September 1, 2007

Worship & Humility

We are home after two weeks in the Rockies (not including a day where we stopped in to water the plants and reload our suitcases). Now I understand why people claim they can worship God in the wilderness better than they can in a church. It has nothing to do with either the church or the wilderness. It is having a state of mind free from the burdens and pressures of life.

God seems closer than usual out there, not because He is closer, but because I am. My to-do list was at home. I had no distractions of telephone, email, doorbell and unexpected responsibilities. My mind was free from all that and better able to think about and worship God.

Yet I know worship is more than sole concentration. It is also an act of worship to confess my sin (acknowledging that His conviction is true), to ask Him for help (acknowledging that He alone knows the best solutions), and simply to praise Him despite the myriad of problems floating around in my head. Worship under duress may be an even truer and more loyal homage for it is not allowing my problems to loom larger than God.

Still, part of me remains in the mountains. I wasn’t ready to come home, to deal with a mountain of email and laundry nor the small hills of telephone requests and regular mail. I’m amazed that dust still builds up in a vacant, closed house and don’t want to do that either.

I cannot easily connect these thoughts or anything going on in my life to the story I read in Matthew 15 this morning. It is about a Gentile woman who approached Jesus and asked Him to have mercy on her because her daughter was severely demon-possessed. He seemed to ignore her, then finally said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. . . . It is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.”

The original language softens the term ‘little dogs’ to something like ‘family pet’ yet these words must have stung. However, that was not the Lord’s intention. He wanted to draw from her what He must have known was in her heart.

She responded, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.”

At that, Jesus said, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour.

What made her faith great? I’m thinking it was partly that she came to Him, a Jewish man who, had He been a normal Jewish man, would not have talked to her at all; she was both a Gentile and a woman. That took faith. She also believed He could do something concerning her daughter’s bondage. That took faith also.

But His commendation for her faith came not about these two things, but after her expression of humility and her act of worship. She basically said that she was nothing, yet knew that the heart of the Master was merciful toward those who are nothing.

Perhaps this is the connection. Being in the immense mountains (or near the ocean or other expressions of the Creator) make me feel like nothing. I look up at the heights and feel small, insignificant, even helpless. Those feelings are complimentary to the attitude of worship.

However, feeling small is not quite enough. Worship is also knowing that God is merciful to me, a sinner. He saved me by grace, certainly not merit on my part. He keeps me in His care by grace, again, not because I deserve it. He expresses His care over and over, in simple things like good health and a safe journey home.

These truths should be part of a worship service and they can be part of a vacation anywhere in God’s world. Nevertheless, worship begins by knowing who I am—in contrast to the immense revelation of God and realizing the truth about who He is.

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