praise

Glowing Faces

“Only when we perceive the face of the One in whose image we were made do we come to know who we are and the One for whom we were made. And because of who He is, to behold Him and remain unchanged is impossible.” – Bill Johnson

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This past weekend, my family and I attended Greenwood Community Church’s Family Camp at Camp Timberline in Estes Park, Colorado. I’ll take several things away from the weekend, but one of the most fun takeaways will be remembering my daughters’ glowing faces. Savannah’s face was glowing because this was her first real experience in the great outdoors, she was amazed at how big the world was, and there were so many people that she had never seen before then. Charlotte’s face was glowing because she had more adventure in this weekend than any other weekend, including the camp’s zip-line, climbing wall, gut-check plank, silencer swing, and blob in the lake.

Liz and I had glowing faces due to the consistent reflection of God’s glory in this place. We saw it in the vast beauty of the mountains. We see it as God’s people sang praises to his name. We saw it in the passages of Scripture that were our guide for the weekend and we saw it in the way the Spirit led us as a body together.

It was beautiful to see God’s glory reflected on the faces of my family and the other attendees of the family camp this weekend. It made me think about the way that God can be mirrored in this life and the way that we can contribute to that reflection.

Jewish rabbis have a word for what we experience in glowing faces and that word was shekinah. Though the word is not found in the Bible, there is, in fact, a clear pattern of God’s glory being reflected on his creation.

Take for example, Moses’ face in Exodus 34:29. The verse says, “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord.” In other words, there was a visual effect that God’s presence had on Moses’ physicality. Have you ever been around someone so radiant that it was clear God’s presence resided with him or her and that God’s beauty and majesty was being reflected. It occurred to me that if we take seriously the invitation to come near to the Lord (James 4:8), it is possible that our actual physical appearance could be altered.

Now, clearly when the Bible talks about God’s children being transformed into his likeness, the emphasis is not on a physical appearance. When Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 3:18 that “we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes form the Lord, who is the Spirit,” it is clear that he is talking about spiritual transformation. Truly, the more we see God’s glory, the more He transforms us into His likeness through the power of the Spirit. But, why would we be surprised if spiritual transformation and renewal had a physical effect? Doesn’t the Bible contain story after story of ways that the spiritual realm impacts the physical world?

In the days following the camp, we began to realize that our faces were not glowing quite as much as they had been. Further, when confronted with the daily routine, difficulties that arose, and the need to return work (and first days of schoolwork for Charlotte), our faces began to take on other, darker forms. But, we pause today to recall the glory we see on the mountain and recognize that the Spirit of God did not stay there. Instead, he brings his people through an ever-increasing glory (or, as some say, from glory to glory) so that we might better reflect his beauty and majesty. May you enjoy good health today, even as your soul is getting well (3 John 2)!

A Sacrifice of Praise

“Part of the sacrifice of praise is singing music that is not necessarily our heart language.” – David Clifton

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This week, I attended “Spirit and Sacrament” at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania. The seminar was put together by Andy Piercy (Director of Worship Development for the Anglican Mission), with a great deal of help from John Witvliet (Director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship) and Glenn Packiam (Lead Pastor of New Life Downtown in Colorado Springs, CO). Each of these men had a significant amount of insight and tools to contribute.

One of the gems of the week came from David Clifton (Director of Music and Arts at Apostles in Knoxville, TN), who said the phrase above: “Part of the sacrifice of praise is singing music that is not necessarily our heart language.”

This statement was so clear, so succinct, and carried with it such an incredible message that it has stuck with me for the days since hearing it. This is an idea that others have communicated before, especially in worship contexts that are trying to figure out how to engage multiple generations and cultures in a unified corporate worship. But, this was the first time I have heard this connected to the idea of it being a sacrifice of praise.

What Clifton references here, is the idea found in Hebrews 13:15, which says, “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise-the fruit of lips that openly profess his name” (NASB). And, it only follows that as we seek to continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, we must throw off anything that can hinder this fruit. Now, if you have been around worship circles for any amount of time, you understand that the hinderances to this kind of sacrifice are numerous. What Clifton gets so right in this statement is the connection between the heart language of the worshiper with the sacrifice of praise that is to be made. This is especially true in corporate worship, where one must be willing to give up his or her own self in order to offer corporate praise to the Lord. That sounds like a sacrifice to me! Each worshiper must be willing to give up his or her own preference of heart language in order to join in the heart language of the full body as God is glorified.

In this way, “Worship leaders become language coaches for the church,” said John Witvliet. The worship leader learns how to invite the full body to engage in a sacrifice of praise, whether it is specific to their individual heart language or not.

And so, we make a joyful noise unto the Lord, unifying our hearts and our language to the glory of God the Father!