prays that God has “according to [His] own heart” accomplished great things. apparently, the phrase “according to your own heart” is the same expression that is used in 1 samuel 13:14.

mind you, this was all presented in a commentary, i didn’t come up with it!

it struck me as greatly encouraging, though! david being chosen for God’s purposes was based on david’s place in God’s heart more so than God’s place in david’s heart! how much more secure and unwavering and faithful is God’s heart than man’s!

the Lord invited esther and david to “come and play,” and He invites us, as well! and, praise God, the results of His purposes rest confidently on His will and ability, not ours!

we waver. we retreat. we balk. God doesn’t.

i’m not a betting man, but considering God’s will and mine, i’d go “all in” on the Almighty.

take heart, believers. God’s purposes and plans for you are set in His heart!