September 17, 2009

Rethinking The Way We Worship (Reflections on Deuteronomy 12) It is probably not surprising to you that God has an opinion about the way we worship. As is the case with so many other things, God is not only interested in our doing of a particular thing but in how we are doing it. Obedience is not just about right action or right result; it's also about right "way". Jesus was obedient, even to death on the cross. The central temptation of Jesus was to get Him to do God's work in the Devil's way. Much has been written about the three temptations Jesus faced in this regard, from Dostoevsky to Eugene Peterson. When this principle is applied to worship, however, the discussion usually becomes about physical actions: God wants us to lift our hands, dance, clap, etc, we say. And that may be true. The one who made us just might know something about what helps engage our whole being in worship. But I read something in Deuteronomy today that made think of a few other "ways" our worship must be: "Do not worship the Lord your God in the way these pagan peoples worship their gods." Deut. 12:4 (NLT) The Book of Deuteronomy puts a great emphasis on avoiding idolatry. Even Deuteronomy 12 opens with an injunction to destroy pagan shrines and every trace of idolatry, echoing a theme that has surfaced several times in the preceding chapters. But God doesn't stop there. It wasn't enough to not worship idols; they were not to worship Yahweh in the way pagans worshipped idols. So, what were the ways pagans worshipped their gods? Are those ways still prevalent in how people in our culture worship success or fame or wealth? In what ways was the worship of Yahweh to be different from pagan worship? Based on Deuteronomy 12, here...
How Mercy Triumphed Over Judgment [EDITOR'S NOTE: As a follow-up to my last post, here is a slightly adapted excerpt from Chapter 8 of "Secondhand Jesus". If you like, you might enjoy the rest of the book! :)] If God’s justice requires Him to judge evil and punish sinners, aren’t we all in trouble? Can’t God simply forgive? After all, isn’t He a God of love? There is no such thing as simply forgiving, even at the human level. There is always a cost. When someone wrongs you, something is taken from you, a piece of you is gone. Sometimes it’s something physical; more often it’s something intangible, like your innocence, your childhood, your respect, your marriage. Fill in the blank. If you’ve been wronged, you are missing something you once had or should have had. That is why we instinctively feel like saying to the one who has wronged us, “You owe me!” Even our own justice system is based on the old Hebrew law of paying “an eye for an eye”—i.e., making the punishment fit the crime, requiring restitution and replacement where possible. We have wronged God and He—because He is just—cannot just forgive us. Someone must bear the cost. 1 Sam. 6 tells the story of the ark of the covenant finally being returned to Israel on an oxcart from the Philistines. The people were overjoyed at the sight. There were sacrifices and songs of joy. But then the tragic happened unexpectedly. The men of Beth-Shemesh opened the cover of the ark and looked in at the Law without the cover of blood, and they were struck dead. It's a picture of a rumor about God: that God is pleased with our own goodness; that we can handle the law without the blood. The people of Beth-Shemesh, seeing seventy of their men...

Glenn Packiam

Lead Pastor, new life DOWNTOWN, New Life Church, Colorado Springs, CO. Author and songwriter.

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