Personal Worship Lesson 7
By Claudine Lehman
Coram Deo is a Latin term loosely translated “in the presence of God” or “before the eyes of God.” This concept was a defining characteristic of the early church. Their lives were marked by awe for the holy, majestic God who called men and women to Himself.
In Acts 5:11 we find the church driven to their knees in fear and reverence when they witnessed God’s hatred of sin and the punishment of Ananias and Sapphira. Later in Acts 9:31 we see the church “enjoyed a time of peace and was strengthened. Living in the fear of the Lord and encouraged by the Holy Spirit, it increased in numbers.”
These early Christians were learning to live “before the eyes of God.” They were watching and learning His character, increasingly aware of His presence among them. How desperately we need that today—to understand we live day by day in the presence of God . . . that we live each minute, each instant, not knowing whether in the next we will meet Him face-to-face.
And so the journey begins—to know God. All our praise songs are great, but how do you know they are true? Where and who is God when it hurts . . . when the needs are so great? How do I really know He is real, can be counted on, is truly faithful?”
Have you ever, in the secret most private place in your mind, asked yourself if all this about God is really true? I have—did—years ago.
Some days and weeks seem to hold unbelievable crises and sad happenings. Dear friends, total strangers, family members call, sharing their heartbreak, hurt, frustration or anger, reaching out for some kind of help. Sometimes I feel so helpless. I would like to give quick answers, something to help solve the problems, but . . . I find I have no quick fixes. Nothing I say changes or helps.
I’ve heard it said, “When your world is badly shaken, start with what you know and believe and build upward from there.”
But that is the big question . . . what do I know for sure, or think I know? Am I sure God is in control of all things? That His plan for our lives is always perfect? How can I toss such a platitude to someone caught in the middle of crisis? Their life seems out of control. Will they have any idea what I am talking about?
Somehow we Christians have to get the sovereignty, the holiness, the love of God out of the Scriptures and into the mainstream of our living. Christianity has to work in the valleys of despair if it is worth having at all.
Are you a person who asks a lot of questions? Peg Rankin in her book Yet Will I Trust Him said, “Questions in motion are the essence of life. Even answers received have to be tossed up again as questions. For each time an answer returns, it spins toward us with a different facet of its truth showing. And so we have another question to ask.”
Kids are experts at this. One day I had this interesting dialogue with my then 3-year-old niece, Patti Joy Pierson (now Mrs. Bryan Clark).
“Aunt Claudine, what are you doing?” . . . . I’m washing my hair.
“Why are you doing that?” . . . Because it’s dirty and needs to be washed.
“How did it get dirty?” . . . Well, hair just gets dirty and needs to be washed.
How did yours get dirty? . . . I don’t know, Patti. It just is!
“It is what?”
Every answer was turned into a question. That is the exciting part of going hard after God. The more you ask, the more He answers, and the more answers you have, the more you ask:
- “Who is this God I am serving?”
- “Where is He when I need Him most?”
- “Why are there crises in my life?”
- “How can I have victory in the midst of crises?”
So let me ask you, “Do you know this God you are trying to serve?”
I’m afraid too often we have made God in our imaginations. By our church traditions, denominationalism and narrow-mindedness, we create a God who is less than the Holy One whom Scripture reveals to be an all-consuming fire. In his book, The Trivialization of God: The Dangerous Illusion of a Manageable Deity, Donald McCullough warns against our tendency to create a God in our image—a “god-of-my-cause,” or “god-of-my-understanding,” or “god-of-my-experience.”
In his summary of McCullough’s book, Dietrich Gruen says this:
“Only the God who transcends us—stretching us beyond our limited understanding, our subjective experience, our national identity, and our personal comfort zones—calls forth awe-filled and joy-filled worship. This God-centered worship is mediated by the Word through Scripture, sermon and sacrament. . . .
Acting on the primacy of God’s Word is difficult with so many biblical illiterates in the church. Our channel-surfing video generation partakes less and less in serious Bible study and more and more in a cafeteria-style, pick-your-own-truth, obey-what-you-want religion that trivializes God.”
God has to be the God of Scriptures, NOT the god of our imaginations. If we are to worship Him in all of His fullness, we have to accept Him exactly as He describes Himself in His Word. We cannot create a God as we would like Him to be. We must accept the Scriptures we have difficulty with as well as the ones that are palatable to us.
1) He is a God of Love, BUT that is only one facet of His many-faceted character.
- To worship only a God of love is to create a lopsided God.
- Often we choose to worship His love at the expense of His holiness.
- God does love –He loves righteousness. God also hates—He hates sin. He can love sinful mankind only through His son, Jesus. John 3:36 states, “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life; and he that believes not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides in him.”
God’s love is limited by what He hates. God’s hate is tempered by his love.
2) Yes, God is the God of all goodness, but He does not manifest His goodness at the expense of His other attributes.
- He is not a divine Santa Claus in the sky, desiring to drop promotion, success and wealth upon all those who trust Him.
- God does give His children material blessings. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” James 1:17.
- But sometimes His plan includes promotion and sometimes it includes demotion. Psalm 75:6-7 tells us: “For promotion comes neither from the east, nor from the west, nor from the south. But God is the judge: he puts down one and sets up another.” We love to focus on the last part of that verse—“sets up”—but God does both, and His actions are always based on His sovereignty, His wisdom, His justice and His goodness.
3) God is the Divine Healer, but He does not always choose to heal.
- To say God wants everybody healthy all the time us to ignore major portions of Scripture. [1 Thess. 3: 1-4, 2 Cor. 12: 7-10, 1 Peter 3: 17-18, John 16: 31-33]
- Sometimes God can accomplish more through affliction than ease.
- “Afflictions are often God’s best blessing in disguise.”
Let’s not allow our God to become fragmented by picking and choosing from His attributes:
- God is a God of love, but he is also a God of holiness.
- God is a God of mercy, but He is also a God of justice.
- God controls success, but He also controls failure.
- God triumphs in health, but He also triumphs in sickness and death.
We must return to the God of the Scriptures—the God of the ages—whose every attribute is in His every action. He is a God of holiness, truth, justice, mercy, wisdom, goodness, grace, longsuffering, and sovereignty—all at the same time. Determine to become a follower, a worshiper, of His total being.
How do you react to this teaching on the nature of God? Do you ever rebel against the sovereignty of God? Do you ever question His fairness . . . justice . . . love . . . timing . . . authority . . . silence? Of all His attributes, which is hardest for you to worship? Which parts of Scripture do you tend to avoid?
You may be thinking—the Bible is so huge. Where do I start?
Years ago I found this tool to help me begin. The Navigators had a notebook that the attributes of God and references to where they could be found in Scripture. So I took the attributes and the references and started going through each one—meditating, asking God to speak . . . to show me . . . to open my eyes. This is when journaling became a way of life for me—not as a diary about me, how I felt, how life was treating me—but a journal about God, who He was.
For your homework this week, I am going to give you one of the first attribute on the list and its references. Take some time to look up each reference. Meditate on it—jot down notes in your journal as God speaks to you. Don’t try to do all the references at once. Maybe take one per day and really dwell on what the passage is telling you about God. Then at the end of the week, review your notes and write what you have learned about Him in a prayer of praise.
GOD IS ABSOLUTE! Job 42:1-3, Psalm 145: 11-13, Isaiah 44:6, Daniel 2:20-21, Romans 14:11, 1 Timothy 6:15,16.
2 Replies to “Coram Deo”
How beautifully Claudine writes of the true nature of the God of the Scriptures. Many statements to highlight and remember. I don’t find any one attribute the hardest, but rather the truth that He is all these things “all at the same time”. My human understanding is so one dimensional; so only of the moment that God’s sovereign control can feel confusing, even like a roller-coaster, from my dim perspective. What I have to remember is that God is not arbitrary nor capricious, but “compassionate and gracious” (Ps 103:8) and most importantly, “He knows how we are formed, He remembers we are dust.” (v.14). Oh that I would understand this!
The question about “what part of Scripture you avoid” makes me smile recalling what a friend told me years ago about how she had just “ripped those pages right out of her Bible”. Blasphemous perhaps, but when haven’t we all felt a bit like doing just that when understanding evades us or God’s truth just doesn’t line up very well with what we want right now? I find Paul’s teaching on marriage in Ch 7 of 1 Corinthians challenging in application not only to our culture but among believers married to non-believers or believers in rebellion. My confusion, however, is helped tremendously when I remember the TRUE nature of God!
Thanks, Carmen. You’ve shared a lot of good insight there. I think, if we’re honest, we all can admit to wanting to ignore what we can’t understand, but I’m so glad we have a God who doesn’t fit into our limited, human understanding.