Fall Issue 5
Thanksgiving as Worship
(from a 2015 sermon)
By Dan Glover
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.—Colossians 3:5
Let’s focus on that last item on Paul’s list—putting to death covetousness, which is idolatry. Covetousness is to desire for ourselves what others have; to desire to have what God has notgiven to us rather than being content with and thankful for what he has given to us. Where a thankful heart looks gratefully at all God is, does, and gives, a covetous heart sees only what God has notdone or given (and, we think, should have).
But covetousness is more serious than failing to count our blessings: covetousness is idolatry.
Psalm 106 recounts how God rescued Israel from slavery in Egypt. Israel cried out to God, and he heard their groaning and mercifully freed them by his mighty works. Yet despite so great a salvation, Israel forgot God’s mighty deeds of liberation and kind provision, and instead, looked covetously at the surrounding nations. Israel remembered the leeks, onions, and cucumbers of Egypt and grumbled at the manna and quail God miraculously gave. Blind to God's faithful and loving provision, Israel saw only monotony. As Israel grew covetous for what God wasn't currently giving them, they quit trusting him for his future promised provision—a land flowing with milk and honey, orchards and crops they had not planted, vines they had not cultivated.
Growing covetous, Israel became idolatrous. As their thankfulness for God’s salvation and provision failed, Israel became unfaithful to God in their worship, turning to foreign gods. Israel’s turn from thankfulness to covetousness was not merely simultaneous with her turn from God to idols; it was synonymous.
As with Israel, so with the church. Paul says in Colossians 3:5 that covetousness is idolatry—false worship—and thus covetousness must be put to death. When we are ungrateful for God's care, we are really discontent with God himself. Like Israel, we can look back and see how God saved us from slavery; how he accomplished our redemption through the death and resurrection of Jesus, rescuing us from bondage to sin, death, and self. God “delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son” (Col. 1:13). Yet we frequently forget what God has done for us in Christ, and instead look covetously at the world. When we do this, we look away from God. This is idolatry: exchanging who God is and what he has done for us for something which is not God. That something else becomes an idol, for covetousness is idolatry.
Logic exercise: If covetousness is idolatry, doesn't it follow that thankfulness is at the heart of right worship? Let’s test this.
Paul says to put to death covetousness, which is idolatry. Christians are called to put off covetousness, to kill it (3:5-10). Paul gives us things to replace covetousness with, things to put on, to cultivate. Colossians 3:12ff tells us to put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, etc. Above all these, we are to put on love, which binds all else together in perfect harmony (3:14). These are idolatry killers. Then Paul calls us to let the "peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful" (3:15). We are to "let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God" (3:16). Paul summarizes by saying that "whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (3:17).
Paul states three ways that the church is to practice the presence of Christ. We are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts, to let the word of Christ dwell in us richly, and all we do and say is to be done in the name of the Lord Jesus. And what accompanies the peace of Christ, the word of Christ, and the name of Christin the life of the church? In each case, Thankfulness! Read verses 15-17 again. Thanksgiving x 3.
Paul also says that thankfulness should permeate the church's prayer (Col. 4:2). Thankfulness is central to steadfast, watchful prayer. In other words, all these observations considered together, thankfulness is at the heart of true worship and central to the whole Christian life.
Thanksgiving saturates the church’s life. Christ ruling in us, Christ’s word dwelling in us, doing and saying everything in Jesus’ name, steadfast prayer—all these flow from a posture of thankfulness. Thankfulness is key to letting Christ rule in our hearts rather than allowing our allegiance to become divided by idolatrous covetousness. Thankfulness furnishes our hearts so Christ’s word may richly inhabit us, not allowing alternative “truths” to push away God's word. As we teach, admonish, encourage, exhort, sing praise, and pray constantly—as we live worshipful lives, in other words—all is to be done with thankfulness in our hearts to God.
Like Israel, we are always in danger of taking God’s gifts, melting them down, and forming them into idols. When the liberated Israelites awaited Moses at the foot of Mt. Sinai, they ought to have thanked God for his deliverance and presence. Instead, covetously desiring a visible god like the surrounding nations, they melted their gold jewelry and fashioned a calf to worship. Covetousness is idolatry.
In Colossians 3:1-3, Paul tells the church not to set our minds on earthly things, but upon things that are above, where Christ is seated at God's right hand, and where our new lives are hidden, secure in him. When we set our minds on earthly things, our focus is worldly, idolatrous. Seeking what is above, we become not only rightly orientated to God through Christ, but we also become rightly orientated to earthly things. God gives us many gifts in this life, to be received thankfully. But when we set our hearts on the gifts (or covet what God hasn’t given us), we find that they transform from good gifts into bad gods.
Logic exercise redux: If covetousness is idolatry, then we should find thankfulness at the heart of true worship. Colossians says so, as do the Psalms.
Psalm 107 speaks of God redeeming people from hopeless circumstances. It begins with a call to thank YHWH, “for he is good and his steadfast love endures forever.” The psalmist describes the plight of those whom God has rescued, along with the acts by which God saved them. These recollections call forth the refrain, "Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men,” repeated in vv. 8-9, 15-16, 31-32, and especially 21-22, which places thankfulness in the context of worship at the center of this psalm.
Psalm 100:4 is another example of parallel and equivalent exhortations:
"Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!"
Entering God’s courts with praise and his gates with thanksgiving is to approach God in worship. In worship, we are called to bless God's name and give him thanks.
These examples show that true, faithful worship is animated by thanksgiving to God. And if that is so, no wonder Paul calls covetousness idolatry.
This Thanksgiving season, through the indwelling Spirit, may the peace of Christ, the word of Christ, and the name of Christ cause thankfulness to well up in our hearts and pour forth grateful praise to our gracious Father.
Maintaining a GPA
‘Good Perspective, Ay’
By Claire Perini
Wherever you’re at in your Regent education, I would guess that at some point, you may have said one of these comments to yourself:
“What on earth am I doing here?”
“This is all too hard … I am going home for Christmas and never coming back!”
“If I have to tell my story one more time …”
“I just want to be around people who have known me longer than three months.”
“I feel like I am learning so much that I am not learning anything.”
“I miss feeling like I’m good or competent at something.”
“This is costing me a lotof money!”
“Nobody really knows me. People don’t ‘get’ me, and I just feel lonely.”
“Why couldn’t the Bible have just been written in English (or whatever your first language is) the first time?”
If any of these statements resonate with you, I want to assure you that it is totally normal. Youare totally normal, and are joining those who have gone before you and most who sit beside you. With this in mind, I want to offer you some tips on how to maintain a GPA–‘Good Perspective Ay’:
1. God is still God, Jesus is still redeeming everything and the Holy Spirit is still present… regardless of how well you do at Regent.
2. Remember whose you are ... the sum total of who you are, your worth and your intelligence are not found in your ability to understand what on earth Foster was talking about in his thesis, or the difference between JEPD sources or how many Hebrew declensions you can memorize.
3. Remember why you sensed God brought you here in the first place … especially when you’re questioning whether or not coming to grad school was a good idea!
4. You are not as dumb as you feel. Others are not as smart as you think … nothing more to say on that.
5. Be patient and gracious with yourself and with others … for some of us, it is possible that in the last six months you have: changed jobs, changed churches, changed friends, had to develop new ways of connecting with old friends, moved house, moved city, or moved country. These are big changes, so show yourself and others patience and grace.
6. Stay human …
Take a Sabbath.
Rest. There is nothing wrong with what I like to call an ‘LLD’ (little lie down).
Eat properly; exercise.
Stress breeds stress … try to speak normally with one another so that our stress doesn’t infect each other.
Go and do something with someone who is not at Regent.
7. Get the broad brushstrokes …
You can’t know everything straightaway. Actually, you can’t know everything about everything anyway!
Carry two baskets—things to think about now, things to think about later.You have the rest of your life to figure out the details. The Holy Spirit will remind you of what you need to be reminded of at the right time.
8. There is the ideal and the real … ditch perfectionism, do your best.
Don’t try and move a pile of rocks all in one go—just move one rock at a time.
Ask yourself, What can I do in the next hour?
Know when enough is enough.
9. This too will pass … the angst of deadlines, papers, and exams is not forever.Somehow you will get through it, and it will all get done somehow. It always does. God is more gracious than we think in helping us get through crazy times.
10. It is not what you know but Who you know … keep asking God what he wants to teach you about Himself and yourself. It may be different than what you are expecting.
Regent is great … but the God whom Regent serves is greater. Maintain a GPA.
Poem: Morning Bus
By Alice Hodgkins
In slow traffic
We sway left together and sway right together,
Adjusting our footing in time
To the intermittent groans of the engine and sighs of the doors.
You read my movements—
I defer to your lead—
Dancing to this tune of general forbearance.
It is only polite, I think, in the solicitous spirit of Jane Austen,
To have a little conversation.
So I consider addressing myself to what stands most directly in my line of sight:
Your left kneecap (with its small, brown scar).
I don’t speak, of course,
But I do look at you people,
A people tired and distant and full and waiting.
None of you look at me.
Looking is rude.
(I am rude:
You know this about me now.)
But from how I clutch my large, flat bag out of your way,
And wrap my long legs right round each other,
It is apparent I mean well.
(So you know that now too.)
As we shuffle back and back and back,
Body and soul added to body and soul at each stop,
The driver tells us to get friendly but not too friendly—
When I breathe warm air out, you breathe it in.
I know not only where you come from, but where you’re going
Can even your oldest friends say as much?
I know in what unorthodox directions your hair grows
On the back of your neck.
I look up to watch the rising sun wash
The close mountains and grey cityscape,
But instead I see your shirt buttons rumpled in a row.
Your breakfast is digesting behind them.
You hope I can’t hear it.
We are on terms of intimacy.
I can see the pink and white hangnail you keep worrying about.
By the time the bus deposits us
We know everything about each other,
Except the sound of one another’s voices.
Sept. 13, 2018
Solution to Last Week’s Crossword
Crossword by Embolus
1. Surely iOS got corrupted. Really? (9)
5. Turn pomp into activity after victory (3,2)
9. Ability to put quill to parchment. Fairy-tale edited with right-left-right drill (8,5)
12. Gale I weathered with flexibility (5)
13. Sang lost arrangement with openness (8)
14. Rioja still bottles a bit of bubbly (4)
16. Gripe about Oxford University’s unquestioning supporter (7)
17. Put pencil to paper in grand reworking (4)
18. French and English articles in field (3)
20. Moth-eaten sticky stuff doesn’t even get started (4)
21. New note for short story (7)
23. I agree, shame no one entered (4)
24. Long time in underwear caused celebrations. (8)
28. Look! Fool in cowboy’s kit. (5)
29. & 6D By cruel fate, I posed geography as a harmonious teaching method. (3, 8,2,6)
30. Result of mixing acid with alcohol in heroin(e)’s terror. (5)
31. Irritate men less! Be together in groups. (9)
2. Lithium found in territory systematized piety (8)
3. Weirdly holy Joe telephoned cathedral in Suffolk (9)
4. They measure imperial gardens (5)
5. For warming hands and heads, many use fleecy fabric. (4)
6. See 29 Across
7. Playing a role, average jerk enclosed terrace within (13)
8. Riverside promise assures payment (4,9)
10. Somewhat illegal and actually quite sick (3)
11. Little stirrer gets into hot water. (8)
15. Leaven hardly limits arrangement of stellar location (8)
17. Perilous to extinguish incomplete inner rage (9)
19. Delightful fuss Bill made (8)
22. Most recent Western edition, but not right. (6)
25. Stone a way in? (5)
26. Eastern way in? (3)
27. Mock first French person with a word of hesitation. (4)