I Worship With Available Light


GodReflection: Is Worship for God or for Me?
For if the willingness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has, not according to what one does not have (2 Corinthians 8:12).
gary portraitIn the autobiography of the late Leroy Garrett a Harvard trained theologian and historian of the Stone-Campbell movement, he highlights a principle valued by Alexander Campbell, “the principle of available light.”

He argued that we are judged by our obedience to the light that we have. I like two of Campbell’s summation statements. “No man can be justified today by living in accordance with the knowledge that he had yesterday,” and “I must obey the light which God has given me.”

light6It seems to me that is not a bad principle to taken into consideration as I assembly with believers to worship. The more I understand the more I grow.

Perhaps as available light shines from the cross on our joint worship experience we can see that our group effort honors God and blesses us.

I live in a time of diverse worship. Because of DNA wiring both participants and leaders worship as unique creations of God.

light2Artsy people and accountants are wired drastically different. Their hearts connect to God in worship through different channels.

No matter how our hearts connect with the Holy we are all followers of Jesus, thus should strive to place others first in the assembly to insure worship is for God and for each other. With a little give and take shouldn’t that work for all of us?

light7Back to the principle of available light.

Here is what I think today.

The more I focus on the attitude of Jesus—who came in the image of God—the more Holy light comes to me to navigate life’s trail.

That not only should influence how I treat others each day, it should help me enter into the worship assembly with increased flexibility toward my brothers and sisters in Jesus.

We are all fallible humans who make an attempt to worship Holy God and be an ingredient in the mix that allows each of us to leave the assembly in a better state than we were when we entered.

Let me close this series with a prayer:

Holy God,

Each and every time I worship, whether daily or in the assembly, let me begin with a vision of your perfection and completion. May I contrast all that is You to my own humanness and fallacies.

light5May I forever be grateful that perfect You love imperfect me. With Your generosity as my guide I want to be a generous worshipper who exudes a generous spirit toward fellow disciples.

From this perspective help my life gush grace toward fellow worshippers.
Surly, worship is not totally about You the Holy God or only about what I receive but about the corporate benefit for You AND the whole assembly.

As I enter the worship assembly help me to worship to the fullest extent of what I understand the Holy wants from me. In so doing, as I want to ooze concern that everyone assembled leaves with cups that overflow.

Reassure me through Your Word, Your Spirit and through my fellow worshipper that when I enter worship with humility the experience is for the Holy, for me, and for others.

I pray through Jesus the Son.

Amen.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection: I Worship with Available Light

Gary@Godreflection.org
http://www.GodReflection.org
http://www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

He Speaks, I Listen, I Speak, He Listens


GodReflection: Is Worship for God or for Me?
gary portraitIt is rather awesome to realize it is actually possible to converse with Creator God—He who made the universe and all it contains. True, I don’t have to assemble with others in worship to experience this daily reality.

Yet, I am drawn again to times when Holy God acted in powerful ways within a group setting. I want to enter the worship assembly with anticipation of a word from the Almighty.

This is just me so here’s my take on how prayer works when believers assemble.

Sure, I understand that we gather in group worship to renew our allegiance to Creator God. But, I bring an agenda to the assembly—I come to encounter God. I don’t want to leave with the same baggage I brought to church. I want to hear from God.

speaks6Back in ancient history we all installed CB radios in our automobiles so we could carry on ‘rich’ conversations with the drivers of Eighteen Wheelers.

We first had to make contact over an open band for all CB radios. We did so with the logical question—do you have your ears on?

That’s not bad self-directed advice for my entrance into worship. Do I have my ears on?

I want to hear from God.

speaks13To hear from God, I want to be attentive to His voice. I wait for Him to speak through Scripture that is read. I listen for His voice in both the words of songs and prayers.

My ears want to hear Him speak through a teaching or a sermon. I pay close attention to any clues I might received as He speaks to me through His Spirit. I listen for Him at the table.

When I listen He speaks.

Hopefully, something I pick up in the process moves my soul. I want to respond. So, I speak. I acknowledge any ‘aha moments’ brought to my awareness. I repent. I affirm. I confess. I make promises. I make requests. I express gratitude.

This time it is He—Holy God who listens. As He listens, He takes into account the fact that I am a feeble human. As He listens, He hears my conversation through the spilled blood and resurrection of His Beloved Son Jesus. He listens with grace ears and a heart filled speaks11with love.

He hears and understand my words and my heart.

This back and forth dialogue accompanies the length of the assembly. Over and over the conversation cycle continues. He speaks, I listen, I speak and He listens. It is a Holy worship conversation between Almighty God and less than mighty me.
Pretty neat don’t you think?

speaks2But, don’t miss the stage that makes it all possible. It is the assembly of the church. It is with Jesus and my siblings in Christ that I gather around the table in dialogue.

For it is through brothers and sisters in Jesus that songs, prayers, request, Scriptures and instruction provide the flash points for Holy conversation.

For what my opinion is worth, it’s not a bad way to spend an hour or two each week. How about it?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection: He Speaks, I Listen, I Speak, He Listens

Gary@Godreflection.org
http://www.GodReflection.org
http://www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

When I Worship—God Smiles and I am Warmed


GodReflection: Is Worship for God or for Me?
The LORD delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love (Psalms 147:11). For the LORD takes delight in his people (Psalms 149;4).

gary portraitOver a lifetime I’ve met countless people from diverse nations. At any given time throughout my walk many of them have joined with me under the canopy of community.

As I think how that community has fluctuated with its ebb and flow there is a special group that comes to mind. It is a cluster of lifers who have walked with Jesus for enough years that his traits shine through their expressions.

All harshness has vanished. Warmth, twinkling eyes, insightfully appropriate smiles and a dash of humor combine to make up their presence.

smiles9When I interface with these people I recognize Jesus and catch a glimpse of Father God.

There are occasions when the combined orchestration of a worship assembly has connected me to such an image of God. Unfortunately, not every time when I enter a public worship does the ideal picture come to mind. Most likely, I failed to properly prepare my heart.

Here is what I think.

What if during the worship of the church I would envision God as the ultimate image of the Good Father. He is absolutely dependable. He is Just and above all He is Holy Love. He delights with His children.

smile14Some of my fondest dad and mom memories flow from their presence in their recliners.

When children or grandchildren were in the room the presence of others brought delight.

They didn’t have to be  vocal participants in all that was going on around them. Their delight was evident by their demeanor.

Warmth, a twinkle from their eyes, an insightfully appropriate smile and a dash of humor from time to time stood witness to their delight. The room was warmed.
That is an image I need to bring with me into the Throne room when I assemble with believers to worship.

smile11One brings a song and another brings a need. Someone reads from Scripture and another leads the assembled in prayer. An exhortation is brought to the believers. Encouragement trickles and flows from fellow disciples. Children animate. AND God smiles.

I am often impacted with the words of Psalm 103:

The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love . . . he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust . . . But from everlasting to everlasting the LORD’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children—with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts.

How could I leave an assembly of the Saints without warmth flowing from my soul to the bottom of my feet and knowing I made God smile?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: When I Worship—God Smiles and I am Warmed.

Gary@Godreflection.org
http://www.GodReflection.org
http://www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

God Speaks to Me by His Word


GodReflection: Is Worship for God or for Me?
Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching (1 Timothy 4:13).

gary portraitI see a huge disconnect.

Those who have followed this blog through the years have heard my declaration of arrival on the church pew shortly after departure from the maternity ward. Over seven decades I’ve made some blessed as well as some rather anemic attempts at congregational worship.

There have been times when I exited the assembly confident God was worshipped and I was blessed. Other times not so much.

speak1However, I’ve always been perplexed about one aspect of my group worship experience.

If Scripture is indeed inspired by the Holy, why doesn’t oral Bible reading play a more significant role in the assembly of God’s people?

I remember far too many times when entrusted with the organization of the assembly I arrived and passed out paper slips to those who entered the door. “Will you lead a hymn or prayer?” Will you assist with the Lord’s Supper?” “Will you read a Scripture?”

Wow, what planning on my part. Hopefully, church worship has progressed beyond that.

At the same time, I still wonder if we’ve progressed to the point of a more prominent place in our assembly time to hear the written Word of God?

speak7Group worship provides a wonderful opportunity to set the stage for God to speak and send us back into our daily grind as richer people.

Three passages from Scripture seem relevant:

The Hebrew preacher reminds discouraged Jesus followers of an important role Scripture serves as an alive and active word from The Holy. It is the voice from Scripture that works on my thoughts and attitude. It is the voice of Scripture that convicts. As I listen my eyes and heart move toward Jesus.

For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart (Hebrews 4:12).

speak15After Jesus’ resurrection Luke recounts the stealth encounter of the Risen Lord with two disciples. When they arrived at their destination in Emmaus Jesus revealed his identity over shared bread.

Upon his abrupt departure the disciples make a powerful observation about Scripture recorded in Luke 24:32.

“Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”

Doesn’t the potential exist to have my heart moved in the assembly by the oral reading of Scripture? I want my heart to burn more.

A third passage that seems relevant for a worship assembly reminds me of Paul’s instruction to Timothy.

speak21All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16).

If Paul’s statement is indeed true don’t I need a steady diet from Scripture? Isn’t this a God designed way for public Bible reading within the worship of congregated disciples to bless each participant?

Here is what I think.

speak18Not everyone is gifted as a reader. I see why little kids might fall asleep as they listen to a bedtime story from a tired parent. Surely, God cringes when His inspired word is read to the congregation like it was a dose of sleep medication.

What if in our worship assemblies, we were to substitute more capable reading of Holy Scripture in the place of a portion of our sermon time or in place of one or two of our ten to twelve songs?

Might that be a game changer that sets the stage for God to speak and send us back into our daily walk as richer disciples?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

A GodReflection: God Speaks to Me by His Word.

Gary@Godreflection.org

http://www.GodReflection.org
http://www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

God’s Holy Spirit is Active in Worship


GodReflection: Is Worship for God or for Me?

gary portraitI sometimes wonder if the traditional way I’ve understood the Holy Spirit is less than helpful. Let me explain.

Truth is the word trinity is not found on the Bible’s pages. Nor are Father, Son and Holy Spirit ever used together in a specific Scripture text as three distinct personhoods.

Rather than the view of Father, Son and Spirit as three different Holy Beings, what if I envisioned the Holy Spirit as the earthly presence of Father and Son? Isn’t that more in line with the New Testament? My copy of Acts and the Letters paint the picture of Father and Son actively at work through believers who composed the church—the body of Christ.

In Acts chapter sixteen Father and Son desired the message of God’s grace to enter the continent of Europe. We read this account:

Paul and his companions traveled throughout the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been kept by the Holy Spirit from preaching the word in the province of Asia.

However, note verse seven:

When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to (Acts 16: 6-7).

It is the Spirit of Father and Son that dwells within the heart of believers and guide their steps.

spirit1I don’t believe Scripture ever tells us to worship the Spirit as a third member of the Godhead. Whereas worship is always directed only to Father or Son. The Spirit of Father and Son are present to receive worship.

When Paul the apostle writes to a group of believers in the city of Thessalonica he makes the connection between Father and Spirit as one and the same: Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit (1 Thessalonians 4:8).

Let me lay one more foundational stone to my thought process. It comes from the conversation of Jesus with a woman at a well in Samaria. Jesus’ response is focused on God’s Spirit in worship:

“. . . Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23-24).

Ok, here is what I think.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit is simply the presence of the Spirit of God and Christ.

spirit6When I engage in the worship assembly the spirit of Father and Son not only are present in my body but are also present within every believer in the room.

We are in the combined presence of the Holy.

Where could be a better place to be convicted or to encounter forgiveness and healing than in the presence of the Holy? That is intensified through the joint presence of Holy-indwelled siblings.

spirit7In silence I look around the room. It isn’t difficult to envision the weakness and defects of all us human types. Then I think of the contrast beyond comprehension that is palpable. In contrast to all my weakness stands the strength of the Holy Spirit. Father and Son are present and active.

We have had the joyful audacity to bring our sin and defects into the Holy Presence. Perhaps that alone is the picture of God’s Holy Spirit active in worship.

Isn’t that a blessing that comes through joint worship for God AND for me?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells

http://www.GodReflection.org

gary@Godreflection.org

 

I Pray, God Listens, Reads my Heart and Acts for Me.


GodReflection: Is Worship for God or for Me?
“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him (Mark 10:51).
gary portraitIt seems sort of strange to ask something of an all-knowing God who already knows the details of my daily life and has already told me that He will supply all of my needs.

Is it possible what He really seeks is dialogue with me and accomplishes that by my acknowledgement to Him of what He already knows?

I think of Jesus’ affirmation ‘to see God look at the Son’. It is the same Son who taught “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).

prayer10It was this Jesus who engaged a blind man in conversation with the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”

I wonder if this may not be an important insight into prayer and into my gradual process of change into a better companion of God?

I want to remember I am a child of the Father. One way I accommodate Him is by my own transparency.

The best fathers and son\daughter relationships are based on trust. Those who trust each other can talk with each other. God wants me to engage Him in conversation.

prayer3I share with Him my desires, admiration and thankfulness. Just as it was not new news to Him that the blind man desired sight, each of my requests and forms of gratitude do not surprise but rather delight Him.

In my act of prayer my requests, praise and thanksgiving bring us into conversation. God wants to hear from His children.

I Pray, God listens, reads my heart and acts for me. How does that thesis play out in a public worship assembly?

prayer4Sure, I am free at any point throughout the worship assembly to engage with Father God just as it were with any other time of the week when I happen to be alone. But, is there a benefit in corporate prayer?

To be honest, there are times when corporate prayer does not aid my worship. When led with routine, dull and memorized words I have a difficult time with a hardy AMEN endorsement from my heart.

However, when a leader has taken the time and made the effort to assess what is truly on his or her heart I find blessings appear in my prayer path. I am encouraged when prayer19others voice thoughts that I may have misjudged as only unique to me. I am humbled when others express doubts and fears very close to my own.

When a leader draws the congregation into the prayer there is a sense of an increased power-flow from the room to the throne. In those times the phrase, I Pray, God listens, reads my heart and acts for me, rings true.

And, our conversation has honored the Father AND blessed me.

I would love to hear from you on specific times when prayer that flowed from group worship blessed your walk.

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection: I Pray, God Listens, Reads My Heart and Acts for Me.

Gary@Godreflection.org
http://www.GodReflection.org
http://www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com

I Sing to Him with My Heart – His Approval Feeds my Soul


GodReflection: Is Worship for God or for Me?
He says, “I will declare your name to my brothers and sisters; in the assembly I will sing your praises” (Hebrews 2:12).

gary portraitIt is hard to overstate the impact music has on my gift of worship. Several suitcases filled with my past color my effort to speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. [To] Sing and make music from [my] heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19).

Let me be clear. Today’s post is not an attempt to stand in judgement of any person or body of believers. I’m not in search of anyone’s agreement with any observations I may make.

Today’s post is an attempt to examine how I can present to God my gift to sing to Him with my heart.

sing14I was born into an a capella church. I value my heritage. Most likely my church tribe has spent far too much effort in condemnation of those who have chosen to use instruments as they worship The Almighty.

In my view our crew has wrongly argued that the voice rather than the heart is the instrument that connects with our Heavenly Father.

From the a capella tradition we focused on hymns during my formative years. In four-part harmony we sang hymns from the Psalms, and from hundreds of writers and composers over a span of six centuries.

sing10From those hymns I prayed, praised, was taught scripture, and life lessons as I received motivation and encouragement.

The a capella hymnology colored my soul and my heart. My life luggage is packed with rich hymns.

Here I am in my sunset years caught between the hymns that sing to my heart so I can sing to my Father and the newer generations who feel the exact same way about a body of music with different content and style that allows them to connect hearts with Creator God.

So, if worship is for God AND for me how do I sing in a manner that pleases Father and Son AND provides an avenue for their Holy Spirits to speak to me through song?

sing3I refer back to the thesis of this blog series. When I bring my gift of song from my heart, He will not allow me to leave the throne room empty-handed. He feeds my soul with His approval.

Certainly, I do not want to be a roadblock for any believer whose suitcases are not loaded with six centuries of hymns. So, how can this work?

Here is what I think.

I want to praise God and I want my soul fed with His approval. I also want multi-millions of others across the face of the world to praise God and receive His approval.

So, here’s my approach as I move toward the finish line.

For my own soul I’ve loaded my car sound system with over two-hundred hymns. Anytime I am in route I can sing with God and the church of the ages through hymns as I pray, praise, hear scripture, and receive encouragement.

sing4On Sundays I join with the church in heart-song and receive His smile of approval.

Should a hymn be led my soul leaps in anticipation.

When the words of a “new worship song” ring out in their repeated cadence I want to be thankful others connect with the Holy, even though the words may not move my heart they may be the exact words that allow another worshiper to unite with The Holy.

Let’s extend grace to each other that we all might give praise and receive power as we worship with our hearts connected to The Holy and to each other. When we do so, I suspect more of us will leave worship with nourished souls feeling the smile of Godly approval. What do you think? Is it possible?

Stay tuned.

Dr. Gary J. Sorrells
A GodReflection: I Sing to Him with My Heart – His Approval Feeds my Soul

Gary@Godreflection.org
http://www.GodReflection.org
http://www.MakeYourVisionGoViral.com