Conflicting values are generating many of today’s headlines.
For instance, Mitt Romney wrote a Washington Post op-ed advocating decorum in the White House and claiming that President Trump “has not risen to the mantle of the office.” His niece, Ronna Romney McDaniel, chairs the Republican National Committee. She responded in a tweet claiming that her uncle’s editorial “feeds into what the Democrats and media want and is disappointing and unproductive.”
In other political news, President Trump and congressional leaders met yesterday afternoon, but the two sides could not reach an agreement to end the partial government shutdown. The president insists on funding for the border wall; Democratic leaders offered a package of bills without such funds. Talks will resume tomorrow.
Our culture is locked in an ongoing conflict between those who value “civil rights” for LGBTQ persons and those who value religious rights for Americans who affirm biblical morality. Pro-choice advocates value the woman’s right to choose; pro-life advocates value the unborn child’s right to life.
We all view life through the prism of our values. Which leads to the question: What does God value most?
“The seventh day still continues”
Each day of creation ends with the refrain, “And there was evening and there was morning” (cf. Genesis 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). However, after God created the seventh day and “rested from all his work that he had done in creation” (Genesis 2:3), we find no such closing refrain. According to the English Standard Version Study Bible, this fact “prompt[s] many to conclude that the seventh day still continues.”
Across Scripture, God kept working within the universe he created so long ago. He judged sin through the Flood, spoke to Moses in a burning bush, liberated his people from Egyptian bondage, and established the Jewish nation in the Promised Land.
Then the One through whom “all things were created” (Colossians 1:16) entered his creation at Christmas. Now the Holy Spirit continues Jesus’ ministry on earth (John 16:7-14) until the day when “a new heaven and a new earth” replace our fallen world (Revelation 21:1).
All that to say, the Creator is just as present in his creation as when he first spoke the universe into being. Whether we see the Artist in his painting is another matter.
“The sky above proclaims his handiwork”
Frederick Buechner: “There is no event so commonplace but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him, but all the more fascinatingly because of that, all the more compellingly and hauntingly.”
Janet and I were walking along a beach recently, marveling at the rhythmic, thunderous sound of the waves crashing ashore. Then I noticed a man walking the other way wearing headphones.
We were at a park over the holidays playing with our wonderful grandchildren when I saw a father reading his cell phone in one hand while pushing his son in a swing with the other.
I believe that David’s years spent as a shepherd in the Judean wilderness conditioned his soul to see God in the universe. Imagine him witnessing a spectacular sunrise as he proclaims, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1). Or picture him staring into the night sky as he speaks to God about “the heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place” (Psalm 8:3).
Every stroke on the canvas of creation was painted by our Father. Of course, if you think the universe happened into existence through random chaos and evolutionary chance, you’re not likely to look for a Creator.
Or, if you’re too busy working for God to spend time with him, you’re likely to miss him as well.
How to bring God “immense joy and satisfaction”
Evangelicals value busyness. Sharing our faith with the lost, teaching the Bible, working at the church, helping people in need. All good things to do.
It’s easy to serve God in the belief that we are doing what he most values. But the unstated reality is that we are doing what people most value.
Work is tangible. It is seen and rewarded by others.
Worship is less so. No one can see your heart but God. The world doesn’t know the price you paid to get up early this morning for time alone with your Father. It doesn’t hear your solitary prayers or commend your interior communion with Jesus.
That’s why it’s easy to love the work of God more than the God of the work.
In forty years of vocational ministry, I’ve been complimented by kind church leaders for various things I did–sermons preached, Bible studies taught, hospital visits, and so on. I’ve never been complimented once for my commitment to personal worship.
However, like any father, our heavenly Father wants a loving relationship with his children before he wants work from us. In fact, he seeks such worship from you and me today (John 4:24).
Craig Denison: “God loves worship. He longs for it. Think of that! You have an opportunity every day, through worship, to satisfy the heart of the one who paints sunsets, breathes life into dust and forms mountains, galaxies, animals, angels and humankind with just the power of his voice. You bring your Creator immense joy and satisfaction when you worship.”
“Make a holy and firm resolve”
In his classic book, The Practice of the Presence of God, Brother Lawrence observes: “If we only knew how much we need the grace and help of God, we would never lose sight of Him, not even for a moment. Believe me; make a holy and firm resolve never voluntarily to withdraw yourself from God’s grace from this time on. Live the rest of your days in God’s holy presence.”