Thursday, August 07, 2008

Through the Magnifying Glass

This coming Sunday I'm preaching about magnifying God. Originally, my thought had been to preach on praise using one of the Psalms (96, 98, or 145, though are many like these to choose from). And I was thinking about praise and worship and asking myself, "What is the importance of praising God? What is the importance of singing together as a congregation to God?" We are invited to praise, called to praise, and commanded to praise. But why? One reason is that, of course, God deserves our praise. He is worthy of our praise. But that reason alone doesn't seem to make praise personal enough.

Then I ended up watching these videos (here, here, and here) and that, plus having to focus on God while also having to deal with some personal worries, led me to think of one word: magnify. I found a definition of magnification that reads this way: “Magnification is the process of enlarging something only in appearance, not in physical size; magnification of the image does not change the perspective of the image.” I looked up the definition because I guess I had never really thought about what it really means to magnify God before. But it seems to me that it is the notion of magnification that gets us closer to why we come to God with our praise and worship.

What we magnify doesn’t actually get any larger, but it does to our eyes. It appears larger. Applied to God, this means that in magnifying God we do not, indeed cannot, add to God or enlarge him in any way. But what we do in magnifying God is we enlarge him in our own eyes, in our minds, and in our hearts and lives. Magnifying God is something we do because God deserves to be magnified. He deserves our adoration, our worship, and our praise.

There are many things in our lives that get magnified: personal troubles, financial struggles, health issues, family and relationship conflicts, and possessions. We call this blowing things out of proportion or making mountains out of molehills. We are all prone to doing this. I do this, and I suspect none of us is immune to magnifying lots of things in our lives—we’re all guilty of making various things appear larger than they are in reality.

But when we do this, one thing—someone—often gets reduced in size: God. Sometimes God ends up looking pretty small to us and ends up being small compared to everything else going on around us and in us. Cares and circumstances reduce God to a bit player in our lives, when not only is he supposed to be the major player in our lives but the director of our lives.

Or maybe God gets de-magnified in another way. Over the years sometimes we grow pretty familiar with church routine. We’ve heard all the hymns and praise songs, so we end up singing them by rote. We’ve heard sermons countless times, it seems, and the pastor rarely brings something fresh to the pulpit. The significance of the Bible stories we read lessen in impact because of repetition. And perhaps some of us as a result have reduced God to being no bigger than our experience of church.

God is already infinitely larger and greater than we can ever hope or imagine or understand. But he doesn’t always seem that way to our eyes. By proclaiming his greatness, his wonderful deeds, and his awesome character, by lifting our praises heavenward with expectant hearts, he will be magnified; that is, our perception of him will enlarge to better reflect who he really is. I also found this quotation on magnifying God, which I think is great. There's not much I can really add to it (though on Sunday I'll try!):
“Devout Christians are not exempt from not realizing the greatness of God. They may love the Lord and serve Him faithfully yet be so overwhelmed by their circumstances and fail to see that God is bigger. Magnifying God means seeing his greatness and superiority over every aspect of our lives. It means seeing God as being greater than any obstacle or challenge that comes our way. Magnifying God means proclaiming God's greatness and superiority over every aspect of our lives. God is magnified through praise for it proclaims his greatness and mighty acts (Ps 86:12, 13). Praise magnifies God in our eyes by reminding us of what he has done (Ps 107). It is the magnifying glass through which we see God's greatness. A magnifying glass does not make anything bigger that it really is but only magnified in our eyes (perception). In like manner, God is already great and magnified in the universe but through the magnifying glass of praise, so to speak, he is magnified in our eyes (perception) as well."

And, really, magnifying God is almost synonymous with praising God. In fact, until this week it never really occurred to me to think of magnifying God as anything other than a synonym for praising God. But for me the penny dropped when I realized that having God magnified is the result of our praise and worship and ought to be one of the reasons and motivations for our worship. And so all of the questions I had about praise -- like, why do we do it? -- were essentially answered. For some of you, this insight may not be new, but for me it feels pretty fresh. I just never thought of it this before. All I can say is that I found myself feeling quite grateful for how God helped me see this.

So, let me ask you: in what ways do you find God reduced in your eyes? How do you magnify God in your life? Does your experience of praising God in worship enable you to magnify him? I'd love to hear anyone else's thoughts on this.

4 comments:

MSL said...

AMEN!
I've been around a few more years than you :) but I too find what God is teaching you refreshing and powerful.

So often, we do let events and processes become so magnified that we see nothing else. Yet when we look back especially through the lenses of grace, We find it was just LIFE.

Knowing this we go along to the next BIG event and again lose our focus. However in worship, it's true, we get just a bit of a glimpse of who God really is.

It's not that our problems are not huge; it's that He is so much greater. He has the big picture in view.
I love the chorus that goes something like:
"He is able more than able to accomplish what concerns me today.
He is able more than able to handle anything that comes my way.
He is able more than able to do much more than I could ever dream.
And He is able more than able.
To make me what he wants me to be.

Thank you for this insight.

Tom Gilkison said...

I'm having a real hard time with the 'church' thing. Corporate magnification of God has become a 'good works' entertainment activity that consumes the Church.

John 4

"Sir," the woman said, "I can see that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem." Jesus declared, "Believe me, woman, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth."

A few weeks ago I completed a long work week and went to the garage to have a cigar because it was raining outside. The Spirit came upon me and I began to worship in the Spirit and the Truth. Filled with power I called for the rain to stop, and the sky to open up, and the sun to shine. I watched the rain stop and the sky opened up, but the sun did not shine. I smoked my cigar and looked up at the blue sky poking holes in the clouds. When I was done worshipping God I turned to go back inside. As I turned my head the trees lit up with reflected sunlight and I called out to God in praise for being true to His Word. I went back inside and looked out the window. There was no more sun and no more blue sky. He had answered my prayer and nature continued its course.

Last week I was rubbing a mole on my arm that has flared up at various times in my life. It was now cracked and oozing and red around the edges. I thought that I would make a doctors appointment for a nitrogen treatment which never seemed to work. Then I remembered the Word and began to worship. Filled once again with the Spirit I rebuked the mole, commanding it to leave my body. I watched with my own eyes the mole smooth out and the edges retreat until the mole became very small. It was no longer an agitation. I praised God for His power and authority over the things of this world an His love for us.

With true worship in the spirit, there is a filling of the Spirit. Where God is in Spirit, He is in Power. I worship for the power to do His will on earth as it is in Heaven.

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