Worship: in Truth
Imagine for a moment that cameras capture everything in a photograph instead of only what is visible. There would be no such thing as an individual picture for behind each person would stand a multitude of
- inventors and manufacturers,
- thinkers and writers,
- artists and artisans,
- tinkerers and mechanics,
- teachers and scholars,
- patriots and warriors,
- parents and siblings,
who have formed the heritage of that person.
We simply do not stand where we stand alone. Someone who lived before our time stands behind us—a heritage of people stretching back in time beyond our ability to see. We frame our thoughts in ideas they developed. We live our lives by laws they constructed. Our greatest treasures bear the fingerprints of this multitude. These invisible people in our portrait are the authors of our story, the architects of our civilization, and the builders of our society.
They are both our helpers and our hinderers. Much of our heritage is a gift from God, given to us by faithful people of previous generations. There are also portions of our heritage that flow from evil hearts in this throng. They have convinced us of lies. They have sold us building materials that do not stand the stress of investigation. It is our duty to test the substance of our heritage to see if some details are worthy of our use. When we find something that is wrong, it is our human right and our moral obligation is to resist that thing, to remove it from our storehouses, to replace the weak and beggarly materials with the true, the tested, the tempered, the stuff that lives, not dreams, are made of.
In between the good things and the bad things in our heritage there are the things good people got wrong. Without impugning their motives and still honoring their effectiveness, we must subject their beliefs to the test of Scripture. “Hold fast to what is good.”
This is never more true than when worship is the subject of the photograph.
- Every humble country church has a cathedral in the background where the glory of God is frozen in stone and colored sunlight.
- Every cathedral stands before a long line of village chapels and house churches and synagogues, temples and tabernacles.
The worship of God did not spring into existence when we discovered it. We blend our voices with the unseen choir of our heritage every time we sing to the Lord.
Ours is a heritage in motion. To be true to this invisible host we must learn from them, true enough. But they have not delivered us to this moment for the sake of nostalgia but for the cause of the future. The cameras of our souls must see the past in an unforgiving light, the good and the bad, the important and the inconsequential so that our time here can be what God intends. For soon we will be the invisible ones in the picture.
Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer. From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. For you have heard my vows, O God; you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name. Increase the days of the king’s life, his years for many generations. May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever; appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him. Then will I ever sing praise to your name and fulfill my vows day after day.
Psalm 79:13 NIV
Then we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will praise you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.
1 Peter 1:3-6 NIV
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade — kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
Colossians 1:10-14 NIV
And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NKJV
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.
Song of Heritage
A Charge to Keep Have I
Text: Charles Wesley
A charge to keep have I, a God to glorify,
A never dying soul to save, and fit it for the sky.
To serve this present age, my calling to fulfill;
O may it all my powers engage, to do my Master’s will.
Arm me with watchful care as in Thy sight to live,
And now Thy servant, Lord, prepare a strict account to give.
Help me to watch and pray, and still on Thee rely,
O let me not my trust betray, but press to realms on high.
© 2016 Stephen R. Phifer All Rights Reserved
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