Worldviews, Worship, and Wineskins

The Gospel at Work in Every Context

Archive for the tag “Worship”

Friday Night Mystics: David Brainerd


1718 – 1747

For his few, troubled years, David Brainerd’s life left an indellible mark on his generation.  In the intervening years, his reputation and life’s work have been somewhat underrated, perhaps overshadowed by his friend and associate, Jonathan Edwards.  Brainerd’s main contribution was in his pioneer missionary work to Native Americans, but he is most remembered today for his personal prayer journal.  This firebrand burned so brightly and hotly for the Lord that he worked himself to an early grave, spending his last weeks in the home of Edwards.  He finally succumbed to Tuberculosis and consumption on October 9, 1747.

David Brainerd’s diary was reproduced for posterity, to his relucant acceptance, only after much pleading on the part of Edwards.  Below are two exerpts:

“I thought the Spirit of God had quite left me; but still was not distressed: yet disconsolate, as if there was nothing in heaven or earth could make me happy.  Having been thus endeavouring to pray — though, as I thought, very stupid and senseless — for near half an hour, then, as I was walking in a dark thick grove, unspeakale glory seemed to open to the view and apprehension of my soul.  I do not mean any external brightness, for I saw no such thing; … but it was a new inward apprehension or view that I had of God, such as I never had before, nor any thing which had the least resemblence of it.  I stood still, wondered, and admired! …  My soul rejoiced with joy unspeakable, to see such a God, such a glorious Divine Being; and I was inwardly pleased and satisfied that he should be God over all for ever and ever.  My soul was so captivated and delighted with the excellency, loveliness, greatness, and other perfections of God, that I was even swallowed up in him; at least to that degree, that I had no thought (as I remember) at first about my own salvation, and scarce reflected there was such a creature as myself.”

“I knew not what to say to my God, but only lean on his bosom, as it were, and breathe out my desires after a perfect conformity to him in all things.  Thirsting desires, and insatiable longings, possessed my soul after perfect holiness.  God was so precious to my soul, that the world with all its enjoyments was infinitely vile.  I had no more value for the favour of men, than for pebbles.  The LORD was my ALL; and that he overruled all, greatly delighted me.”


Everyone Worships Something

We were made to worship. Everyone worships something whether they realize it or not. Even people who don’t subscribe to any particular religion with a formalized system of worship…they worship too. Want to know what you worship? What is the first thing you think about when you wake up? What do you spend your spare time on? Where does your expendable income go? That is what you worship.

“The chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever.” So says the Westminster chatechism. If this statement is true, men and women attain their highest human potential in an ironic fashion: by the willful abnegation of self and exaltation of another.  This is true worship.  This is where the irony of the human condition is most clear: we are most fully human when we abdicate our perceived right to self-worship, and spend ourselves worshiping God.

It’s Time to Kill that “Soulmate” Myth

This post will start off sounding really cynical to some of you, but please hang out until the end, because this is an important idea to grasp if you want to succeed in romance.  First let me tell you what I’m NOT trying to say.  When I was fresh out of high-school, I experienced something very common for people fresh out of high-school: a breakup.  I had moved far away from my girlfriend and the distance was killing it.  Not only that, but all of the dramatic life changes that people experience at that stage were killing it.  Many of you have been there.

I have a dear aunt who was newly divorced at the same time.  We commiserated often.  She listened to Sarah McGlachlin and we mourned our losses.  It was foolish for me to consider that our pain was similar: she had three children and well over a dozen years from her ex-husband.  I had teenage infatuation and a few months.  But my aunt was gracious to me.

One day she commented something to this effect: “At least you still believe in true love.”  To which I responded, “I’m not sure I do believe that.”  It was a foolish thing to say, in retrospect.  I had no idea what I was talking about.  But my views on love have changed since then, and I’m glad to report that this post is NOT a polemic against romantic love or even a cynical rant against the saccharine emotion that Hollywood tries to pass off as love. Those are good things that are too-often understood in distorted ways.

Take Jerry Maguire, for instance.  In the climactic scene typical of romance movies, Jerry confesses his feelings for Dorothy with the unforgettable line, “You complete me.”  This is the downfall of popular beliefs on romance.  The pressure that was placed on Dorothy at that moment was a burden too great for any mere mortal to bear.  It is unfair.  We aren’t made to complete each other or to find completion in any human relationship, not even marriage.

That’s why the myth of the “mail-order” soulmate needs to die.  The idea that somewhere out there is your perfect match who will share all your interests, laugh at all your jokes and put up with all your baggage without any fuss is setting people up for failure.  Soulmates like that are earned over a lifetime of heartbreaking compromise, sacrifice and plain old hard work.  Not predestined in the stars.  They are cultivated intentionally, not granted automatically.

I think this is one reason that so many long-term relationships never lead to marriage and so many marriages fail: Person “A” doesn’t “complete me” a-la Jerry Maguire, therefore, he/she must not be my soulmate.  Time to look for my soulmate in Person “B”. Obviously that is a sweeping generalization, but one that I believe has real traction in our romance-infatuated culture.

There is an underlying spiritual dysfunction that is associated with the soulmate myth.    In a world that has very little use for God, the impossible pressure to “complete me” has been taken off God and placed on human relationships, especially romantic relationships.  This is idolatry, plain and simple.  So not only are we setting ourselves up for failure by placing too much pressure on our romantic counterparts, we are robbing God of the deep, soul-adoring worship that He deserves.  I may have just lost some of you who aren’t concerned with religious affection.  (Dorothy from Jerry Maguire might say, “You lost me at idolatry.”)  But I’ll stand by my claim: what human relationships can never attain in terms of emotional satisfaction, a “sacred romance” will.

That isn’t to say that romance isn’t a good thing.  That isn’t to say that there is no place for romance in healthy marriages.  To the contrary: without romance, intimacy and bedrock commitment, marriages will wither on the vine.  Every time.  But the elevation of romance to the end of all relational emotion is detrimental to our thinking.  Here’s why:  God designed the marriage relationship as an means to an end, not an end itself.  In other words, He didn’t invent marriage just so we could get married, there is a purpose to it.  Besides procreation.  Besides sexual fulfillment.  Besides companionship.

God designed the marriage relationship to be a reflection of the relationship he desires with us.  In the New Testament, the church is called the “bride” of Christ.  It’s brilliant, really.  Sheer genius.  God uses a universal human institution as a relational metaphor, so we will understand just what He is getting at.  He wants an exclusive commitment.  He wants adoration.  He wants emotional closeness.  He wants us to grow in our understanding of him over the long-term.  He wants us to work hard to not offend Him!  He wants our relationship to bear fruit.  He wants to be our soulmate.

So if we kill the soulmate myth, where does that leave marriage?  Does it lessen the emotional impact of romance?  Just the opposite.  What could be more romantic than realizing that your closest human relationship is modeled after an eternal, all-powerful being who literally died just so he could be with you?  What could have a more powerful aphrodisiac effect than knowing that the person who stretched out the heavens and laid down the foundations of the earth wants–no, COMMANDS you to make love to your spouse (1 Corinthians 7.3-5)?

The effect of killing the soulmate myth DOES take the pressure off of your significant other to be and do for you what only God can be and do.  Soulmates aren’t assembled on some conveyor belt, ready to go, right out of the box.  I’m convinced that God isn’t waiting for you to find THE ONE, but one of potentially dozens.  Although He does know which one you will choose–which poses several more questions about free will and God’s sovereignty, none of which bear addressing right now.  All of that to say, when you and your romantic interest decide that you are in it for the long-haul, be prepared to do the work and build your own soulmate.

Robbing God of the Worship He Deserves

The surest way to rob God of the worship He deserves is to beat yourself up over sin that is already confessed and forgiven.

Friday Night Mystics: A. W. Tozer


Last week’s “Friday-Night Mystic” was Brother Lawrence of the Resurrection: a simple man who was madly in love with God.  Is simplicity an ideal of mysticism?  Would the one who wants to draw near to God jettison his intellect?  A. W. Tozer (among others) shows us this is not the case.  Passion for God is not the opposite of excellent scholarship and thinking.  In his writing and speaking, Pastor Tozer shows a consistent and thoughtful interatction with the world’s philosophies, arguments and pitfalls, as well as the church’s.  For example:

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.

“The history of mankind will probably show that no people has ever risen above its religion, and man’s spiritual history will positively demonstrate that no religion has ever been greater than its idea of God.  Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.

“For this reason the gravest question before the Church is always God Himself, and the most portentous fact about any man is not what he at a given time may say or do, but what he in his deep heart concieves God to be like.  We tend by a secret law of the soul to move toward our mental image of God.”  (from “Knowledge of the Holy”)

Tozer was the Pastor of Southside Alliance Church in Chicago from 1928 to 1959, but is probably best known for his devotional classic, “Pursuit of God”.  In that work, the church is called out for her apathy and God is exalted as worthy of passionate pursuit.  His indictment on the state of the church rings as true today as it did fifty years ago:

“Thanks to our splendid Bible societies and to other effective agencies of the dissemination of the Word, there are today many millions of people who hold ‘right opinions,’ probably more than ever before in the history of the Church.  Yet I wonder if there was ever a time when true spiritual worship was at a lower ebb.  To great sections of the Church the art of worship has been lost entirely, and it its place has come that strange and foreign thing called the ‘program.’  This word has been borrowed from the stage and applied with sad wisdom to the type of public service which now passes for worship among us.”  (Tozer’s preface.)

This modern mystic spent much of his energy lamenting the impotence and apathy of the church of his day.  But don’t be fooled.  He wasn’t just another angry critic (after all, Jesus’ bride is an easy target.)  Tozer’s chiding was the result of a sincere burning passion for the living Christ and a desire to see Him receive the worship He deserves:

“The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being senses its kinship to God and leapus up in joyous recognition.  That is the heavenly birth without which we cannot see the kingdom of God.  It is, however, not an end, but an inception, for now begins the glorious pursuit, the heart’s happy exploration of the infinite riches of the Godhead.  That is where we begin, I say, but where we stop no man has yet discovered, for there is in the awful and mysterious depths of the Triune God neither limit nor end.

Shoreless Ocean, who can sound thee?

Thine own eternity is round Thee,

Majesty divine!

“To have found God and still to pursue Him is the soul’s paradox of love, scorned indeed by the too-easily satisfied religionist, but justified in happy experience by the children of the burning heart.”

Friday Night Mystics: Brother Lawrence


There are a handful of authors who have really influenced me by their passion for and devotion to Jesus. I want to share some of their insights with you, in single-sized portions. I plan to upload a short segment each Friday night, so keep checking in!

Tonight will feature Brother Lawrence, who was a French monk in the 1600’s. I encourage you to find his book entitled “The Practice of the Presence of God”.

This passage comes from a collection of notes taken by someone who interviewed Brother Lawrence due to his reputation as someone with a deep love for God. In the introductory paragraph, the writer states, concerning Brother Lawrence, “he told me”. Each subsequent paragraph begins with the word “That”.

“That in the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time the leaves would be renewed and after that the flowers and fruit appear, he received a high view of the Providence and Power of GOD, which had never since been effaced from his soul. That this view had perfectly set him loose from the world, and kindled in him such a love for GOD, that he could not tell whether it had increased during his more than forty years he had lived since.”

“That the greatest pains or pleasures of this world, were not to be compared with what he had experienced of both kinds in a spiritual state: so that he was careful for nothing and feared nothing, desiring only one thing of GOD, viz., that he might not offend Him.”

“That all consists in one hearty renunciation of everything which we are sensible does not lead to GOD; that we might accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with Him, with freedom and simplicity.”

A Few Lines About God.


Unstoppable. You have such power. Like a deluge in the pass. Let me be swept away.

Masterful. A virtuoso in your field of one. All creation resonates with your song. Let my life ring clear and pure.

Humble. You do not shout your greatness into dull ears. But your whisper can break granite hearts.  Let me be broken.

Love. You are father to the orphan, husband to the widow. Your wild and furious ardor chases the unworthy and makes us whole.  Let me love like you do.

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