Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Corporate worship, I believe, should produce in those gathered to worship an attitude either of doxology or of repentance - or of both , as was the case a few weeks ago as I joined my brothers and sisters for the Sunday morning service at Grace.

I woke up that morning with many concerns pressing on my mind, so lay quietly in bed trying to organize my thoughts and lift them up in prayer. However, I quickly slipped into a defeatist mindset and cut my prayer time short. "God, there are just too many things for me to sort through right now. I feel overwhelmed. To keep things simple, I am going to bring just one request - just one - and I will not bring any other concerns or needs to You until this one thing has been taken care of...." I presented my one request, threw off the blankets, and plunged into the Sunday morning hustle of shower-dress-kid patrol-breakfast-lunch prep-go-go-go.

If you were going to ask God for one thing (at least one thing at a time), what would be first on your list? I could have asked God to give my young Sunday school students tender and receptive hearts as we studied the building of the Tabernacle and His coming to dwell among His people in the wilderness. Or I could have asked Him to provide healing for my friend Frances as she undergoes ongoing treatment for cancer. Or that He would bless, guide, and grow the new body of believers at Grace Community, or transform the heart of the president of Iran with the gospel of Christ, or use my children to serve His kingdom, . . . .

What did I pray for as I lay in bed that Sunday morning? "God, please grant that I may have one reliable vehicle." That's it. And then I resolved to not ask for anything else until that item had been taken care of. Obviously, I am NOT a spiritual giant! But then again, as one of our children has commented, our family strategy regarding vehicles seems to be to keep enough clunkers in the driveway so that at least one is minimally operational at any given time. So maybe my praying for a functional vehicle was actually akin to Moses's praying for deliverance from the pursuing Egyptians - either would appear to require a miracle. Hmmmm, speaking of Moses...

Fast forward through Sunday school to the morning worship service. Prelude, announcements, liturgy, prayer, a hymn, more prayer. Then, the Old Testament scripture reading - Exodus 33:12-23. Moses said to the Lord, "...You have said, 'I know you by name and you have found favor with me.' If I have found favor in your eyes, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you..." . . . The Lord replied, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest." . . . Then Moses said, "Now show me your glory." . . .

Ouch. I was suddenly so ashamed of my petulant request earlier that morning. I wanted a working vehicle. Moses, on the other hand, wanted to know God, to find favor with Him, and to see His glory. Ironically, Moses's prayer was already underlined in my Bible, traces of past study and conviction. As we stood for the next hymn, I prayed, "God, please forgive my narrow vision. Forgive me for being so preoccupied with and overwhelmed by such small things. Forgive me for thinking that I can be satisfied with anything less than You."

Then, as if God were determined that I not miss the point, Billy's sermon was based on John 20:24-29 - you know, the passage where Thomas insists that he will not believe in the risen Lord unless he puts his own finger in the crucifixion wounds. The sermon title? "Experiential Religion." Billy emphasized that some of us tend to make demands on God, refusing to rest in His provision for us in Christ until He has done such-and-such to convince us. Thomas said, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands..." Generations later, Thomas's sister Camille said, "Unless I see a well-maintained, late-model automobile..." Double ouch.

I love the way Billy wrapped up his sermon that morning. Billy pointed out that, once he encountered the living Lord, Thomas's demand for proof simply vanished. Christ encouraged Thomas to touch His scars, telling Thomas to "Stop doubting and believe." However, Scripture gives no indication that Thomas did indeed touch Christ's scars. Thomas no longer needed that token of proof, because now he was standing in the very presence of his resurrected Lord. His response? "My Lord and my God!"

I am amazed at the precision with which God confronts and addresses my sinful attitudes. I am amazed at the patience, grace, and tender forebearance He displays as He works to conform me to His Son. And, I am amazed at how God administers even painful discipline with a tinge of sweetness. What hymn did we sing that morning, as we considered first Moses, and then Thomas?
I know not why God's wondrous grace to me he has made known,
nor why, unworthy, Christ in love redeemed me for his own.
But "I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able
to keep that which I've committed unto him against that day."
So, what is the next thing on my list? One thing have I desired of the Lord.....Himself.


Kara said...


Jenny said...

Thank you for this, my friend!