Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Monday, March 26, 2007

Day 10: The Heart of Worship

Time for another read and comment on the PDL with Rick Warren. You will have noticed that I am not really using this book as I am supposed to use it. The days are supposed to be contiguous rather than with these big gaps. Still we can read and consider...

I really like the way this chapter begins...'the heart of worship is surrender'. I often say myself that if I wanted a general all-purpose modern word to convey the ideas in the word 'worship' I would choose the word 'surrrender'. I think it also includes 'beholding God' or comtemplation on who He really is, but surrender is certainly a key part. The earliest uses of the words for worship in the scripture have nothing at all to do with music and meetings; they are accounts of personal surrender.

The only lurking discomfort I have is that we still seem to drift towards 'how to worship' and the danger is that we end up with yet another technique. The danger is amplified when we begin to talk about our circumstances. The danger here is they we may begin to opt for a pattern of 'surrender to our circumstances'. I think it is important to understand that 'worship' is always 'surrender' to a person not to a set of circumstances. To slide into passivity would be a deadly error.

I was doing pretty well with this chapter until the last page when my old enemy reared up once again. The problem is revealed in his illustration of surrender; his illustration is Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. I am not going to comment on Campus Crusade itself but only on Rick Warren's comment; it reads...
Through Crusade staff around the world, the Four Spiritual Laws tract, and the 'Jesus' film (seen by over four billion people), more than 150 million people have come to Christ and will spend eternity in heaven.
I have finally stopped spluttering! What an extraordinary statement and what a revealing comment about the foundation understanding of this writer. Apparently by processing the thought concepts of 'Four Spiritual Laws' etc a person 'comes to Christ and will spend eternity in heaven'. This is not only foolish it is a deadly complacency. Like so many, the writer has equated an evangelical process with regeneration. This is no biblical warrant for this presumption and to leave someone thinking that because they prayed the prayer of chapter 7 they are now rightly related to God is a travesty of biblical truth and a deadly deception.

...I do fairly well with the PDL until it reminds me just how rotten its foundations are.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Day 09: What makes God smile?

The old answer to this question used to be; "telling Him your plans for tomorrow" but the PDL has a series of better answers to the question. It is worth listing the things the Rick Warren says 'make God smile'...

1. God smiles when you love him supremely.
2. God smiles when we trust him completely.
3. God smiles when we obey him wholeheartedly.
4. God smiles when we praise and thank him continually.
5. God smiles when we use our abilities.

I could wish for a little more focus on No 5 but this is a good list of things that please God. It's not supposed to be comprehensive but it is a good start.

'Making God smile' is PDL's synonym for 'pleasing God' and that must always remind us of the Shorter Westminster Catechism's (SWC) answer to what is fundamentally the same question; what is the chief end of man? The answer is "Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy him for ever". You will find some interesting commentaries on the SWC on The Shorter Westminster Catechism Project. I would particularly commend the comments of Thomas Watson which can be found on that page.

It is interesting to read this website and to compare it with the PDL's take on things. I know that the PDL is designed for a different kind of audience and that most people who would read the PDL will not be reading the SWC Project pages, but the differences are not just of style and substance but of focus. The SWC as befits its Reformed origins is 'God centred theology'. It is not just more 'dignified' than the PDL but somehow incorporates an entirely different viewpoint.

Giving God something to smile about is a somewhat different concept to 'Glorifying God and enjoying him forever'. Nevertheless theew are some good points in Day 09 of the PDL and the 5 points of Rick Warren's list may provide a helpful check list.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Day 08: Planned for God's pleasure

I found it! I lost my book… so traffic has been a little slow on this blog. My apologies for any who have been sitting at their computer waiting for the next installment.

The first paragraph is great and what lots of people need to hear but the second paragraph has the phrase “You are a child of God, and he considers you to be valuable enough to keep you with him for eternity…” and immediately my problem is back staring me in the face. What could be more dangerous that to say to a sick man “you’re healed” when his healing has not taken place? This is really what a suspected that the rest of the book is going to be built on the treacherous foundations of the earlier notions. The statement “you have prayed the prayer and you are now a child of God” is wrong and fatally wrong.

Did you know that “bringing pleasure to God is called ‘worship’”? Nor me. I suppose I I ought to be surprised that the author is more concerned with ideas than with words. His preference for ‘The Message’ is a sure sign. The problem is that if you begin to redefine words no one has any idea of what you are saying. I am reminded of the conversation between Humpty Dumpty and Alice;

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

I’m definitely with Alice on this one. Worship is conscious communion with God. To say that “anything you do that brings pleasure to God is an act of worship” is to seriously devalue the concept of worship. Worship is surrender and not the accidental byproduct of a life which is pleasing to God.

I suppose another thing which unsettles me with this author is his massive presumptions which are presented as biblical truth. This chapter also includes the statement “Adam worshipped in the Garden of Eden”. That, of course, is sheer speculation but presented with the same certainty as many other statements here.

The chapter ends with “That is what real worship is all about - falling in love with Jesus”. This is a horrible mixture of eros and agape. “Falling in love” is something which happens to us, loving someone is something that we choose to do, and worship is choice.

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Day 07: The Reason for Everything

Just when we were getting on so well together...

My first thoughts on this chapter were very positive and I was enthusiastic about statement that seemed to do justice to his opening words... "it's not about you". The earlier part of the chapter puts the Glory of God as 'the reason for everything' and that is a great issue to settle.

TPDL then explains 'how' we become part of a world in which the "Glory of God" is "the reason for everything." "All you need do" it declares "is to receive and believe. The Bible promises , 'to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.' Will you receive God's offer?" I am tempted to ask 'which Bible?" The Bible makes no such 'promise'. My Bible gives an account of the days of Christ's physical presence on earth and makes the statement that “ many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name:” (John 1:12 NKJV) This is a historical statement not a promise.

TPDL continues..."Wherever you are reading this, I invite you to bow your head and quietly whisper the prayer that will change your eternity: 'Jesus, I believe in you and I receive you.' " and then, even more alarming "If you sincerely meant that prayer, congratulations! Welcome to the family of God." Roman Catholicism teaches that automatic entrance to the Kingdom and Family of God is effected immediately by water baptism. Modern day Evangelicalism is headed in a similar direction. Say the words, go through the methodology... and welcome to the family of God? This is really a sad travesty of genuine Evangelicalism but it has become so much the 'norm' that to suggest anything different is to be questioned as to just how authentic an 'Evangelical' you really are.

If this is the foundation upon which TPDL is going to build its Purpose Driven Life I am going to find it difficult to stay the course.

Monday, January 1, 2007

Day 06: Life is a temporary assignment.

My apologies for the gap... this Christmas thing got in the way...

Now I really like this chapter, for several reasons. The first is that a feel that at last I can identify the 'audience'. This chapter, and I presume the whole book, is designed for 'Christian' or 'real believers'. This may seem irrelevant for many but for me the starting point is always vital. TPDL is aimed at people who have 'already started'. I do believe there is a real need for people who have 'already started' and either got distracted or bogged down. As such TPDL may serve as a really valuable 'reality check'.

The second reason I like it is that it nails the lie of the 'prosperity gospel' and pretty thoroughly at that. This is such a subtle, invidious, perversion that it creeps into the thinking of many who would never give a thought to the rantings of Hogan and Hinn. It is the subtle conviction that things are going well for me; this is God's blessing. It may be, and it may not be.

Thirdly, and this is the real thrust of the chapter, it declares without compromise that Christians/real believers are pilgrims. This 'world is not my home, I'm just a-passing through'. This is such a vital truth in our current day. To read some of the old Christian writers is to enter a completely foreign world for many modern-day Christians; those older writers have a much clearer grasp on 'what it's all about'. Life itself seemed much more precarious with high infant mortality rates and mothers dying in childbirth. That progress has been made on this things is good but it may hide a snare. As one of those older pilgrims once prayed..."Lord, if you see me in danger of nesting put a thorn in my nest".

So as this is the '007' year may we all be both 'shaken and stirred' as we continue our brief sojourning here. God speed... pilgrim!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Day 05: Seeing life from God's viewpoint

We are asked to identify a metaphor for our life. I think this is a valuable exercise and one that could be a real blessing to believers. It is so easy to 'sleep walk' through life in 'survival mode' that it sometimes takes real effort to stop and say "what is my life?" Mind-sets are curious things; they develop without us noticing but then have the power to shape us powerfully. There is a story told about Winston Churchill who when consulted as to the the architecture of a post-war-damage refurbished main debating chamber of the House of Commons said, "Be careful. We shape our building but thereafter they shape us." The House of Commons is based on confrontation with Government and Official Opposition. The two sides have a space between them that is wider than the length of two swords so that all confrontation must be with words and not arms. It produces, for better or worse, the confrontation politics of the British system of government.

I have worked on large projects which embraced a 'metaphor'; they can be liberating or confining. Sometimes people would not consider a different way of operating because it was 'outside the metaphor'. The metaphor becomes the foundation for all future planning. When metaphor becomes so fixed it can be more hindrance than help, but at this level the challenge "what is the most appropriate metaphor for my life" is bracing but helpful.

This chapter speaks of two such metaphors; the test and the trust. These are both helpful ways of examining our lives and are thoroughly biblical. This could make a good 'end of year' meditation. In what ways have I been tested this year and how have I faired? And then, what was trusted to my care this year and how do I stand as I am required to give an account of my stewardship? I am reminded of David's wise words... “O LORD our God, all this abundance that we have prepared to build You a house for Your holy name is from Your hand, and is all Your own. I know also, my God, that You test the heart...” (1Chr 29:16-17 NKJV)