Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Glorifying God in Our Lives

If the chief goal humans is to glorify God and enjoy him forever, as the Westminster Shorter Catechism has expressed, then human beings ought to be in the look out for reasons for glorifying God. God's glory revealed in nature is indeed the most explicit stimulus for glorifying God. A second realm which impels us to praise God is what he has done in our lives. Put it another way, praise of God happens when we acknowledge what God has done in our lives.If that acknowledgement doesn't happen we will be singing praises to ourselves or to anything other than God.

The Psalmists pour out praises to God because they maintained hearts of thankfulness to God. For example, the psalmist who penned Psalm 116 says, “How can I repay the LORD for all his goodness to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD” (Psalms 116:12-13). In the Bible, the cups are described in terms of what they are made of or what they contain. For example, a silver cup is one made of silver while a wine-cup is that contains wine. In this verse the cup of salvation is a cup that is filled with God's acts of salvation or acts of deliverance. The Psalmist will lift up a cup that is filled with God's acts of deliverance that he has received in the past. That is his way of “repaying the Lord” for all that good things he has done for him. John Piper is credited with the alliteration “an attitude of gratitude.” This is what exactly we are talking about. Lifting up the cup of “salvation” is to maintain a heart of gratitude.

However, many times we are not able to lift up a “cup of salvation” because we are not able to ascribe to God what he has done in our lives. God doesn't get credit for what happens in our lives because we have trusted in our own strength and kept God away from our lives. This is a dangerous independence from God which impoverishes our spiritual lives. This is the tragedy of the modern secular mind which exalt human effort to such a level that there is no room for God in our consciousness.
Our culture think about God only when something goes wrong. When calamities strike, then we tend to ask where is God and why God allows such things. Until then we don't normally talk about or mention God. God doesn't normally feature in modern conversations.
However, it is important for us to lean on the strength and wisdom of an almighty God. This is what the wise sage of the Book of Proverb admonishes. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil” (Proverbs 3:5-7).
This passage teaches us some very important truths. First of all, it is to disown our autonomy on our lives. “Lean not on your own understanding” means to understand the limits of human reason and ability. Eugen Peterson (in The Message) paraphrases this verse as, “Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own.”

Some people approach God as the last resort. They have tried everything and failed. These are the people who don't like to bother God with things they can do themselves. The other group is those who totally ignore God in their lives. However, both these are wrong. The right approach would be to depend on God for everything and recognize that we can do nothing without him. This absolute dependence on God leads us to ascribe God glory in our lives. That is to give up our autonomy on our lives and give God the control.

Lives that recognize God in their lives and admit their absolute dependence on him would have plenty to praise him daily. Such lives can lead lives that “glorify God and enjoy him forever.”

Monday, October 11, 2010

Glorifying God for His Glory in Nature

The Westminster Shorter Catechism declares: “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” That is to say that human beings exist to praise God and thus live a life that enjoys God for ever. The question that follows from this naturally is how to glorify God in such a way that we can enjoy him forever? This also means that believers ought to be always on the look out for stimuli to praise God every moment of their lives.
Glorifying God is not by repetition of some mantras that has some self-hypnotic effects or the like. It is not getting into a trance or ecstatic experience that comes from psychedelic lights or sounds. Glorifying God is not subjective, but objective in its nature where the worshiper gazes the glory of God realizing how the creator is distinct from the creation. Real praise of God happens when we see the glory of God and pours forth our hearts before him.
The psalmists are good examples for worshipers of God. They acknowledged God in their lives, in creation, in history and in everything. Psalmist who penned Psalm 8 might have composed it at night or for singing for a celebration at night because there is no mention of sun but the night sky (stars, moon) are mentioned. The singer and the chorus would scan the clear night-sky of Palestine and shout in adoration “how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
While the Psalmist had drawn his inspiration to praise from a cosmic scene the poet of Psalm 104 has a much smaller frame of nature: The cultivated land from which humans and animals get their food from. He would praise God saying “Praise the LORD, O my soul. O LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendor and majesty” (Psalm 104:1). His inspiration comes from the planet earth and the space where the plants and trees grow and fish, birds and animals thrive. Because it is a great God who provides for them.0
In the history of Christian church, there are numerous examples where the believers used nature as a resource for worship. Saint Francis of Assissi is the outstanding example. He could see God in the nature and had cultivated a habit of connecting with God's creation. Another example that comes to my mind is the author of the great hymn, “How Great Thou art!” translated in to almost every modern language.
In 1885 Swedish pastor Carl Gustav Boberg was walking back home after an evening service from his church when he was inspired by the sight of lightning and winds making waves in the fields and the rain that followed. The pastor himself said later about the inspiration for the song. "It was that time of year when everything seemed to be in its richest colouring; the birds were singing in trees and everywhere. It was very warm; a thunderstorm appeared on the horizon and soon thunder and lightning. We had to hurry to shelter. But the storm was soon over and the clear sky appeared.” Inspired by the nature scene he wrote “How Great Thou Art!”
Nature is the stimulus and the reason for glorifying God provided we are willing to see the majesty of God the creator in it. Just like a painting declares the creativity of the painter and all praise for the painting is in fact praise for the painter, we praise God when we see his glory in nature around us.
However, humans have marred and disfigured the nature. We have leveled the hills and filled the meadows to erect concrete jungles that hide the view of sunrise and sunset. We have lights in our streets that are so bright and lights up the evening sky so that the stars are scarcely visible. We have built factories that emit fumes in to the sky that shrivels the trees and makes birds flee from our trees and fish to die in our rivers. We have messed up God's nature.
However, though humans have marred God's nature and thus his glory we look at what remains to elicit praise from hearts. We can look at beautiful landscape photos freely available to praise him. There are TV channels that showcase the beauty of God's creation that make us bow down in praise of God the creator. A walk in the country side is certainly an unavoidable option. However, it is important that we don't just look through nature around us but see the glory and majesty of our God in it and pour forth our adoration of him.
Like wise true and meaningful worship takes place when we open our eyes to see God's glory displayed around us and is sensitive to his acts in our lives and history. Acknowledging God in our lives, in creation, in history and in everything. (to be continued...)

Burning Bushes

'And the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush. He looked, and behold, the bush was burning,...