Reflecting God’s Beauty and Glory

Having returned last weekend from a Robert E. Webber Institute for Worship Studies alumni seminar on “Grounding Worship in the Doctrine of God” led by Dr. John Witvliet of Calvin Institute for Worship, I would like to simply pass along to you some important quotes from the seminar.  I will attempt to site these appropriately as indicated on printed material and/or my sketchy notes from the enriching sessions with Dr. Witvliet.  I was joined by fellow Tennesseeans Jonathan and Glenda Nelms along with 15 or 18 fellow alumni for this conference.  Before offering those quotes, let me just share an impression on my present state of mind following these sessions:

I find it strangely appropriate that I am speechless at the overwhelming nature of our discussions at this conference.  I am struck with awe at the mere thought of the beauty of God.  I am deafened by the volume of ways and means that God has revealed His beauty, most perfectly in the Christ.  Indeed, like Simeon “we have seen His salvation.”  “We have seen His glory.” (Luke 2:29; John 1:14)  I am deeply convicted at the proclivity we have to make idols for our worship; to attempt to construct a god of our own liking.  When speaking or singing of God’s “glory” we tend to project puffy clouds, peaceful oceans, and trickling rivers, and avoid the “consuming fire,” (Ex 24:17) and the “weightiness of His glory.” (2 Cor 4:17)  John Witvliet spoke of considering a biblical definition of glory as “a recipe,” which included

  • One part weightiness
  • One part luminosity
  • One part benevolence or goodness
  • One part transparency

 

An aspect of worship’s reach for me is this point that I come to when I run short of words to articulate the sense of God.  It is the point of faith for me, where I am truly speechless, yet conceive of the Lord who has spoken that He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)  As you read these, I pray your spirit will be stirred and your mind’s imagination engaged as you consider God’s glory.  Perhaps, like me, you will find the need to bow down, and recommit to presenting a fully biblical view of Him in your church’s worship.

“What idea of God do we carry around with us?  Is that idea a source of comfort?  Fear?  Guilt?  Philip Yancey tells of the experience of George Buttrick, former chaplain at Harvard. Frequently students came in his office and announced ‘I don’t believe in God anymore.’  His reply?  ‘Tell me what kind of God you don’t believe in.  I probably don’t believe in that God either’ (The Jesus I Never Knew, 264).  Often, our deepest spiritual problems have less to do with God than with our less-than-perfect ideas of God.”

“The Psalms often invite us to meditate on God’s mighty deeds: ;I will meditate on your deeds in the watches of the night.;  The idea is to take some time to have our distorted ideas of God chiseled away.  The genius of that practice is to rid us of the subtle little idolatries that crust over our soul.  This is also the point of the singing we do in church.  When we sing in worship, we’re not only practicing our pivot away from the false gods of the world, to the true God.  We’re also getting straight the kind of God we worship (which is why the words of our songs are so important, and why a balanced diet is so important.”    (John Witvliet, excerpt from sermon on Is. 41-42)

His glory manifest in both creation (Psalm 8, 19:1; Isaiah 6:3) and in redemption

 

“Thus in worship we will rightly resist any way of talking about this that pits the glory of Christ as being overagainst that of creation.  The glory of Christ may be even more luminous than the Canadian Rockies, but it is not opposed to it and only heightens our gratitude for it. . . . And we will come to realize that divine glory is partly studied by pastors and theologians, partly by nurses, biologists, and chemists.”

2Cor. 3:18:  And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the Lord as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord, the Spirit.

Blessings as you contemplate His glory and reflect His glory!

Explore posts in the same categories: Worship Reminders, Worship thoughts

4 Comments on “Reflecting God’s Beauty and Glory”

  1. Kely Hatley Says:

    Paul,
    After reading your post, it sounds like you had a wonderful experiece at the alumni gathering. I wish I had been able to attend. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us as Ministers of Music. All of us need continual challenging in the area of worship elements regarding what we include, delete, change to fit our likings, and gloss over in God’s worship services. Thank you for conitnuing to sharpen all of us.

    From snowy Knoxville,
    Kely

  2. Bruce Gouge Says:

    Paul, This is a great article which I would love to share with my choir by e-mail if you would allow me the privilege to do so. Many members of my choir think we should cater to their taste or style, let alone what the congregation believes or thinks. Thanks for your insights of music ministry. God Bless
    Bruce

    • pclarkjr Says:

      I am honored that you want to forward to your choir, Bruce. In your capacity as worship music leader you serve as a filter, which means you may not be giving them what they “want” or “like” but are responsible to offer what will please the Lord. That is why our reflection on scripture’s teachings are so critical to those of us who place words of praise on the lips of worshipers. Blessings as you serve.

      Paul


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