Thursday, March 20, 2008

The One Thing...

In reading through the book of 2 Kings, this phrase keeps recurring: "He did right in the sight of the Lord...only the high places were not taken away; the people still sacrificed and burned incense on the high places" (2 Kings 14:3-4). In other words, this particular king--and each king of Judah for whom this was written--made choices that pleased God, but he failed to do the one thing that would have pleased God most. What was that one thing? To replace man's worship with God's worship. The people of Judah chose to worship God in the places they chose, the high places rather than Jerusalem, before two golden calves. It became so routine that even Godly kings did not question the practice.

I was struck with how easy it is for me to justify a "lesser" worship because it is more convenient, it seems to meet God's basic requirements, because it is the way God's people around me worship, because, because, because.... And yet, what is that one thing that God desires of me? What is that practice that is more important to Him than any other thing I do, or give up, or change? In my life, in the practice of the American church at large, perhaps around the world, is it not that I worship at the altar of self, the altar of man, rather than the altar of God? I am more concerned about what other think of my apparel, of my personal sacrifice, of my singing voice (or lack thereof), of my possessions or influence than in coming broken, contrite, and empty before a holy, thundering, righteous God.

To my shame there are times God receives nothing at all from my worship, because the focus is nowhere near His throne--it is centered on a high place removed from His place of residence--offering sacrifices to a dumb, mute object of self-importance. Not only in corporate worship, but in personal worship, there must be a break from self, a break from others, and I must make the trek to His temple.

Making that trek means leaving things behind. It requires commitment. It takes time and effort. It may even be costly. But as God calls me to His throne, which is itself a breathtaking invitation, is any price too high? The journey is one borne out of dependence on a God who does not ask what He will not provide. And knowing that His Son, Jesus, is my means of entry, I make that trek, abandoning self. Then, as I enter His presence, I am reminded of His awesome comeliness, of His very Self that cannot be seen, of His Self-sustaining nature and there is room for nothing on my part but humility, awe, and poverty. I would trade a high place for this? Only then do I realize the inadequacy, the filth, of that one thing I treasured for so long. And it is then that I am filled, that worship is what is was always intended to be: the heart and will of an imperfect creature bent at the throne of the Almighty Creator Sustainer.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Heart of Service

I just received an e-mail from a dear servant and friend who was disheartened by an offertory she played for our worship service. She was discouraged with her performance and disappointed by the overall response of the congregation. I have felt the same. How many times have I planned, prepared for, and executed an act of service only to face disillusionment. Elijah experienced it, too, after slaying the prophets of Baal.

Which brings me to questions for you, the reader: If you are serving the Lord, why are your serving? What is your desired outcome? And how does this affect your preparation and your act of service? Please tell me, I'm anxious to know how and why the Body of Christ is working in and around the world.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


This is the first of what I hope will be many opportunities for thought-provoking interaction and discoveries. The term Heart Quencher follows my mind's predecessor, Famished Heart. There was a time I suffered from a famished heart and longed for refreshment, cool aid, and comfort. In the time since I have held on to the desire to extend grace to those who experience that same drought; the tight, searing pain that clutches itself, creating rifts and cracks that separate rather than unite. There is a hopelessness there; a loss of purpose, of joy, and of dignity. And so, rather than dwell on the haggard, gaunt emptiness of the heart's eye, I have chosen to offer words of salve and refreshment, words of coolness in rushing rivulets, words of peaceful surrender and indescribable joy.

Having made such a flowery, ambiguous introduction, the next words that come to mind are, "For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not" (Romans 7:18). Regardless of my presentation, it is true that there is no hope, no joy, no good thing I have to offer in and of myself. The only truth and hope is found in Jesus Christ, God's only Son. And our realization of our need precedes even our comprehension of His goodness.

If you find yourself in despair, in need of refreshment, in need of quenching, know that you are very near the One you seek. For it is "in dying that we are born to eternal life." If you are at the end, know that God offers an incredible beginning. The death St. Francis speaks of is not one of physical cessation, but a death to self-striving, self-glorification, to having my own way. It is only when I come to the end of myself that I am able to look up and see Jesus, the One who purposefully paid the penalty for my disobedience and rebellion before a holy, almighty God. In all things, at all times, I deserve nothing less than to be separated from such a God. But in love, He made provision for forgiveness--and that is where true refreshment begins.

To be renewed, refreshed, is to know that I have no value outside of God Himself--and yet He loves me completely, eternally, totally, without reservation. His love for me is undeserved, without obligation, and absolutely free. He smothers me with love, with grace, with peace, with kindness and gentleness. And I am new. What is it about God that refreshes you? How do you find that renewal and peace when your circumstances are empty, toilsome?