“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us…Worship is pure or base as the worshiper entertains high or low thoughts of God.” –A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy
“Life is worship.”
Our Sunday school teacher said these words last month – and as much as they convicted my heart, the phrase also confirmed my direction for my Word of the Year: worship.
What was getting the glory in my life? What was I relying on for joy, purpose, direction, and peace? Where was my gaze directed? What idols are present that I’m not even aware of? What is my true view of God?
God’s been convicting me in the areas where my affections truly lie – including my time, thoughts, energy, what irritates me, and more. I’ve realized that what I dedicate my time to is the object of my worship…starting with that little device in my hand that connects me to nearly limitless information and people across the world — but one that disconnects me from my Savior.
“Life is worship.” Ouch. Neutrality isn’t an option. I’m choosing what takes priority and preeminence in my life.
As I use social media for distraction, entertainment, or numbing my thoughts – as a default activity when I have a spare moment – it reveals my affections. While I love connecting with others, reading great writing, and cheering people on, I often let five minutes of scrolling turn into 45. This is an area where God is continuing to work, so on my phone lock screen and home screen, I have a graphic of Psalm 119:37 as a reminder:
You see that? God’s ways are life-giving, and therefore worthless things are life draining. Already in a month, I’ve seen God increase my appetite for His Word instead of that glowing blue screen that sends me down the rabbit hole.
I recently finished listening to the audio book of Tony Reinke’s Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age – it’s so good, I highly recommend this book! He says this: “[The Christian’s] strength comes from where she fixes her attention.”
Ohh, how those non-worthy objects zap my strength, while fixing my eyes on Christ renews it!
In addition to revealing where my affections lie, God is showing me that little acts of obedience are worship, even mundane things like doing the dishes, folding clothes for the upteenth time (and letting them sit in the laundry basket allll week), and cooking dinner (do my people really need to eat every day?!?). I’m reminded that there was a time in my life when I couldn’t do these things for my family. As I do them now, gratitude, joy, and worship can – and should – overflow from these acts of service.
A surprising discovery came up during a recent parenting situation that was trickier than I had expected. I thought I could reason the problem away. Talk about it. Comfort it away. Give tough love. Worry about it. And even pray it away – if I prayed correctly, then surely the problem would be solved quickly.
During the situation, I realized that I was worshipping my timeline and my convenience over God’s true work through the Holy Spirit. A whole host of idols came flooding to my attention: control, ease, comfort, pride, perception, self, even sleep.
This verse was brought to my attention: Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness! Psalm 115:1 (ESV)
My problem-solving would’ve been fine, but I never would’ve gotten to the end of myself and sought God’s wisdom, timing, and His supernatural work through the situation. God didn’t want me to pat myself on the back for my expert parenting. He wants – and deserves – the glory due to his steadfast love and faithfulness.
While my desire for a God-honoring resolution wasn’t wrong, my demand for how and when meant idols were slowly taking their place in my life. Focusing on worship this year means I’ll be more attuned to these sneaky shiny objects (like ease and comfort) competing for my affections.
When I become frustrated, I need to ask myself in that moment, “What am I worshipping?”
The Object of Glory
“The world aches to be awed, and that ache was made for God,” writes Reinke in Competing Spectacles.
I love a good show – whether it’s a talented artist, a Broadway play, a beautiful sunset, and even great feats of athleticism. As I think of my prayer life, however, and how I view God, I’m embarrassed to admit that awe is often not on my top 10 list of reactions. I readily embrace God as my friend, comforter, and savior, but my awe is often reserved for the seen and visually stimulating in my own life. Or I reserve my awe for God’s creation (and Him as Creator), but not for other aspects of His character.
In his book, Reinke talks about how the greatest spectacle of all was the cross of Christ and how we must constantly, deliberately turn ourselves toward Christ.
“The Christian’s battle in this media age can only be won by the expulsive power of a superior spectacle,” he writes. “When we turn our attention to Christ, our ultimate spectacle, all the flickering pixels of our culture’s worthless things and beloved idols grow strangely dim.”
Expulsion is defined as “the act of expelling” and its synonyms include banishment, exile, and relegation. In this life of worship, “expulsive power” means banishing what is not worthy – or relegating it to its proper lesser place – and elevating what is worthy.
I think of these words from the hymn:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
In Ruth Chou Simons’s book Beholding and Becoming, which served as my morning devotional through January, I was reminded: “It’s how and what we love most that shapes our joy.”
As I seek to deliberately turn from earthly things, I’m looking expectantly for God’s glory. I’m looking to trade in worthless for worthy. Life-draining for life-giving. Fool’s gold for lasting treasure. Joyless for joyful. Comparison for completion.
I expect this journey of worship will be one of Spirit-relying discipline, as well as growing affection for the object of my worship. God never disappoints. His glory never fades. His promises never fall short.
Oh, that my eyes and heart may gaze on the most valuable thing of all – Jesus Christ!
Competing Spectacles: Treasuring Christ in the Media Age* by Tony Reinke
I listened to this audiobook for free, but I liked it so much, I plan to purchase the hard copy. So much to digest! This work offers a well-researched history of spectacles and outlines many types of spectacles in our modern age (social media, politics, gaming, TV, shopping, and more). The first half of the book satisfies the nerdy part of you, while the last half gives conviction and application to point the reader back to Christ over and over again.
Beholding and Becoming: The Art of Everyday Worship* by Ruth Chou Simons
This gorgeous book was on my wish list, and I received it as a Christmas present. I usually mark up my books with underlines and stars and “yes-es!”, but this was too pretty to mark up. So I took lots of photos of quotes and wrote many down in my journal. The author is also an artist and uses her beautiful artwork and lettering throughout – but it’s not just a gorgeous book, it shares so much truth from God’s Word and incorporating worship into everyday life. You can easily read this book as a month-long devotional or go back to specific chapters for certain seasons of life.
Risen Motherhood Podcast: Episode 149 “Mom, Stop Looking at Your Phone!”
I love the heart behind the creators of this podcast and this ministry. Their mission is to “encourage, equip, and challenge moms to apply the gospel to their everyday lives.” This episode offers some convicting statistics (an average of 2.5 hours a day on social media – yikes!) and practical tips for curbing phone use. They admit to loving aspects of social media (as do I), but they encourage moms to take back that time to glorify God and love our people well – a timely listen for me, for sure.
*Both of these audiobooks are free right now if you do a trial Audible account – available from the Amazon links. These links are affiliate links – meaning, that at no cost to you, if you order a book from these links, I’ll receive a small stipend.