Tag Archives: spirituality

Radical Focus on Wrong Things

When does making music not involve playing actual music?

When you’re a “Radical Christian,” apparently.

I hope you all have perfect pitch...
I hope you all have perfect pitch…

A gent named Wes McAdams has a couple blogs that popped up on my Facebook feed. His site is titled “Radically Christian – 1st Century Christianity in a 21st Century World.” One post calls into question why some churches feel musical instruments are a necessary part of the worship service. The next challenges the idea that instruments have any place in today’s church at all.

It concerns me when people assume they’ve found the secret, the missing spiritual link, the one thing that every “good” or “true” Christian should be doing (or not doing) in order to show how much more Christ-like they are than everyone else.

Usually that’s the road to heresy. Because if Jesus isn’t the One Thing–if your message becomes “Jesus and (fill in the blank)” instead–then your Gospel isn’t the good news of grace anymore. It becomes all about doing something to prove your faith and earn your reward. Or it becomes yet another self-righteous way to show how much better you are than the benighted and corrupted so-called Christians in every other church.

However, since I have been a lead worshiper at times in the past, and since one of my passions is worship (to include specifically the musical part often done in church gatherings), I wanted to give Mr. McAdams’ points due consideration.

(thinking…)

At best, he’s being silly and nit-picking, but generally harmless. At worst, he’s way off Scripture, and his condemnations foist an assumed truth based on misunderstandings upon his readers.

He makes important points about what worship has become to many churches. It can be a spectacle or performance with little or no heart. It can be focused on the congregation without giving due regard to the God we’re supposedly worshiping. It can be a misguided attempt to draw more people who otherwise might not be interested in church. And it can feel like a talent show where people get attention.

Those faults are also potentially true of everything else we do in church. But we don’t stop preaching even though I’ve heard people talk about what a powerful speaker a pastor is. We don’t stop giving to the community for fear that someone might do it to be seen doing good. We don’t stop sharing the Gospel even though some Christians talk about the converts they’ve made like an ace pilot keeps track of his kills in combat.

McAdams’ post questioning whether we need instruments in worship makes so many important points that I wish I could share it for all that’s right in his assessment of modern worship. He mentions so many causes for concern that I personally share. Modern worship runs the risk of becoming a distraction, a business model, a Play-Doh fun machine churning out tepid and indistinguishable songs onto albums to create dollars instead of devotion.

But the critique goes awry when McAdams takes a logical point (you don’t need instruments to worship) and makes it a mandatory stance (churches must not use instruments to worship). He does this even while pointing to scripture that tells us to do whatever we do for the glory of God.

In so doing, he throws the grace out with the guitars.

The second post I linked is McAdams’ case for why instruments ought to be forbidden in church. He uses the example of ordering a pizza. If he orders a pizza with Canadian bacon and pineapple, those are the toppings he expects to receive, no more, no less.

The analogy is, if God in the New Testament only mentions making music with our lips and our thankful hearts, then those are the only “toppings” God wants on His praise-pie. The New Testament makes no mention of musical instruments, only psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

And McAdams argues, that silence is a prohibitive restriction in the same way that I don’t need to say “No green peppers” if I order his pizza as described earlier.

The logic is flawed.

What would 1st century hearers possibly think when told to sing psalms and hymns? Would they possibly think of the psalms of David and others recorded in scripture? Would they see it in a way appropriate to their culture? Was music with instruments forbidden as an expression of worship for the Jewish people?

Hardly.

Psalm 92:1-3 “It is good to give thanks to the LORD… with the ten-stringed lute and with the harp, with resounding music upon the lyre.”

Psalm 33:2 “Give thanks the LORD with the lyre; sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings.”

Psalm 81:2-3 “Raise a song, strike the timbrel, the sweet sounding lyre with the harp. Blow the trumpet…” (all references NASB)

That search took all of two seconds. And there’s plenty more.

McAdams makes the case that the Old Testament doesn’t apply here, just like the pizza order I made last week may not be the toppings I want today. We’re under the New Testament, so what God orders in the New is all that matters.

But the OT informs the NT, and gives us a perspective on the understanding 1st century hearers would have. Otherwise, let’s strip it out of the Bibles, because we only need what is recorded in the NT, right?

By definition, “psalms” and “songs” could be logically assumed to involve music with instruments. The counterpoint to his pizza analogy is that—without specifically saying so—he expects his pizza toppings to arrive placed upon a crust covered with sauce and cheese, because that’s what a pizza is.

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I guess you don’t want these, because you didn’t specifically ask.

The difference between his misguided focus and my rant is this: grace.

Self-righteousness likes to tell others where they’re going wrong. But Grace is big enough to say “If you worship without instruments, praise God! If you worship with instruments, praise God! Do everything for the glory of God!”

A radical thought, I know… but one that’s big enough for us all to come together.

God Leads Us At Our Best

This is the first of five meditations I wrote for a project last year. When my iCloud account got accidentally purged, I thought I lost these. But I recently found a file, so I thought I’d share them online.

The other four will be scheduled for Monday mornings, to start the week out looking for God to lead in our lives.

GOD LEADS US AT OUR BEST

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus… (Colossians 3:17, NIV)

“But I don’t want to go to Japan.”
Near the end of language training for the Air Force, my class received orders. Mine said, “Okinawa.”
I whined long-distance to my parents in Chicago. Before the military, I didn’t live away from home for any length of time. Flying to Texas for Basic was the farthest I’d ever been from Mom and Dad. Training in California came next, but I could still drive home if I wanted.
Okinawa is the other side of the world.
There was a big test coming soon. We would have to prove we knew our language well enough to continue to our next duty station. It would be easy to miss some questions. My best friend was on his way to a different job because his grades were low. I could do that too, I thought. Fail, and stay close to home.
My parents no doubt wanted me to stay. But my father advised me, “You need to do your best. If God doesn’t want you to go to Japan, you won’t. But if He does want you there, you’d be wrong to resist.”
I graduated from language school and continued on to Japan.
Over six years on Okinawa, I met my wife, got married, had two children, and rededicated myself to Christ. Now I see God prepared His best for me. But I had to give my best to see it fulfilled.
I’m happy to say I passed the test.

Application: God may use skills we’ve developed to reveal the path we should take.

Horse on the Cart

A friend was teaching our writers’ group about building an online platform, and she gave us a demonstration to make a point. Everyone in the room was given secret instructions with a message to speak out. Some were told to speak normally, some to shout, some to add in arm motion or other ways of gaining attention. One person was given a bullhorn. Some were given the same message, but most were told to say whatever came to mind to fulfill their instructions.

The point of the demo was that the more people you have saying the same thing, the more that message will get out. The online world is a constant clamor of voices shouting, “Look at me!” And ten people together are louder than one person yelling at the noise.

On the spirituality blog I recently shut down, I wrote some blogs about the concept of our platform as writers, and the parallels I see to spirituality.

Platform is about shared vision and combined effort. So is spirituality.

I was thinking about this while watching our worship team on Sunday. I’ve been the lead worshiper (in smaller settings than our current church) trying to cooperate with a team to make sure we’re communicating the same message, and then trying to get the attention of a congregation asking them to get on board with where we’re going in the music portion of worship. It’s a challenge, getting everyone on the same sheet of music. (Couldn’t resist!)

With a big church like our current place of worship, we have enough musicians to rotate and give everyone time in the congregation, time to worship on my own, time to worship with the body of Christ. It’s beneficial to see both sides of that equation often.

Horses are tied together to pull a cart, and each lends its strength to bear the load. Similarly, as Christians, we all can play a part in carrying and communicating the message, each of us contributing our small efforts to add up to something greater. So long as we have shared vision.

Sometimes, I fear that I show up to church functions or look at my spiritual life not as a horse adding my strength or as a voice communicating the message, but as a passenger jumping aboard the cart the horses are pulling, saying “Ok, where are you taking me?”

I picture the carriages designed to transport horses, and some Sundays I might as well be the horse inside the carriage, added weight that everyone else has to drag along for the ride. “Take me somewhere, and it better be good.”

What’s the solution?

What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. (1 Corinthians 14:26 NASB)

In other words, I need to hitch up and pull weight when I show up for a church function or volunteer activity. I need to grab the vision and communicate it. It’s not my job to sit and be taken somewhere like the audience in a movie theater.

Just like the goal of having a platform is to get many people talking about the same message, one of the goals of our spirituality is to work together to communicate God’s heart to the world. The story of God’s grace impacting humanity is ongoing, and it’s on each of us to speak up and share that same message, so that our noisy world will hear.

What ways can we find to make sure we’re pulling the cart instead of sitting on it?

Flickering Flames

For the first sermon of 2014, our pastor preached about two words that captured his personal desire and his aim for the church this year:

“READY” and “BURNING.”

As he offered time for response, I considered my spirituality. Why don’t I feel like I am “burning” for God? With my role on our worship ministry, past experience as a lead worshiper, and a blog name like “SonWorshiper” you’d think maybe I’d be all God, all the time.

But that’s not how my days play out.

All too often, I keep God in the “church” box. I block off calendar events based on what area of responsibility they fall under – work, church, personal, family. Frequently it seems I adapt my actions the same way.

I’m at church, so it’s time to be smiley, helpful, and religious.
I’m at work, so it’s time to focus on results, effectiveness, and the mission.
I’m in public with my kids, so it’s time to be the nice Dad.
I’m at home, so it’s ME time, stop interrupting my video games!

I thought about the intermittent spiritual fire I experience — naturally I was thinking about that because it was church and you spend church time thinking about churchy things you don’t have to think about throughout the week. I came up with a picture of my problem.

The pastor’s chosen verse mentions servants who keep lamps burning, ready and waiting for their master. Fire is necessary, to stay burning.

And today, fire is so easy to come by. Flick a lighter and I’ve got it. Turn a switch on the gas stove and the burner comes to life. I’ve got lighter fluid and matches, or a long-barreled lighter, so I’m ready to barbecue.

Fire is available whenever I want, so the thought of it going out doesn’t bother me.

As a Christian in America, spirituality is everywhere. Need a pick-me-up? Put in a Christian CD, or download a song off iTunes. Or listen to one of the many Christian radio stations.

Get devotions from anywhere online. Have them e-mailed to you. Or get a spiritual tweet. In fact, follow a bunch of your religious favorites, and your Twitter feed will be full of nuggets of wisdom to digest whenever you need a spiritual snack.

If you want more to think about, read a blog or ten. Watch the Christian channels on Cable. Check out some YouTube videos of worship songs or sermons. Download a cool app with a Scripture reading plan or flash cards for memorization. Or if you feel old-school, pick up a Bible and a highlighter.

It’s all around us, so it’s easy to take for granted.

My oldest son is on a Man vs. Wild kick, and he has even built himself a survival kit. This calls to mind my own survival training for the Air Force.

When you’re out in the cold, with limited supplies, suddenly fire matters. It’s your life.

It takes time to build. It takes effort and vigilance to maintain. You don’t let it die, or you die.

Why do I think my spiritual fire is less important?

What do you think? How does one stay burning for God? Or is that even necessary?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment.

The Mirror

For a Monday Morning Snack, here’s a short piece about mercy and judgment.

The Mirror

I looked out the window at the world, angry at all the injustice.

Then I looked in the mirror, ashamed at all of my own.

I looked out the window at two men in love, and my religious beliefs rose in offense.

I looked in the mirror, saw how little I love, and I was humbled.

Outside I saw greed ignore need and I was enraged.

Inside, I saw my own selfishness, and I was appalled.

I looked out the window at passion paraded and praised, and I stood in judgment.

I looked in the mirror at my lust and desires, and I cried for mercy.

I looked out and saw people reject God’s word, and I thought them foolish.

Then I saw my life contradict my professed beliefs, and I was disgraced.

I looked out the window at everything wrong, and asked, “God, what are You going to do about this?”

Then I heard Him respond, “I gave you a mirror.”

Always Growing

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. Ephesians 5:1 NASB

You can’t stop it from happening… or can you?

Not surprisingly, I picture my own children when reading this. I have a daughter who is very much a “Daddy’s Girl” and has adopted a lot of my sense of humor (along with some other less desirable traits). I have an 11 year old son who is picking up many of the same interests in hobbies. I have a 7 year old who is probably as frenetic and crazy as I was at his age. And I have an almost-2 year old who lights up with joy every time his mother and I play music. My keyboard is one of his favorite toys.

You don’t have to be a parent to get the picture of the mother duck followed closely by her ducklings. Children naturally watch and then follow the example of their parents.

Growing is something else children naturally do.

I recall holding my daughter as a newborn. She fit between my elbow and my hand. Now she’s almost as tall as me. Try as I might, I haven’t found a way to stop time and keep her or my other children in that seemingly perfect sweet innocent state of childhood.

Healthy children will grow.

12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food. 13 For everyone who partakes only of milk is not accustomed to the word of righteousness, for he is an infant. 14 But solid food is for the mature, who because of practice have their senses trained to discern good and evil. – Hebrews 5:12-14 NASB

The writer of Hebrews implies something here. It’s possible for us as Christians and children of God to stop growing, to stay in that infant state. If we do not exercise what God has put in us, if we do not work it out and put it into practice, we’ll remain little children, needing to be fed instead of feeding, needing to be helped instead of helping.

Though the parent in me would love to stop my kids from growing up, I know they must grow. And so must I.

Wherever I am right now, however “tall” I am by God’s measuring stick, I can’t let myself remain there. I want to keep growing, keep reaching for more. I know I don’t want to come back next year and find the mark has not moved higher on the wall.

Even Though…

Sunday Psalm – God is the One, part IV

Even though I walk

through the darkest valley,

I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me. (Psalm 23:4 NIV)

God is the One no matter what.

We all go through hard times and difficulties. No one is immune. Religion and spirituality are no shield from tough circumstances. It’s not even a question of “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Bad things happen to everybody.

But God is unchanging. The God we call worthy when the sun is shining – He’s the same God in dark clouds and driving rain. The God we praise on Sunday is the God of Monday mornings.

We all have our “Even though” moments, when everything seems to go wrong. It’s tempting at that point to yell at God and wonder where He is, but then we miss the point. Whatever your “Even though” may be, God is still God in spite of it.

God is the One who brings me through.

There is often no magic escape to the hard times in life. There’s no ejection handle, no parachute strapped to our back. David writes, “even though I walk through the valley…” not around it. We don’t get to avoid trouble in our lives. Sometimes the trouble is exactly what we need to go through in order to get to where God wants us to be.

God is the One who calms my fears.

When trouble comes, and my eyes get fixed on the storm and the winds and the waves of life, I need something bigger, something stronger, something deeper and lasting to fix my eyes on. Like the lighthouse on the shoreline, God gives us that beacon of His presence in the midst of the storm. Think of Peter, walking on the water. As his gaze turns to the violent weather, he begins to sink. As he realizes the danger of his situation, he cries out to Someone greater.

God is the One who is with me.

The arm of Jesus lifts Peter from the waters “immediately.” God is never distant in the midst of the chaos around us. We may not notice His nearness. We might be distracted by the waves and winds. But God is there, close at hand, close enough to grab us “immediately.” David thinks about this Shepherd-God who stays close by His flock. The shadows and the noises of the valley may put fear in the hearts of the sheep, but they are never forsaken, never abandoned.

God is the One who fights my enemies.

David thinks of the rod and the staff. The rod was like a club the shepherd carried to fight off any threat to the sheep. If you’re being told that the “rod” is how your spiritual leader has a position of authority to discipline the sheep, then I submit that you’re being misled. The shepherd isn’t there to beat the sheep. The rod isn’t meant to strike the flock. The rod is meant to strike anything else that would try to sink its teeth into the sheep. There’s a place for discipline in the church, no doubt. But if you feel beat by your spiritual authority, maybe you don’t have a real shepherd. The rod is a comfort to David, because David knows that his Shepherd is fighting off anything that would try to devour him.

God is the One who pulls me back.

Unlike the rod, the staff is for the sheep. The shepherd’s crook at the end is meant to catch the sheep going astray. I remember learning to swim at the local pool. The lifeguards had a long pole with a green plastic hook they called a shepherd’s crook. If someone is drowning, flailing, or-God forbid-floating in deep water, the crook is there so the lifeguard can reach in and pull them to safety. So it is with God as our Shepherd.

God is the One whose oversight comforts me.

Everyone sooner or later has a boss that drives them nuts. Maybe it’s a personality clash, but more often than not, it’s an issue of management style. Again, I’ll point to those so-called shepherds who think they carry a rod in order to beat the sheep. Note in all these verses the servant-leadership of the Shepherd David is thinking about. This Shepherd doesn’t treat the sheep like they exist to serve Him, even if that really is the case. “The good shepherd cares for the sheep.” The Shepherd gives up His time and energy to provide for the needs and the comfort of the sheep in His care.

It seems backwards to think of a King who stoops down to help the beggar and the needy, a Lord who takes the towel from the servant and washes the dirty feet of His subjects. The God of the Universe should be worthy of our devotion and attention, our service and worship. And yet He took the form of a man, made Himself of no reputation, and let Himself be put to death on a cross like a criminal.

Even though He did nothing wrong, Jesus submitted to our whims, because He was submitted to the Father’s will. The Son of God was forsaken and abandoned by His Father, left in the valley of the shadow of death, beaten with the rod of wrath that our sins deserved, so that we could be caught up in the Shepherd’s crook of mercy and grace, and comforted in the presence of God.

God is the One who comforts me, pulls me back, protects me, stays with me, and calms my fears in the midst of everything I go through, no matter what. 

31 Million Flavors

Worship Wednesday

Let the peace of Christ keep you in tune with each other, in step with each other. None of this going off and doing your own thing. And cultivate thankfulness. Let the Word of Christ-the Message-have the run of the house. Give it plenty of room in your lives. Instruct and direct one another using good common sense. And sing, sing your hearts out to God! Let every detail in your lives-words, actions, whatever-be done in the name of the Master, Jesus, thanking God the Father every step of the way. (Colossians 3:15-17 MSG)

Fellowship is one of the key components of worship – both the things we do to express God’s worth, and the times of singing praise as a congregation.

Individual times of worship and devotion are important, of course. We spend time with God in a relationship. Like any relationship, there should be some intimacy, some “you and me” time. We see Jesus as our example in this: if He took time away from other people to get alone with God, then certainly we might benefit from doing the same.

But Paul points out that our worship of God is something we do together with others. Paul did not write just to individuals, like Timothy or Titus. He wrote to churches. He wrote to congregations. He wrote to groups of people and said “This is how we all do this together.”

This is part of why I love a good Bible study group. When I say “a good group” I mean a place where a bunch of different people can discuss the Scriptures and how they apply to our lives. Good groups have a strong facilitator who can allow discussion and multiple viewpoints without getting off track or derailed by a vocal opinion.

Some groups are hand-fed and led by a teacher who lectures. I’ve been in groups where the only time anyone other than the leader is allowed to speak is to read a particular verse and not one word more. I suppose that ensures that only the accepted teaching gets brought to light, but I didn’t come for a sermon. To each their own; that’s not my cup of tea.

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I scream, you scream, we all scream for theology! Wait, what?

But when a Bible study is facilitated well, you get to experience a Baskin-Robbins of theology. It’s all good ice cream, but you get a variety of flavors, some you like and some that aren’t your favorite. You test it, hold to what’s good, ignore the bad (or maybe discuss it if someone is saying something opposed to Scripture). Everyone has something to offer, and you hear perspectives you’d never expect – some of which might speak profoundly to your heart as you look at a Scripture in a new way.

And you get to build relationships with others.

The relationship we have with God is great, and we affirm that every time we sing a song about how “You are all I need.” But that’s not entirely true, nor is it biblical. We read in 2nd Peter the following statement about “all we need.”

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. (2 Peter 1:3 NIV)

The relationship we have with others in light of our common faith is essential. God did not make us loner Christians. He relates to us individually, but He also relates to us and calls us to relate to each other in a church Body. We all have something to offer, some part to play in the story God is telling in our local church. (See 1 Cor 12 about parts of the Body fitted together.)

Worship alone, yes. Worship together, definitely. See God and others from a different set of eyes. Discover a new perspective. Hear something new from God, through the voice of your brother or sister in Christ. Sing a song that ministers to your heart, and let it touch the need of another. Share the comfort God has given you in past times of distress with someone who is hurting right now. We were made for God, and we were made for one another.

So get a little pink-spoon taste of what all the Body has to offer. They’re free. You’ll find way more than 31 flavors of awesome God.

A Mouthful

Monday Morning Snack

My mouth is filled with Your praise
And with Your glory all day long.
Psalm 71:8 NASB

What sort of “snack” are we giving others to eat?

I saw this verse, and the question popped into my mind: “What is my mouth full of?” Maybe it’s because I’m dieting, but I thought of a mouthful of food.

How does that “mouth full” taste to the people around me? How does that “mouth full” taste to me?

Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. Hebrews 13:15 NASB (emphasis mine)

What comes out of our mouths? Is it fruit that will delight our God and satisfy another’s soul? Or is our fruit rotten and withered by pessimism and unbelief, moldy and putrid because of bitterness and anger?

James drives this point home in writing about the power of our words:

8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; 10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. 11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? 12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh. James 3:8-12 NASB

We all slip up and say things we know we ought not to say. All of us can think of a time where we said words we wish we could take back. We may never be perfect in our choice of words, but we must still aim for perfection.

This prayer of David is one of my favorite in the Psalms, and it reminds me to be careful about the “mouth-fulls” I allow:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
O Lord, my rock and my Redeemer. Psalm 19:14 NASB

So… what’s in your mouth?

God is the One, v3

Welcome back to this Sunday Psalm series looking at Psalm 23, considering the various ways David reminds us that “God is the One we need.”

He restores my soul;
He guides me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. (Psalm 23:3 NASB)

True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction. (Psalm 23:3 MSG)

God is the One who restores.

The Hebrew here is a word for turning something back or away, but not necessarily a return to a starting point. A lot of languages are like word pictures where a particular word can have multiple meanings based on the context it’s used in, and this is no different. This word can mean “to come back, to carry something back, to deliver something or fetch something, to recall, recover, refresh, relieve, rescue, retrieve.”

I get the picture that the Shepherd finds this lost sheep going off the path, headed astray, and He picks it up to bring it back to the flock. He’s not bringing it back to the same place; the flock is on the move. But He brings it back so that the lost sheep can follow along with the rest, on the paths that the Shepherd is taking.

Isaiah said of us that “all we like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way.” Isa 53:5

Sheep aren’t to be trusted with directions.

Plz can has Google Maaaaaaaps?
Sorry, that’s baaaaaaad.

God is the One who gets in the mess with us.

The good news is that God doesn’t leave us in the muck where we often find ourselves. David writes “He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip.” (Psalm 40:2 MSG)

The Shepherd doesn’t abandon the sheep, doesn’t say “He got in this mess, he can get himself out.”
“How? you say. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 MSG)
“But the Lord has laid on Him (Jesus) the iniquity of us all.” Isa 53:6

God is the One who guides.
David continues the thought here. The Shepherd doesn’t merely get the sheep out of the mess they’re in. The Shepherd is taking the flock somewhere. He has a destination in mind, and there are specific paths that lead to that goal. The Shepherd is not telling the sheep that “all roads will get you where I want you to be.” He only chooses the right way. “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6
Similar to the very first point from two weeks ago, the first way that “God is the One,” this reminds me that God is not shrugging off sin with a “boys will be boys” and a shake of his head. He calls our going astray an act of rebellion and open hostility. He isn’t willing to accept and call good whatever path we choose. And why is that?

God is the One who is worthy.
He guides us for His name’s sake. It’s not simply because He cares for the sheep, but He cares about His reputation.
“I will not share My glory with another.” Isa 45:8
“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 NASB
“For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” Php 2:9-11 NASB
He protects His reputation. He makes sure everyone knows He is all He claims to be. It’s about Him, not us. His love and care is not because of something we’ve done to deserve it. It’s because of who He is. He stoops down to shepherd us, not because sheep are special, but because He is humble. “Your gentleness has made me great.” Psalm 18:35

God is the One who is true.
The Message puts “for His name’s sake” as “True to Your word…”
His promises and His mercies come to us because He is faithful. He will not go back on His word. We don’t earn blessings like a paycheck, by doing good deeds and cashing in at the Bank of Heaven. We don’t go to God with a list of what He owes us since we’ve done so much for Him. But we do get to go to Him based on His faithful and true nature. Like the child who reminds the father, “you promised,” the responsibility and the commitment are on His end. God our Shepherd is reliable even if we are not.

God is the One who gets into the mess with me, lifts me out, and points me on the way to truth, which is why He is worthy of praise.