Previous Issue - Next Issue - Aspects Home

ASPECTS

a monthly devotional journal
by David Lampel
Issue No. 64
March 1996

EMPTY WORDS


Words are communication's medium of exchange. Whether written or spoken, words are the means by which we share ideas, express our deepest thoughts, and distribute news. It is with words that we either exalt or tear down one another; it is with words that we curse men and praise our God--

--and it is with words that we misrepresent ourselves before the Lord.

Words mean little by themselves; their true currency are the ideas and emotions they represent. Like a nation's printed currency without anything tangible to back it up, when we lose the connection between the words and their true meaning, our words lose all their value.


Every group has its vernacular, and the church is no exception. Listen to the prayer of a brand new saint, then compare it to the prayer of someone who has been in the family for decades, and you will hear the lingo.

There is nothing particularly wrong about having a common language among believers. Nuclear physicists and auto mechanics have theirs; Christians have theirs. Having a common language lets us, among other things, communicate in shorthand: Say the word "evangelism" to a believer and chances are good that the correct image will form in his or her mind.

It is the foundation of Christ--His blood atonement on our behalf, and the resultant indwelling of the Spirit--that binds us together as believers. After that, however, it is our common language that makes us into a community.

 

The Elusive Hero

When common words become too common they lose the rich and profound imagery that they are supposed to represent. There is an inevitable downhill slide when words begin to lose their meaning: Words without meaning are, at best, a sign of ignorance; they are, at worst, a sign of hypocrisy.

We see this taking place in society at large. Take, for example, the word "hero." This word's real meaning describes someone of uncommon valor, who places his own life on the line for the lives of others. But society today is so starved for acts of true heroism that we rush to apply the word to people without requiring any action on their part to deserve the label. Now it is only necessary for someone to simply do the right thing for them to be hailed a hero. We've even extended the label to describe people who have done very stupid, selfish things and then publicly confessed.[1] Their confession alone, apparently, has made them a hero, while at the same time we have become bored with the true heroism that surrounds us every day--the heroism exhibited by people like police officers, fire fighters and soldiers.

Another common example would be the word "exclusive." Today it seems that almost every interview with a celebrity or mass-murderer is an exclusive interview. It no longer seems to matter that every other station or network is also advertising their own exclusive interview with the same person. I recently saw the following notice printed on the screen for the Prodigy online service:

It doesn't seem to matter that there are countless other services offering precisely the same thing. In reality, there is nothing "exclusive" at all about this service from Prodigy. As a result, the word "exclusive" now has become meaningless.

 

Integrity

We are enjoined throughout Scripture to be people of sincerity and integrity.


Selah

Joshua 24:14 Cor. 1:12 Philip. 1:16
Psalm 5:9 2 Cor. 2:17 1 Thes. 2:3-5
Psalm 55:21 2 Cor. 8:24 1 Tim. 1:5
Romans 12:9 Ephes. 6:24 1 Peter 1:22
1 Cor. 5:82 Philip. 1:10 1 Peter 2:1-2

If sincerity is important when we speak with other people, then it is that much more important when speaking with our God.

There are many words we employ on a regular basis, words in the Christian vernacular that were once sharp and accurate, but have now had all their edges worn off by misuse and too-casual regard.

We like to shrug our shoulders at such things; after all, where's the harm? What does it really matter?

But when we use words without understanding or caring what they mean; when the words we use in worship become little more than the mouthings of empty traditions, passed down over time until all meaning has been lost; when we repeat words of praise that once meant something in our heart, but now, because of the many built-up layers of callous, mean nothing at all--when we have such disregard for what we say, we are being dishonest. When we say something we don't mean--and there's no way around this--we are lying to God.

    "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." Matthew 23:27-28

 

    Hear, O Lord, and answer me, for I am poor and needy.
    Guard my life, for I am devoted to you.
    You are my God; save your servant who trusts in you.
    Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I call to you all day long.
    Bring joy to your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
    You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
    abounding in love to all who call to you.
    Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my cry for mercy.
    In the day of my trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.
    Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord;
    no deeds can compare with yours.
    All the nations you have made will come and worship before you,
    O Lord; they will bring glory to your name.
    For you are great and do marvelous deeds; you alone are God.

    Psalm 86:1-10

 

An Enduring Love

Harry Truman courted Bess Wallace for nine years before they married on a hot and muggy Saturday, June 28, 1919.

After graduating high school Truman took a position in Kansas City, Missouri. Two years later, because he was needed at home, Harry left a promising and lucrative position at the Union National Bank, to move back to the family farm just outside the town of Grandview. Times were hard for the Trumans, and all hands were needed to make a go of things. The year was 1906.

Four years later the 26-year-old Truman fell head over heels for Bess. They were not strangers, but had grown up and gone to school together in Independence, Missouri. Upon graduation, however, they had gone their separate ways.

It was sixteen miles--four or more hours round trip by horse and buggy--between the Truman farm in Grandview and the Wallace house on North Delaware Street in Independence. Harry made the trip at every opportunity, to visit Bess, sometimes sleeping over, on the sofa, at his cousins' house across the street.

Over the coming years he would pour his heart out to Bessie in hundreds of letters--not love letters (no "nonsense or bosh")--but, sitting in the parlor writing after dawn-to-dusk work in the fields, sharing his thoughts, his aspirations, his life out on the farm.

The first time Harry worked up the courage to propose (in a letter) Bess turned him down. But he continued courting her with unwavering determination. Even after Bess finally said yes, in November, 1913, because of his responsibilities with the family and the farm (especially after his father died in 1914) Harry and Bess did not marry.

At the age of thirty-three in the spring of 1917, Truman enlisted to serve with the army in the war in Europe.

    "Bess Wallace's response to his decision was to say they should be married at once. Harry, almost unimaginably, said no. She must not tie herself to a man who could come home a cripple or not at all, he said. They would wait until he came home whole."

All the while he was serving in Europe Captain Harry S. Truman remained true to his girl back home, and shortly after he returned, they were married.[2]

 

Shallow Devotion

It's almost impossible to read of such determined devotion of a man for a woman and not contrast it with the manners and convoluted mores of this present age. Today the very idea of a man and woman dating for nine years, remaining chaste the entire time, is almost laughable. Either one--either the man or the woman--would have long since moved on to someone more receptive to their advances.

    I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him. But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough 2 Cor. 11:2-4

Sadly, the devotion Christians show for their Lord bears a closer resemblance to the dating habits of today than the courtship practiced just after the turn of the century. We too easily take our affections elsewhere. When things don't go our way, when disappointment and momentary disillusionment creep into our lives, when God tells us to do something we imagine might be unpleasant, we begin making sidelong glances away from what should be the sole object of our affections.

Oh, that's not to say that every other week we're off searching for the benefits of Buddhism or Islam over Christianity; that's not to say that at a moment's notice we begin shaking our fist toward heaven, shouting curses at our Deity. We're much more subtle than that. Our lack of devotion is never so outwardly apparent--and that's part of the problem.

We exhibit a well-practiced devotion in our behavior, but it is inside, in the darker recesses of mind and heart, that we betray our true feelings.

Our fragile devotion is demonstrated by how quick we are to question the validity of God's precepts in His word. Surely, we think, this can't apply to me. This can't be what God really means. But He does, and when we are so quick to disregard His word, we betray the shallowness of our devotion.


Selah

Living for Jesus a life that is true,
Striving to please Him in all that I do;
Yielding allegiance, glad-hearted and free,
This is the pathway of blessing for me.


Refrain                          
O Jesus, Lord and Saviour,
I give myself to Thee,
For Thou, in Thy atonement,
Didst give Thyself for me;
I own no other Master,
My heart shall be Thy throne;
My life I give, henceforth to live,
O Christ, for Thee alone..

Living for Jesus who died in my place,
Bearing on Calvary my sin and disgrace;
Such love constrains me to answer His call,
Follow His leading and give Him my all..

Living for Jesus wherever I am,
Doing each duty in His holy name;
Willing to suffer affliction and loss,
Deeming each trial a part of my cross..

Living for Jesus through earth's little while,
My dearest treasure, the light of His smile;
Seeking the lost ones He died to redeem,
Bringing the weary to find rest in Him.

              Thomas O. Chisholm


What does it mean to you? What does "devotion to Christ" mean to you? Can you say (and mean) that you are truly devoted to the Lord your God?


Harry Truman resolved that Bess Wallace was the woman for him. He loved her--deeply, passionately--and was not in any way dissuaded from his devotion to her.

Let us resolve to be just so devoted to our Lord.

 

COSTLY OFFERINGS

    When David saw the angel who was striking down the people, he said to the Lord, "I am the one who has sinned and done wrong. These are but sheep. What have they done? Let your hand fall upon me and my family." On that day Gad went to David and said to him, "Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." So David went up, as the Lord had commanded through Gad. When Araunah looked and saw the king and his men coming toward him, he went out and bowed down before the king with his face to the ground. Araunah said, "Why has my lord the king come to his servant?" "To buy your threshing floor," David answered, "so I can build an altar to the Lord, that the plague on the people may be stopped." Araunah said to David, "Let my lord the king take whatever pleases him and offer it up. Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and here are threshing sledges and ox yokes for the wood. O king, Araunah gives all this to the king." Araunah also said to him, "May the Lord your God accept you." But the king replied to Araunah, "No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen and paid fifty shekels of silver for them. David built an altar to the Lord there and sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. Then the Lord answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped. 2 Samuel 24:17-25

    Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13:15-16

 

An Empty Altar

God has made it so much easier for us, that we are determined to push the privilege of ease to an unseemly degree. Where sacrifice originally involved the physical and bloody death of a living thing, the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus Christ has removed that requirement. So we have taken that to mean that our responsibility for sacrifice of any kind has ended.

The word "sacrifice", however, as well as the profound depth of its meaning, have not changed.

      "See the deficiency of the legal sacrifices for sin; they were therefore often repeated, not only every year, but every feast, every day of the feast, because they could not make the comers thereunto perfect (Hebrews 10:1,3). See the necessity of our frequently repeating the same religious exercises. Though the sacrifice of atonement is offered once for all, yet the sacrifices of acknowledgement, that of a broken heart, those spiritual sacrifices which are acceptable to God through Christ Jesus, must be every day offered." Matthew Henry

If, after Christ, the concept of sacrifice no longer requires that something literally die, it at least requires that something be transferred; something must change hands. Without that, nothing has been sacrificed.

Would it be enough to only say that we have brought our tithe? No, we must have actually given it to the Lord.

The idea of sacrifice throughout Scripture, involves taking something of value that belongs to you and giving it to the Lord. If the thing being given was second best, God rejected the sacrifice. If the giver actually lied about what was being sacrificed, the result was very often more dramatic.

    Now a man named Ananias, together with his wife Sapphira, also sold a piece of property. With his wife's full knowledge he kept back part of the money for himself, but brought the rest and put it at the apostles' feet. Then Peter said, "Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land? Didn't it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn't the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God." When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened. Then the young men came forward, wrapped up his body, and carried him out and buried him. About three hours later his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter asked her, "Tell me, is this the price you and Ananias got for the land?" "Yes," she said, "that is the price." Peter said to her, "How could you agree to test the Spirit of the Lord? Look! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also." At that moment she fell down at his feet and died. Then the young men came in and, finding her dead, carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Acts 5:1-10

It should be a point of thanksgiving for all of us that God no longer deals with our dishonesty in such a manner.

 

A Better Way

There are a number of different ways we can sacrifice to the Lord.

Financial. The New Testament concept of giving is more extravagant--and more voluntary--than the Old. Where the Old Testament law designated a specific amount (10% + freewill offerings) to be given, under grace, the amount given is determined more by the condition of the giver's heart. And if the condition of our heart is based on the sacrifice Christ made for us, then our giving will indeed be extravagant.

    And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will. 2 Cor. 8:1-5

Sacrifice goes beyond the tithe or freewill offering; it goes beyond anything expected. When you give sacrificially, you give an amount based on how the Spirit leads, rather than how much you think you can afford. Giving sacrificially means that you will go without something because you gave.

Time. Our present culture does not encourage people to do things that are inconvenient; the glorification of self precludes doing anything that might be in the least way a bother. When we agree to do something for someone else only when it is convenient--make a casserole for the funeral dinner, help on a Saturday afternoon with the church landscaping, visit shut-ins, bake cookies for VBS--it is for naught in God's eyes.

    Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will. For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. Romans 12:1-3

The expenditure of our time becomes a sacrifice, however, when it is inconvenient--when we have to eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner, because we've made the casserole for someone else; when we'd rather be parked in our easychair in front of the game, but work at the church instead; when we give up our bowling night to visit those who are lonely; and when we pass up a movie to stay at home and bake cookies for the children's Bible School.

Verbal. If it is true that every sacrifice must involve a transferral, then what is it that changes hands when we sacrifice with words?

    Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that confess his name. Hebrews 13:15

It is difficult for many people to think three-dimensionally, to fashion ideas and concepts as objects in the mind. But, in a manner of speaking, this is what is called for when we offer up a "sacrifice of praise."


Selah

Savior, Thy dying love, Thou gavest me,
Nor should I aught withhold, dear Lord, from Thee:
In love my soul would bow, my heart fulfill its vow,
Some off'ring bring Thee now, something for Thee.

At the blest mercy seat, pleading for me,
My feeble faith looks up, Jesus, to Thee:
Help me the cross to bear, Thy wondrous love declare,
Some song to raise, or pray'r, something for Thee.

Give me a faithful heart, likeness to Thee,
That each departing day henceforth may see
Some work of love begun, Some deed of kindness done,
Some wandr'er sought and won, something for Thee.

All that I am and have, Thy gifts so free,
In joy, in grief, thro' life, dear Lord, for Thee!
And when Thy face I see, my ransom'd soul shall be,
Thro' all eternity, something for Thee.

              Sylvanus D. Phelps


Praise that begins and ends at the lips counts for very little. The words spoken must faithfully represent the condition of the heart. When they do not, the sacrifice is a lie; when they do, the words become a fragrant aroma pleasing to the Lord.

 

ACCEPTABLE PRAISE

    The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world. Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:1-4a,14 NKJV


There is no place in all Christendom where words have become so cheapened as they have in our worship.

We worship an invisible God; we serve an invisible Savior; we are counseled and comforted by an invisible Holy Spirit. Our God is not a physical person who lives next door, to whom we can bring a physical offering to place at His feet. Neither is He an embodied statue, before whom we can place our offerings of food or flowers. God is Spirit.

Because He is invisible, so too are many of our offerings. Our worship and praise take forms intangible. We cannot fashion our praise into a pretty lump of clay, paint it and fire it, then hold it up before the altar and say "Here--here is my praise!" We use words, instead of clay.

If the words themselves were the praise, then it would be enough to speak them. It would not be necessary to do anything more than simply say the words. But praise does not consist of the words alone; they are only the means by which the real praise is delivered. Real praise begins in the heart and is carried to lofty realms on the chariots of our words.


Selah

We sing the boundless praise of
Him who reigns on high,
And of His glorious Son, the Lamb
Who brought salvation nigh.
Thine everlasting pow'r
And majesty we sing,
But with our songs of sov'reign grace
We'll make heav'n's arches ring.

All hail! Redeemer, King,
Thou Lamb of Calvary!
Let ransomed sinners sing Thy name
Thro' all eternity.
When stand the ransomed throng
Before the great I Am,
This shall their endless anthem be,
All worthy is the Lamb!"

              Joseph C. Macaulay


 

One Object

The beginning point for honest worship is to remove all of "self" from the moment.

      "When you try to focus your spirit on worship, there will be one major hindrance--self. When you get in front of God, your worship will be hindered. You see, we often have things that we want to do to fulfill our own desires, so we don't have time for discovery, or prayer, or meditation, or worship. And it's hard to have an undivided heart because we're always thinking about our projects or our activities, or our needs. Self always gets in the way of worship. And we can't really be free to worship God until we eliminate self altogether and become lost in worshipping God." John MacArthur, Jr.[3]

Worship, by definition, places God before everything else. An expert on the Jewish Law once asked Jesus

    "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"

Jesus' answer was direct and simple.

    "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment." Matthew 22:36-38 NIV

There are many things important in the Christian life. Evangelism is important. Koinonia fellowship is important. The preaching of the word, study, intercessory prayer are all important things we are called to do.

But Jesus said that there is one thing we are to do before anything else--indeed, none of the above are even possible without first loving the Lord our God.

How do we do that? How do we love an invisible God? In John 4 Jesus says that God is spirit--and we are flesh. How can we love someone so unlike us--who exists on an absolutely different plane?

Our love for God is manifested in praise and worship. We love Him by telling Him we do, by singing out His goodness--by verbally proclaiming His greatness:

    I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the Lord; the humble shall hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt His name together Psalm 34:1-3 NASB

In corporate worship we come together and make the presence of the Lord larger in our minds and hearts by proclaiming who He is. It's a little like reminding ourselves. Day after day we struggle through life, spending our time with activities in which it is easy to forget that God is greater than anything taking place down here. It's easy to forget.

So He created worship.

    From Thee comes my praise in the great assembly. Psalm 22:25a NASB

In worship we remind ourselves that God is God, and we remember His countless attributes--among which, His omnipotence, His grace, His wisdom, and His own love for us.

      "Our tongue is our glory, and it ought to reveal the glory of God. What a blessed mouthful is God's praise! How sweet, how purifying, how perfuming!" C.H. Spurgeon[4]

So worship is a time to re-connect with our God. But, as David says in Psalm 34:1, it is also a time to bless Him--which means to adore Him. As one would look deeply into the eyes of a wife, a husband, a child, or a betrothed, we look deeply into the holiness of God and cry out, "I love You!"

The lyrics of a song popular several decades back said that those "three little words" were "I Love You."

Some contemporary Christians get hung up on the difference between thanksgiving and praise or worship. Thanksgiving comes easily to a people taught to be polite and grateful. From our earliest years we are trained to say "thank you" when given something nice. So when God does something nice for us, we are comfortable and immediate with our thank-you.

Praise, however, can be a muddier affair. How do we worship an invisible God for being something we cannot see? And how do we separate our praise from our thanksgiving? Where do we begin?

We begin with those three little words: "I love You." Notice the period after the three words; notice that this is not the beginning of a longer statement, but the entirety of the statement. It is not "I love You because ..." If that were the beginning of the statement, we'd be slipping back into the more familiar neighborhood of thanksgiving; a worthy enterprise, but not praise. Worship is not loving God because He has done something nice in our lives. True worship is loving God simply because He is God.

That is the beginning--and essence--of worship: "I love You." Worship, at its most fundamental level, is nothing more or less than our telling God that we love Him.

But, again, the praise or worship does not exist in the words themselves, but in the heart that produces them.

 

Worship Pictures

After we have removed "self" from our mind and heart, we must then replace it with God.

      "There should be some preparation of the heart in coming to the worship of God. Consider who He is in whose name we gather, and surely we cannot rush together without thought. Consider whom we profess to worship, and we shall not hurry into His presence as men run to a fire. Moses, the man of God, was warned to put off his shoes from his feet when God only revealed himself in a bush. How should we prepare ourselves when we come to Him who reveals Himself in Christ Jesus, His dear Son? There should be no stumbling into the place of worship half asleep, no roaming here as if it were no more than going to a playhouse. We cannot expect to profit much if we bring with us a swarm of idle thoughts and a heart crammed with vanity. If we are full of folly, we may shut out the truth of God from our minds."
                    Spurgeon


How do we do it? How do we prepare our heart and mind to honestly utter words of praise and adoration to our God?

    Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
    Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
    For He is our God,
    And we are the people of His pasture,
    And the sheep of His hand.
    Psalm 95:6-7a NKJV

The Hebrew word translated "worship" means literally to bow down in humility.[5] The best physical attitude for worship is on one's knees, because this immediately puts us in proper perspective to our God: He is above us; we approach Him in humble submission.

But even when it is not possible for us to worship on our knees, we can close our eyes and paint the picture of His throne in our mind. We can see, in our mind, ourselves prostrate before Him.

How do we ensure that we mean the words we say in worship? When the throne of God fills your mind, and when you see yourself in proper attitude before it, the words of praise will most certainly be honest.

    Praise the LORD. Praise the LORD from the heavens, praise him in the heights above. Praise him, all his angels, praise him, all his heavenly hosts. Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you highest heavens and you waters above the skies. Let them praise the name of the LORD, for he commanded and they were created. Psalm 148:1-5

      "Here is good argument: The Maker should have honour from His works, they should tell forth His praise; and thus they should praise His name--by which His character is intended. The name of Jehovah is written legibly upon His works, so that His power, wisdom, goodness, and other attributes are there made manifest to thoughtful men, and thus His name is praised. The highest praise of God is to declare what He is. We can invent nothing which would magnify the Lord: we can never extol Him better than by repeating His name, or describing His character." Spurgeon

It is something of pristine eloquence and beauty to enter the sanctuary of the Lord--be it the sanctuary of the corporate church or the sanctuary of our heart--to kneel before Him in utter humility, and to bring honor and glory to the Father simply because He deserves it.

We are to carry no agendas to the altar--no hidden, ulterior motives. We are to enter into worship without thought of self; our petitions are to remain stuffed into our back pocket.

We are to offer up our words of praise for one reason only: He deserves them. God alone is worthy of our praise and adoration. And the words we offer are to bear no weight of self; they are to describe and proclaim only His holiness and worth-ship.

Honestly.

 

THE WONDER AND THE GLORY

There is something more that we need to be honest and true about, but it has little to do with words.

    Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the desert and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, "I will go over and see this strange sight--why the bush does not burn up." When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, "Moses! Moses!" And Moses said, "Here I am." "Do not come any closer," God said. "Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground." Then he said, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob." At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. Exodus 3:1-6

      "Vocabularies are formed by many minds over long periods and are capable of expressing whatever the mind is capable of entertaining. But when the heart, on its knees, moves into the awesome Presence and hears with fear and wonder things not lawful to utter, then the mind falls flat, and words, previously its faithful servants, become weak and incapable of telling what the heart hears and sees. In that awful moment the worshipper can only cry 'Oh!' and that simple exclamation becomes more eloquent than learned speech and, I have no doubt, is dearer to God than any oratory.
      "We Christians should watch lest we lose the 'Oh!' from our hearts. There is real danger these days that we shall fall victims to the prophets of poise and the purveyors of tranquility, and our Christianity be reduced to a mere evangelical humanism that is never disturbed about anything nor overcome by any 'trances of thought and mountings of the mind.' When we become too glib in prayer we are most certainly talking to ourselves."
      A.W. Tozer[6]


I have never been in a church where there weren't people just going through the motions--people who had been sanctified for so long that the whole process had become simply old hat for them. They had lost the "Oh!"

God is too awesome for us to take Him for granted. He has not and does not change, so He commands just as much awe and respect now as He did centuries ago.

    In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory."At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. "Woe to me!" I cried. "I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty." Isaiah 6:1-5

It's true that our moments in God's presence are no longer filled with the fire and smoke of these manifestations. It's true that through the blood of Christ we have a different, more intimate, relationship with God the Father. But He is still holy, and we do Him an injustice when we are too casual about His presence.

While we may not need to approach Him trembling with fear, we nevertheless need to approach Him with honor and respect. He is our God.


When you approach your God, do so humbly, forthrightly. When you open your mouth to speak to Him, do so honestly, without guile or distraction. When you listen for His voice, do so intently.

When you sing His praises, mean it. When you lift up holy hands, do so as a child reaching toward a loving Father. When you worship God, remove everything but Him from your attention.

It is an honored privilege we have, coming before the God of the universe without fear of death; treat it as a privilege--one to be cherished, and used with joy.

    Guard your steps when you go to the house of God. Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, who do not know that they do wrong.Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, "My vow was a mistake." Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands? Much dreaming and many words are meaningless. Therefore stand in awe of God. Eccles. 5:1-7


Selah

O Lord my God, when I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hands have made,
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy pow'r thro'out the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Savior God, to Thee;
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!

             Stuart K. Hine


    Be exalted above the heavens, O God; Let Thy glory be above all the earth. Psalm 57:11 NASB


NOTES, COPYRIGHT & SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION

Previous Issue - Next Issue - Aspects Home

Issue No. 64
March 1996

NOTES

[1.] In the fall of 1991, Earvin "Magic" Johnson, a basketball player, was called a hero throughout the media because he publicly admitted that he had the HIV virus. He surely contracted the virus by living a life of sexual promiscuity (he was reported to have personally numbered his partners in the "thousands") but he was, nonetheless, lauded for his "courage" and "heroism."
Greg Louganis, the American diver who won 2 gold medals at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, went public in February of 1995 with the news that he was both gay and HIV positive. Even though his announcement was timed conveniently to coincide with the publication of his autobiography (Breaking the Surface, Random House, $23); even though during the Olympics with his silence he put at risk the doctor who (not knowing his patient was HIV-positive) treated a bloody gash in his head; even though, at the time, he exposed other divers to his tainted blood, he is now called "heroic" and "courageous." His coach, Ron O'Brien, is quoted as saying "I'm glad that I can finally share the story of his heroism. There are very few divers who could've come back from that springboard incident [in which he split open his head] and won two gold medals. If that isn't courageous, I don't know what is." (return to footnote 1)

[2.] Source: Truman, by David McCullough (Simon & Schuster, 1993), pages 72ff. (return to footnote 2)

[3.] True Worship (Moody Press, 1985), p91. (return to footnote 3)

[4.] Charles Haddon Spurgeon on Psalm 34:1, The Treasury of David. (return to footnote 4)

[5.] shachah, shaw-khaw', Hebrew Stg 7812; a primitive root; to depress, i.e. prostrate (especially reflexive in homage to royalty or God) :- bow (self) down, crouch, fall down (flat), humbly beseech, do (make) obeisance, do reverence, make to stoop, worship. (return to footnote 5)

[6.] Born After Midnight (Christian Publications, Inc; 1959). (return to footnote 6)

COPYRIGHT INFORMATION

All original material in Aspects is Copyright © 1996 David S. Lampel. This data file is the sole property of David S. Lampel. It may not be altered or edited in any way. It may be reproduced only in its entirety for circulation as "freeware," without charge. All reproductions of this data file must contain the copyright notice (i.e., "Copyright (C) 1996 David S. Lampel."). This data file may not be used without the permission of David S. Lampel for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content. Brief quotations not to exceed more than 500 words may be used, with the appropriate copyright notice, to enhance or supplement personal or church devotions, newsletters, journals, or spoken messages.

Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture is from the New International Version. NIV quotations are from the Holy Bible: New International Version, Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission. NASB quotations are from the New American Standard Bible © 1960, 1962,1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977 by The Lockman Foundation.

SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION


Aspects is published monthly in both printed and e-mail editions. For a free subscription to either edition, contact us by one of the following methods:
Phone: 515-462-1971
Postal address: 2444 195th Trail,
Winterset, IA 50273-8172.
Internet address: dlampel@dlampel.com


Back issues of Aspects are archived on the World Wide Web; go to http://dlampel.com and click on "Aspects".


Aspects is distributed free-of-charge. If, however, you wish to contribute financially toward this ministry, then we want you to know that your contribution will be an encouragement to us, and will be applied toward the expenses of postage and materials.