Solar Eclipse: Cosmic Coincidence?

On an NPR program this morning by Nell Greenfieldboyce, I heard how lucky we are to be living exactly at the right time to observe a total solar eclipse. A few million years this way or that and the moon wouldn’t match totally up to the sun as it does now.

The sun is 400 times farther away than the moon, and it just so happens the moon is 400 times smaller in diameter…so that’s why they look exactly the same size when they overlap.

Over and over the NPR commentator expressed how lucky we are and what an amazing cosmic coincidence this is–an attitude approaching awe.

“humanity is lucky to live on a planet that even has this kind of celestial event”

“Earth only gets its gorgeous total solar eclipses because of a cosmic coincidence”

“that perfect kind of magic”

“It’s just chance that humans exist [at this time]”

So these folks stand in awe of a cosmic coincidence. Yesterday, I heard another NPR program by Adam Frank as he explored the human response of awe. Here is a poignant paragraph:

For me, sacredness is an experience that rises above any particular religion and speaks to those moments when we feel the essential, original and irreducible potency of life. It need not refer to anything anyone would call “supernatural” but, instead, is rooted in our very real and very natural experience of the world. In that way, it is also a root of the aspiration to do science. As Eliade wrote: “The sacred is equivalent to a power and in the last analysis to reality. The sacred is saturated with Being.”

That’s right. Let’s not think anything supernatural has to exist in order for us to be struck with awe. This can all be defined and realized scientifically. Better yet, let’s make sure awe is defined as an entirely INTERNAL experience of the individual–more about YOU than about anyone else (and shhhhh! don’t think about a Someone who might have created all this).

What these folks either don’t know or are not explaining is that this focus on our internal BEING comes from eastern philosophies such as Buddhism. Enlightenment and truth, they believe, is found within, and truth comes from our own experiences. So, they insist, always look inward–never outward–for spiritual realization. Always believe you are in control of your own world; don’t think a Creator controls the world and that you exist as part of His creation.

“Sacredness is an experience…” the man says. The Bible defines sacredness as that which is holy, set apart to God. If you want this eclipse to be a sacred experience, then glorify God in it! Stand amazed; the Creator has built into His creation lovely, carefully-timed wonders that thrill and excite! Be in awe–but not because of a cosmic coincidence. Be in awe of the Creator and Ruler of the cosmos.

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. — Psalm 19.1-4

Have You Praised God Today?

Sunflowers SunsetPraise God for a beautiful day.
Praise God for creating family.
Praise God for my health and ability.
Praise God for His awesome creation.
Praise God for protection and sustenance.
Praise God for my gifts and talents.
Praise God for opportunities to serve.

And MORE THAN THAT…

Praise God for turning away His anger from me!
Praise God for forgiving my sins.
Praise God for comforting me.
Praise God for His mercy through Jesus’ blood.
Praise God for His guidance through His word.
Praise God for the joy set before me.
Praise God for the peace which passes understanding.
Praise God for the love and unity among my brethren.
Praise God for the hope of eternal life.

Gorgeous LandscapeYou will say in that day:

“I will give thanks to You, O LORD,
for though You were angry with me,
Your anger turned away,
that You might comfort me.
Behold, God is my salvation;
I will trust, and will not be afraid;
for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song,
and He has become my salvation.”

With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.

And you will say in that day:

“Give thanks to the LORD,
call upon His name,
make known His deeds among the peoples,
proclaim that His name is exalted.
Sing praises to the LORD, for He has done gloriously;
let this be made known in all the earth.
Shout, and sing for joy,
O inhabitant of Zion,
for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.”

(Isaiah 12)

A Christian’s Acts of Worship

Pagan TempleHistorically, men have worshiped gods of all shapes, colors, and sizes. With a wide variety of activities, they have attempted to prove their reverence, devotion, and fear. From burning incense to hurling a human victim into the fire, from bowing the knee to cutting the body, from performing holy washings to performing holy sexual acts, people have worshiped their gods.

Disciples of Jesus Christ stand upon the shoulders of the Jews when it comes to religious acts of worship. However, we do not perform all the acts of worship the Jews did because we recognize God has changed some requirements. In fact, we might say He has relaxed the requirements. The Jews had many specific forms of worship which were commanded of them–such things as the Levitical priesthood system with all their duties of washings, keeping the tabernacle, playing specific musical instruments, burning incense on specially-crafted lavers, sacrificing animals each morning and evening, etc. Thank God He does not require these of us today! (Although, if He had, we would be compelled to obey Him in all these things, just as were the Jews.)

Praying KenyaToday, God has commanded an astonishingly few acts of worship, and He has not so much commanded them as He has granted them to us for our own good and growth. What ritual does the Christian have except to meet together in a regular assembly to eat the Supper of the Lord? Should we meet in the evening, in the morning, or at lunchtime? God has not specified. Should we meet all day or only for a few hours? God has not specified.

God has told us of what the Lord’s Supper consists (bread and fruit of the vine–see Matt. 26.26-29 and 1 Cor. 11.23-26). How much of it should we eat; how much should we drink; how should we distribute it among the disciples? Again, God has left much of these things for us to decide.

CommunionAs we read through the New Testament, we find the disciples regularly met together (Acts 2.42-47; Heb. 10.25-26); sang together (Matt. 26.30; Acts 16.25; Eph. 5.19); prayed together (Acts 1.24; 2.42; 4.24-31; 12.5); taught one another from Scripture (1 Tim. 3.16-4.4); read publicly from Scripture (1 Tim. 4.13); devoted themselves to one another (Acts 2.42, 46-47); and ate the Lord’s Supper together (1 Cor. 11.17ff; 10.14-22; Acts 20.7). Although the word “worship” is not directly associated with any of those activities, other words such as “praise” and “thankfulness” and “joy” and “gladness” and “glorify” are used–words which give us the sense of a worshipful attitude behind the activities.

When we come together as a church, our main goal is to encourage one another and provoke one another to love and good works (Heb. 10.25-26; Eph. 4.11-16; 1 Cor. 14.3, 12, 15-19, 24-25, 31). In a word, we are to edify (build up) one another. This building up of one another serves to glorify God, and is, therefore, a beautiful form of worship and includes many acts of specific worship. When we act properly as the church of God, as we continue in holiness, as we provoke one another to love and good works, we build up the temple of the Lord, and God is magnified.

But there is much more to an individual’s worship which he does apart from his brethren. We will consider more in the near future.

Worship…Not Just a State of Mind

Hands lifted in praiseIs worship just a state of mind? Is it a special feeling that lets you know you are properly connected to God? Is it a great swelling in your chest or a fire in your bones?

Let’s consider how the Bible talks about worship.

Some Pictures of Worship in the Old Testament

Genesis 24.26, 48, and 47.31 reference the action of bowing low in worship, and that wording is found all over the Old Testament.

Service and worship are often paired concepts (i.e., Deut. 29.26; 30.17).

When Nehemiah brought true worship back to Israel, we read the following:

On that day men were also appointed over the chambers for the stores, the contributions, the first fruits and the tithes, to gather into them from the fields of the cities the portions required by the law for the priests and Levites; for Judah rejoiced over the priests and Levites who served. For they performed the worship of their God and the service of purification, together with the singers and the gatekeepers in accordance with the command of David and of his son Solomon. For in the days of David and Asaph, in ancient times, there were bleaders of the singers, songs of praise and hymns of thanksgiving to God. (Neh. 12.44-46)

It is said “they performed the worship,” which again couples the concepts of worship and service, specifically temple service, in this case.

Singing kidsPsalm 66.4 parallels worship with singing, indicating that God is worshiped through songs of praises:

“All the earth will worship You,
And will sing praises to You;
They will sing praises to Your name.”

Psalm 95.6:

Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

Psalm 96.9:

Worship the LORD in holy attire;
Tremble before Him, all the earth.

This does not mean we should dress our best, for some who would impress their brothers and sisters by outward dress are certainly not dressed in holiness! This has to do with the heart’s attire, it’s attitude of holiness before YHWH.

Praying HandsSome Pictures of Worship in the New Testament

The New Testament also shows that worship often involves some physical posturing or activity of service.

The wise men “fell to the ground and worshiped” the Holy Child (Matt. 2.11). Satan demanded Jesus “fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4.9). Jesus pairs worship with service in His answer to Satan: “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only” (Matt. 4.10). Towards the end of Jesus’ ministry, the disciples “took hold of His feet and worshiped Him” (Matt. 28.9). Before he understood better, Cornelius “fell at [Peter’s] feet and worshiped him” (Acts 10.25)–of course, Peter quickly corrected him!

In the early church, Paul writes of an unbeliever who “will fall on his face and worship God, declaring that God is certainly among you” (1 Cor. 14.25), and in the Apocalypse “the twenty-four elders will fall down before Him who sits on the throne, and will worship Him who lives forever and ever, and will cast their crowns before the throne…” (Rev. 4.10).

How Do We Worship?

Does our worship look like the Old Testament Jew’s worship? Does it look like the New Testament disciple’s worship? When was the last time you fell on your face in worship? When was the last time you knelt in worship?

I might quickly interject: “but it’s not really about the posture, it’s about the heart.”

Praying manIt certainly IS about the heart…but the heart should drive us to DO something, take some sort of action, perform some sort of service to the Lord. Although the word worship is never directly associated with singing, praying, or preaching in the New Testament, we understand all of those activities to be spiritual services of worship. But surely those are not the only ways to worship God! In fact, you might fall prostrate before Him and remain in that posture for a while, just reflecting on how GREAT He is in all His glory and magnificence. You might just kneel with your head bowed for a while, dwelling on God’s majesty and holiness.

Worship is not just a state of mind; it’s actively and intentionally diminishing oneself and magnifying God.

Worship is not just a good mood we get when we hear “Christian music”! So much of the so-called Christian world today thinks music ministry when they think of worship. For them worship is the time when the people on stage play music and get the crowd all worked up. When they cry, laugh, or feel a great swelling in their chests, they feel they have worshiped. But it’s not about the feeling at all. Those feelings may (should) result from true worship, but it’s the God-praising, God-glorifying, God-magnifying activities we do which are the actual worship.

What might we add to our worship? Perhaps we need to change some things? The best thing we can do is look in God’s word to see how He desires to be worshiped. Then do those things with all our might!

Teach me to do Your will,
For You are my God;
Let Your good Spirit lead me on level ground. (Psalm 143.10)

YHWH be praised!

Gathering for Worship

Sabbath for ManUnder the Law of Moses, God expected the Jewish people to meet together regularly. He gave them special feast days and weeks scattered through the year, and their Sabbath Day to be a weekly oasis, a rest from the drudgery of the other six work days.

God had sanctified and blessed the seventh day (Sabbath) in creation:

By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Gen. 2.2-3)

During each Sabbath rest, the Jews were forbidden to do any of their normal work or daily chores. Deadly serious about keeping the Sabbath Day holy (Exod. 35.2), God embedded it as the fourth of the Ten Commandments:

“Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a sabbath of the LORD your God; in it you shall not do any work, you or your son or your daughter, your male or your female servant or your cattle or your sojourner who stays with you. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exod. 20.8-11)

Six days you are to do your work, but on the seventh day you shall cease from labor so that your ox and your donkey may rest, and the son of your female slave, as well as your stranger, may refresh themselves. (Exod. 23.12)

Rest DayEvery regular day the priests were to offer one lamb in the morning and one lamb in the evening as burnt offerings to YHWH (Num. 28.3-4), but on the Sabbath Day they were to offer two additional lambs (Num. 28.8-9).

And on the Sabbath Day the people were to gather together for worship.

“So the sons of Israel shall observe the sabbath, to celebrate the sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant.” (Exod. 31.16)

“For six days work may be done, but on the seventh day there is a sabbath of complete rest, a holy convocation. You shall not do any work; it is a sabbath to the LORD in all your dwellings.” (Lev. 23.3)

The “holy convocation” was a special time when the Israelite people gathered together for dedicated corporate worship. Jesus faithfully kept the Sabbath Day convocations as the Hebrew brethren gathered weekly in their synagogues for the reading of scripture, singing, and prayer.

WorshipSince the time of Moses, God set forth a pattern of corporate gatherings of His saints, which He has always intended they keep faithfully. The church gathering together in the New Testament is not much different from the Jewish synagogue gathering together. James even called the gatherings of the early Christians a synagogue in his second chapter:

“For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes…” (James 2.2)

The word translated “assembly” in most English bibles is the noun “συναγωγὴν” (sunagogan): synagogue. So the New Testament usage of “church” (which also means “assembly”) flows easily from the first century understanding of synagogue.

Used as a verb, I ask: do you synagogue regularly? Do you church regularly?

More soon to come, Lord willing…