Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Parent's Prayer

Lord, today I thank you for parenting me;
 for far surpassing every expectation,
  fairly or unfairly,
placed upon the shoulders of my earthly parents.

You really have been my perfect Father,
 yes, my perfect Mother.

Your Word tells me that you are the father to the fatherless
and that we can call you Abba, or Papa.
You have described yourself as the One who will comfort us
 like a mother comforts. 

As we were made in your image—male and female you created us— 
I am thankful that the very best traits of the ones we call Mom and Dad
are all wrapped up in who you are.

Long before my parents’ love for each other conceived me,
You had ordained that I should live and grow up before You,
to show forth, in some faint way, the very glory and loveliness of You.                                                                            
I think of You today as the perfect parent
(though no one aspect of your character begins to define who You really are),
 because today I feel like a most imperfect parent.

I struggle with helping my children to rely less on me and more on You, 
with encouraging them to make wise choices
flowing out of a sure and secure relationship with you,
their Master and Designer.                                                                                                                                      
You who are the flawless One, full of grace and truth,
Direct me as their “interim parent,” in whatever stage they may be,
 to know when Truth is best applied, and, perhaps more often,
when Grace just fits.

Remind me today, Lord, of the wondrous fact that as You rule the universe,
Your thoughts toward me—toward my issues—
 are as countless as the sands of the sea?
And that my precious ones are no less precious to You
 than anyone else’s in all the world,
for You, indeed, parent us all.

I trust You today, Lord…
and await further instructions.


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Waiting for Strength to Arrive

The popular contemporary Christian song Everlasting God contains the phrase, “strength will rise as we wait upon the Lord.”  This is a biblical notion for sure, but how foreign it is to our modern American approach to life.  We get stronger by waiting? We draw energy from inertia? By our seemingly obsessive activity, one would think that our weariness is not a result of insufficient passivity, but rather too little time.  Why?  Because we really could do less…we just choose not to.  If you polled most people on why they seem stressed or exhausted, one of the main complaints would be something like this:  There are just not enough hours in the day for me to accomplish everything I need to do.  But is that, in fact, the issue?  Do we just need more time?

A few years ago, a Hollywood movie addressed the issue of time as the new currency in a thriller entitled In Time, starring Justin Timberlake.  What intrigued me was the premise: a future society where the ultimate commodity is not money, not land, but time.  Imagine, in the not-too-distant future, that scientists have discovered a way to turn off the aging gene. As the threat of overpopulation looms over society, money becomes a thing of the past. Now, assets are measured in time; those with the most time also possess the most power. Meanwhile, the lower classes are forced to barter with the new elite if they want to live forever.
The concept is compelling.  And it rings true.  What we all wish we had more of—is time.  Time to get stuff done.  Time to go here and there.  Time to get and stay busy.  And certainly, more time to relax. What appears to be elusive for many of us is not acquiring more time, even for relaxation, but really learning how to rest. Not just a yoga, hmmmm-type relaxation, but what God’s Word refers to as stillness, the ceasing of striving.  Rest.  And there is much in the Word to establish the importance of resting, of finding rest…of actually pursuing rest. In his best seller Too Busy Not to Pray, well-known pastor, teacher, and author Bill Hybels suggests that our real need is not more time for more activity, but more time communing with the One who made us…and then Himself rested.

Genesis 2:2 begins “By the seventh day, God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work.”

Psalm 46:10 reminds us to “Be still and know that I am God.”

Psalm 62 says “My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken. Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.  He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken."

Luke 10:38-42 illustrates the restful posture of Mary, as compared to the busy, but un-peaceful, attitude of sister Martha.

Hebrews 4: 9-11 cautions: “There remains, then a Sabbath-rest for the people of God. For anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His.  Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their examples of disobedience.”

These are but a few of the references that are the basis for a contemporary poem, ‘Til They Rest in You, written by songwriter Tony Wood.

Comes an honest moment when each heart looks inside
Finding nothing here on earth truly satisfies 
Some choose to ignore the ache, some confess it’s true  
God, our hearts will have no peace ‘til they rest in You

Every pleasure, every thrill never is enough 
Every trophy, even gold, simply turns to dust 
Most still search to find real joy yet they never do 
God, our hearts will have no peace ‘til they rest in You

We yearn, we thirst, we stumble in the dark 
Discontent, for You’ve set eternity within each heart.

Thank You for my desperate days, feeling incomplete
Thank You for Your loving ways, leading me to see
 Jesus, You are all I need, nothing else will do 
God, our hearts will have no peace ‘til they rest in You 

Resting in God is less about relaxing and more about relinquishing.  The writer to the Hebrews tells us that “anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from his own work, just as God did from His.”  As we jump into yet another school year and, as God’s people, embark on another cycle in the church calendar, take some time to reflect on how often you think or are caught commenting on your current or anticipated weariness.  Why not take an inventory of your “rest to work ratio” and see if it even comes close to the 1 in 7 standard set by the Creator of the universe.  He worked six days and rested the seventh, even thereby institutionalizing a Sabbath rest for His people.

Tired of striving?  Tired of working for fulfillment, acceptance, significance?  How about waving the white flag of surrender?  Take time.  Make time. Put intentional space into your day or week to meet with God and consciously give Him your stress and weariness. And then take Jesus at his word in this busy season:  "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. (Matt. 11:28)


Monday, August 11, 2014

In Remembrance

Our church celebrates communion once a month.  Some call it The Lord’s Supper.  For others, it’s the Holy Eucharist.  In some church cultures, a worship service is incomplete without this special meal.  Others view it as something to be treasured, and fear its losing some of its special-ness by it being a part of every gathered community. 

Coming from a very traditional, ritualistic even, church background, I understand this concern.  There is a commonly held axiom in communication that to the extent that something is familiar, it loses its impact.  Said another way, the more we know what’s coming, the less intently or expectantly we receive or anticipate it.  I still recall singing portions of the liturgy (the repetitious and routine parts of the worship service) as a child while, at the same time, looking around the room, waving to late-comers, or wondering why I had worn one brown shoe and one black.  Imagine the impact of the words, Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, on my heart, while I am simultaneously winking at the cute girl across the aisle.  Talk about your multi-tasker!

Wherever you land with the frequency and significance of communion in the worship life of the church, know this.  Observing it was a big deal to the one who instituted it—Jesus himself.  For all the ways the church loves to celebrate/commemorate the birth of Christ, Jesus really didn’t say much if anything about remembering the beginning of his earthly life.  What he did not want us to forget, though, was how (and why) he died.

Every four or five weeks, our church hauls out this special table and uses it as the centerpiece of our stage as a visual reminder that during this gathering, we are going to intentionally look back.  In fact, the table has the words “Do this in remembrance of me” etched right on the front of it. The words are from Jesus himself, spoken on the night he poured his heart out to his dearest friends, broke bread, and washed their feet.  He seemed to be saying that what is about to happen, as critical and destiny-changing as it might be, can actually be lost or forgotten if you don’t treasure it, memorialize it, even, in a sense, institutionalize it.  Imagine the passion in his voice at that moment.  He was pleading with them to let the sacrificial act this meal represents be burned into their memory like a brand that can never fade away. Why?  Because we forget.

What was that first “last supper” like?  It was a night filled with drama and profound implications.  If you saw “The Passion of the Christ,” you will recall the opening seen in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus faced the Enemy head on and prayed the prayer, “not my will, but Yours be done.”  What you might have not remembered was that scene historically came immediately after the upper room meal.  So on the night called Maundy Thursday, Jesus loves on His disciples in a final special meal, endures unbelievable spiritual warfare as He prays alone in the garden, suffers the humiliation of betrayal at the hands of one of his own inner circle, and is arrested.  Might it be worth a tradition to recognize those events?  Many still do.

While Jesus warns us against vain repetition (Matthew 6:7), he does not advocate never repeating anything.  Indeed, that is what traditions are: determining those events, occurrences, and corporate experiences which are repeated, whether it is weekly, monthly, annually or otherwise.  This is suggested in the Old Testament in the book of Numbers: “Also at your times of rejoicing—your appointed feasts and New Moon festivals—you are to sound the trumpets over your burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, and they will be a memorial for you before your God.” (Numbers 10:10)  This wasn’t just a Hebrew thing, it was a people of God thing, suggesting that part of trusting God for our future was remembering our past.  And part of retaining the identity as a unique work of God’s hand was to replay, occasionally, our unique story. Doing certain things in remembrance helps keep us, as the transforming people of God, anchored in our spiritual and cultural roots.

If, in this contemporary American culture which seems addicted to the new, we find that nothing we do seems worthy of repeating, then maybe it wasn’t worth doing in the first place.  Conversely, God forbid that we ever allow the priority of our fellowship to become the mere perpetuation of traditions.  But recognizing our propensity as fallen creatures to forget even the things that should matter most, let’s agree on this: some things are still worth doing in remembrance…lest we forget.


Monday, August 4, 2014

Proverbs 2.0

During these lazy, crazy days of summer, yours truly is choosing to exercise his right to take a break himself (call it literary laziness).  But rather than leaving you with nothing to read, I am opting instead for a selection of random quotes from folks wiser and, in some cases, more humorous than I.  Included in this blog are just scattered thoughts and life observations which should remind us not to take ourselves too seriously, but always to be pursuing God-likeness.  I like to call lists like these:  Proverbs 2.0. 

Don't let your worries get the best of you; remember, Moses started out as a basket case.

Many folks want to serve God, but only as advisers.

The good Lord didn't create anything without a purpose, but mosquitoes come close.

Opportunity may knock once, but temptation bangs on your front door forever.

If the church wants a better pastor, it only needs to pray for the one it has.

A lot of church members who are singing "Standing on the Promises" are just sitting on the premises.

Be fishers of men. You catch them. He'll clean them.

Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.

Don't put a question mark where God put a period.

Don't wait for six strong men to take you to church.

Forbidden fruits create many jams.

God doesn't call the qualified. He qualifies the called.

If God is your copilot - swap seats!

A bird in the hand is safer than one overhead.

A ship in the harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.

He who never made a mistake, never made a discovery.

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

If you are willing to admit faults, you have one less fault to admit.

You cannot get to the top by sitting on your bottom.

Rather than asking God to bless what you’re doing, find out what God is doing, because it’s already blessed.

Love one another.  No, really.  Love one another.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            tad

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

This is only a test…

Have you ever felt that your life is like an ongoing sound check?  You know: Testing, testing… Just when you think you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, you discover it’s an oncoming train. Or you face yet another obstacle or are forced to endure one more hardship.  I recently read a humorous spin on this, called “you know it’s going to be a bad day when…” Perhaps some of you can relate.                                                                                                            
  •   You see a 20/20 news team in your office
  •   You call suicide prevention hotline, and they put you on hold.
  •   You turn on the news, and they’re showing emergency routes out of the city.
  •   Your car horn goes off accidentally and remains stuck as you follow a group of Hell’s Angels on the freeway.
  •   Your boss tells you not to bother to take off your coat.
  •   Your income tax check bounces.
  •   The timer on your coffee maker is set to brew at 8:00 a.m. and you forgot to put the coffee pot in the dispenser.
  •   You put both contact lenses in the same eye.
  •   You spend ten minutes looking for something you’re already wearing.
  •   Your twin sister forgot your birthday.

OK, so chances are that none of those things is in your immediate future, but what about others, such as

  •   You are 23, and despite a commitment to Christ, the earnest prayers of hundreds for your healing, and the love and support of a wonderful family, you succumb to cancer (a young friend who recently lost the battle, but won the war)
  •   You remain unemployed after months, if not years, of seeking work
  •   Your home feels increasingly unsafe due to emotional or physical abuse
  •   Your childhood innocence was shattered by sexual abuse
  •   One of your parents abandoned you just when you needed them most
  •   You are drowning in debt and see no way of escape
  •   You are facing retirement with uncertainty and financial instability

Whatever it is, we sometimes conclude that God is testing us.  And that’s if we’re even willing to believe there might be a redemptive purpose in what we’re going through.  But if we’re honest, the thoughts that occupy our minds during such times often sound more like this: Where are you, God? Are you on a break? What about all your promises?  (We may even defiantly quote scriptures.) You know, like those listed in Psalm 27:

For in the day of trouble, he will keep me safe in his dwelling
he will hide me in the shelter of his sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

Essentially, we the created ones, put God on trial. We demand answers.  Like Jerry McGuire, we may say we want the truth, to which God often replies, “Your 3½ lbs of brain can’t handle the truth. You’re just going to have to trust me on this one.”

So why did the Psalmist write “when trouble comes…he will keep you safe”?  Sounds pretty straight-forward to me. I don’t pretend to understand God in all of these circumstances, but he has clearly stated in His word that my ways are not His ways, my thoughts His thoughts (Isaiah 55:8,9).  And He pointedly doesn’t just declare His thoughts and ways to be different…He says that they are HIGHER.  Like, exponentially higher. They ultimately lift us up!  That is encouraging!

In the same way, the writer to the Hebrews says in chapter 11 that faith is ‘the conviction of things not seen.’  Not clear.  It is not faith if God can be figured out by using our mind and senses alone.  It involves a trust leap. Continuing in Psalm 27, David reminds us of the need for tenacity in our faith.

My heart says of you, "Seek his face!"  Your face, LORD, I will seek.
Though my father and mother forsake me, the LORD will receive me.
I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.

I find myself as I write this in just one of these places.  It may be a “wait and see” moment…or a “trust and obey” time.  The jury is still out.  As a worship leader, singer and teacher, much of what I do comes from the ability to use my voice properly.  Five days ago, I had a polyp removed from one of my vocal cords. I have not been able to talk, sing, or even whisper since then.  The doc says if I behave and don’t abuse it, I should be back to good as new soon.  But since then, I’ve heard horror stories from other singers who claim their voice was never the same after similar surgery.  (Reminds me of the old joke about the guy who asks his doctor, “Hey Doc, after my shoulder surgery, will I be able to play the violin?” to which the doctor replies, “I don’t see why not.”  The patient exclaims, “That’s amazing, ‘cause I never could before.”)

For me, just going several days with limited ability to communicate has caused me to ask God questions.  What are you trying to teach me here?  Do I depend too much on what I say to others and not enough on what I do for them.  How many other precious gifts do I possess which I take completely for granted?  And, how much must you love me to put up with such childish whining (in my spirit, remember—I can’t talk!)?
Ultimately, where I want to live is not only trusting in the God of the Happy Endings.  Rather, I want the assurance and conviction of the Old Testament prophet Habakkuk, who concluded:

Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, 
yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Savior.

The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer,
he enables me to tread on the heights.

Indeed, his ways are higher than mine. For whatever I am facing right now, I can trust Him. After all, it is never His intention to let us drag Him down to where we are, limited by our finite bodies and brains.  Rather, He would use His limitless resources and bountiful grace to lift us up to where He is, enabling us to tread on the heights where angels attend Him. Believe me, friends, there are worse things to hear from one’s God than “testing, testing.” In just such times, may our response be “trusting, trusting.”


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Grace that fits 'just right'

(Author’s Note: Portions of this article are reprinted from a previous blog, but it addresses a topic which I believe cannot be belabored. A key to looking for God’s activity in even the hard places of life is in knowing that his custom-fitted grace is always available to us…just for the asking.)

One of my favorite stories from childhood was about Goldilocks and the three bears. You remember… the one where the little blonde girl happens upon a house in the woods and ends up sitting in someone else’s chair, sampling someone else’s soup, and sleeping in someone else’s bed.  If memory serves (and lately, I confess, it seems a tad overworked), the catch phrase in each of those situations was something like “this one is JUST RIGHT.” There was always something very satisfying about that statement, since to me it validated that little people, like big people, are individuals with different needs and different tastes.  Never mind that blondie was breaking and entering.  I identified with her curiosity, and, as a high J on the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory, I understood her need for closure before moving on to the next task. 

As a child I was labeled a worrier, particularly by my mom.  She often commented in my grade school years that I would have an ulcer at 15.  What did I have to worry about?  Well, for one thing, I was going to be getting this ulcer in a few years according to my mother.  And then there were the monthly checkups to see if I had bitten my finger nails.  If I was guilty (and, obviously, there was no hiding the evidence), I promptly received a spanking.  (Not sure which was the cause and which was the effect in that case!) 

But part of my anxiety was the result of being blessed with a creative imagination.  Upon viewing virtually any situation, I could easily project myself into those circumstances—good or bad.  This was a plus if I imagined myself a lifeguard saving a drowning victim or a firemen rescuing a cat from a burning building.  But on the flip side, it caused great dread or fear if I witnessed sad, tragic or frightful things, either in real life or just watching TV.  Once, I got physically sick following a trip to the junk yard, where my father took me to view the wrecked remains of a car driven by a member of our church.  Just seeing the steering wheel imbedded in the driver’s seat traumatized me, so vivid was my imagination. 

And then there was the time, while in the back seat of my parents’ car, we happened past the local hospital, and I saw a poor man who had no arms or legs sitting upright in a wheelchair.  At first horrified, my shock quickly moved to fear that someday I would be so handicapped…then to worry that I would be utterly helpless and totally dependent on others…and finally to despair that I would not be able to handle it and probably die.  The mental and emotional progression which seems almost humorous to me now was very real then, and I will never forget the comfort my mom brought me at that moment.  She quietly reminded me that the man I saw in the wheel chair had just the grace he needed for that situation.  The reason I couldn’t imagine handling the challenges he faced was because God wasn’t asking me to.  And, I concluded that day, that whatever God allowed into my life would be accompanied by a custom-made grace that fit my particular circumstances “just right.”

 One of Webster’s definitions of grace is simply “help given man by God.”  Since I have concluded, like Goldilocks, that I am unique and that my life circumstances are similar to and yet unlike anyone else’s at any given moment, a “one size fits all” grace simply will not do.  Rather, my loving Father tailor-makes the particular faith, comfort, spiritual resources and supportive relationships I need to endure with joy whatever comes my way. 

Perhaps you have found yourself looking at someone in grief or misery and saying to yourself, “I could never handle that,” “I would never survive that much pain,” or worse yet, “I would lose my faith.”  In the Old Testament, Job’s wife took an inventory of his list of tragedies and concluded “curse God and die.”  In the HISTORY’S WORST ADVICE category, we have a winner!  I believe that reaction might come from an assumption that God is not very discriminating or particular in the type of care we need for life’s challenges.  We might see this type of divine oversight as little more than fatalism, a kind of que sera, sera existence.  Whatever will be, will be.  After all, isn’t this life just a ‘vale of tears’?  Well, yes and no.  In John’s gospel, Jesus promised us:  “In this world you will have suffering,” and “I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you.”

Think about it: would any thinking, feeling person ever offer the same counsel and comfort to a person who had just become paralyzed as one would to a child who had just lost a fish?  Both involve sensitivity, wisdom, and a grace that “just fits.” So it is with our heavenly Father, who offers us precisely what we need when we need it to handle everything that life throws at us.  The grace He offers that covers all our sins is universally applied. But the grace available to support and tend to us in our daily struggles is always a custom-fit.  

So until God redeems the life experiences which we wish had never happened, we have two choices:
·         Push Him away, clench our fists, and feel sorry for ourselves—in a sense, curse God and die OR

·         Draw near to Him, open our hands, and receive His amazing, personalized grace for every situation. 

Take a moment right now, in whatever circumstances you find yourself, and receive God’s custom-fitted grace!  Coming from Him, I guarantee you it will be ‘just right.’ 


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Worship Can Be Hazardous to Your Health

Lessons from the very first worshiping community:  One of my favorite teachers on the subject of worship is Pastor Jack Hayford, formerly the senior pastor of Church on the Way in Van Nuys, CA.  Jack has an uncanny ability to take a simple Biblical narrative and draw a ton of applications from it without violating the text in the process.  Check out this portion from “A Man’s Worship and Witness” where Jack gives his own unique spin on one the very first worshiping communities—Cain & Abel (found in Genesis 4).

Soiled hands placed vegetables in a tidy arrangement on the rock altar. Cain felt proud of his display. His brother, Abel, had begun assembling his own offering hours ago and still wasn’t done.

Cain was. All Cain did was walk into his garden and pull up the fine specimens out of the ground. They had grown all by themselves. And the garden was close by. It all seemed so easy.

A smug smile curled Cain’s lips. His brother- still searching out in the fields for an offering- was laboring for nothing, Cain mused. He looked again upon the grand, colorful altar. There it was. Vegetables. On the altar. Easy.

This being one of his first offerings, Cain wondered what exactly was to happen next. Pondering this, he sat on a nearby stone and waited. HE looked over at this brother’s altar just as Abel came through the bushes carrying several ewe lambs. It wasn’t long before the lambs were mounted on Abel’s altar and slain.

Cain noticed that Abel’s altar was smaller than his. Good. Having sacrificed the animals on the altar, Abel walked several paces back and knelt in prayer. Cain felt uneasy. He hadn’t done that. But comforted himself by observing that Abel’s altar was blood-stained and dirty, while his was neat, tidy and colorful: orange and red and yellow and green and – just then: Whoosh! Brilliant flames from out of nowhere- from another realm- licked up all of Abel’s sacrifice! All of it! Cain jumped to his feet. A few ashes drifted in the breeze. The colorful harvest on Cain’s altar remained defiantly the same-unchanged. Nothing happened to his.

Cain stormed off, angered and pouting. And it was later, as his tormented mind seethed with hatred and jealousy, that the Lord met him near a tall palm tree: “Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if do not do well, sin lies at the door. And its desire is for you, but you should rule over it” (Genesis 4:6,7).

Shortly, Cain’s competitive jealousy grew to such intolerable levels that he rose in fury to kill his brother, Abel. And thus, the record teaches us: the first murder was born in the heart of a man who resisted God’s ways of worship. The first victim of violence was a man who worshiped God physically, openly, and freely.

Conclusion: the world will violently persecute those who worship the Lord is childlike obedience, even while they themselves exalt their own pretense of religious piety.

Personally I am challenged by this story…not only from the original text, but also by the way Hayford has drawn applications for us as a worshiping community.  From this, I have come up with my own Top Ten List of takeaways:  

1. As we bring an offering to God (ourselves), He wants all of us, not what is comfortable or convenient.

2. Nothing less than our very best is really worthy of God.

3. He doesn't require what He does not provide.

4. Man looks at the outside - God looks at the heart.

5. No true act of worship can be separated from the need for the shedding of blood. Either we return to the old animal sacrificial system or we adopt God's new covenant offer of the life of His son. (Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. - Hebrews 9:22)

6. Uncontested spiritual warfare can be deadly. For the time being, Cain, an enemy of true worship, succeeded in quelling the sacrifice of praise offered by his brother. But unlike Abel, we are not left alone to be victimized by the Enemy in an effort to silence our praise. This is why we often pray that God would "blind the enemy" (Mark 3:27) prior to our worship experiences. We believe the One in us is greater than the one who is "in the world."

7. If we allow our worship to go public, it will impact others. Some might be blessed and encouraged. Others will begin to pull away from us or, worse, try to silence or even discredit us.

8. As Abel learned, worshiping freely with abandon in public places can be hazardous to your health! At the very least it can result in you being judged, ridiculed, less popular. Kind of like Jesus.

9. In the end, warring over whose worship is more Christian or appropriate or godly still misses the mark. As wrong as Cain was, he still was not beyond redemption. The writer to the Hebrews reminds us, "You have come to Jesus, the one who mediates the new covenant between God and people, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks of forgiveness instead of crying out for vengeance like the blood of Abel."

10. Sincere and God-focused worship touches His very heart! ("The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering..." 4:4) What could be a loftier goal?

Bottom line?  May our ultimate goal be to bring pleasure to the One who alone is worthy, no matter what the cost.