Brother Lawrence (1614-1691) was born to very poor peasant parents in Lorraine, France. To escape poverty he joined the French army. One day he noticed a barren tree in mid-winter, stripped of all leaves and fruit, waiting silently and patiently for the sure hope of summer abundance. He recognized in that image his own life. The sight kindled within him a love for God that never ceased to burn! He volunteered to serve as a lay brother in a Carmelite monastery in Paris. A big, awkward fellow serving as a cook in the kitchen, he discovered the secret to holiness as ‘practicing the presence of God in the ordinary business of life.’ A classic booklet bearing that title was published after his death. The story goes that when he was dying a brother asked him what he was doing: he replied that he was doing what he had been doing the past 40 years, viz. worshiping God! You see, for brother Lawrence, worship was primary and death secondary. Incidentally, it came to me that the best way to deal with our worldliness of heart at this moment is to likewise focus on worshiping our beautiful God, amid the ordinary business of life, including the trials of life and whatever our enemy throws at us (e.g. the isolation of Covid, loneliness, despair, depression, weariness in well-doing, etc), then self-crucifixion becomes just a tad easier!

We come now to some of the spiritual spin-off’s and practical implications of a life of true worship:

(1) Worship precedes work. We are worshipers before we are workers. Many Christian leaders have made the fatal mistake of reversing the biblical order. One thinks of the prophet Isaiah’s encounter with God preceding his call to ministry (Is. 6:1-8). One thinks of the great awakenings in 18th century England, marked by the devotion, worship and music of the Wesley’s. In my personal experience I find that any depressed mood on my part is almost immediately lifted by listening and worshiping along to one of Charles’ many revival-inspired hymns of praise! ‘And can it be…’

(2) Worship impels/propels our ministry: the apostle Paul wrote of this in his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, concerning our all-important ministry of reconciliation: ‘For the love of Christ urges us on, because we are convinced that one has died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them’ (2 Cor. 5:14-15/NRSV). Reconciliation is very hard work (1), and in our personal and corporate endeavours we shall need the propelling power of Christ’s love to succeed in the Church and in our torn-apart world. When I grow weary in this ministry of reconciliation, I often fall back on the words of Helen Keller (deaf and blind American author and activist, 1880-1968), ‘I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.’ God’s love will empower us in whatever he lays on our heart to do, whether big or small. ‘He aint heavy, he’s my brother!’

(3) Worship is ‘key’ to overturning any kind of idolatry. One of the earlier Minor Prophets, Hosea, sketches a picture of Israel’s continued infidelity to God despite his repeated expressions of divine goodness and love to the nation: “When Ephraim spoke, there was excitement; he was praised in Israel; but he became guilty through Baal and died. And now they keep on sinning; they have made metal images, idols of silver, as a result of their skill‘sacrifice to these,’ they say… Yet I have been the LORD your God ever since the land of Egypt… there is no savior besides me… When I fed them they became satisfied; and their hearts became proud; therefore, they forget me…’ (Hos. 6:13:1-6/CEB). Ch.14 describes God’s plea to return to him, with a promise of gracious healing: ‘I will heal their faithlessness; I will love them freely… I will be like the dew to Israelthey will again live beneath my shadow, they will flourish like a garden; they will blossom like the vine… Ephraim, what do idols have to do with me? It is I who answer and look after you. I am like a green cyprus tree; your fruit comes from me’ (14:1-8). At this point, think of some of the idols found in our world and even among God’s people today… search your own heart as to any signs of idolatry, conscious or unconscious.

What can break these shackles? Certainly not the ‘gospel of trying harder,’ nor more discipline, rules or ceremonies. Only ‘The Sight of Peerless Worth!’ (Ora Rowen):

‘Idols once they won thee, charmed thee

Lovely things of time and sense;

Gilded, thus does sin disarm thee,

Honeyed lest thou turn thee thence.

Not the crushing of those idols,

With its bitter void and smart,

But the beaming of his beauty,

The unveiling of His heart…

‘Tis that look that melted Peter,

‘Tis that face that Stephen saw,

‘Tis that heart that wept with Mary,

Can alone from idols draw –

Draw, and win, and fill completely,

Till the cup o’erflow the brim;

What have we to do with idols,

Who have companied with Him?’ (2)


(1) Dr. Michael Cassidy’s ‘Footprints in the African Sand’ makes a wonderful read as to reconciliation through prayer and the Cross. His organization African Enterprise was mightily used of God over decades to save the South African nation from a bloodbath in 1994. Further north, in Rwanda, the toll was almost 1 million lives in the genocide of the Tutsi tribe. Sometimes I think that the work of reconciliation in SA has hardly begun. Sadly in a way, sport (SA are the current Rugby world cup champions) has been an amazing uni-fier and has in many ways outstripped the Church in recent years. The Church needs the fullness of Christ’s love to empower us to complete the task. PS, you can find watch the amazing story of ‘The Threatened Miracle of South Africa’s Democracy’ at https://youtu.be/QtGrymp/EpTs

(2) Through Alcoholics Anonymous, world-wide, many a shattered life and family has been restored through the application of this ‘new attachment’ principle.‘At the end of your tether, there is God!’



True worshipers learn to focus on the beauty of the Lord. A few years ago, American pastor-author Brian Zahnd wrote an excellent book, ‘Beauty Will Save the World,’ subtitled ‘Rediscovering the Allure and Mystery of Christianity.’

Brian Zahnd | Facebook

He rightly sees as ‘key’ to Christian witness the Church’s practice of the Beatitudes (Mt. 5). Let me add, how beautiful must be the author of the Beatitudes! (1)

There are many ‘photographs’ of God’s beauty in both the OT and NT:

  • ‘God’s love is meteoric, his loyalty astronomic, his purpose titanic, his verdicts oceanic. Yet in his largeness nothing gets lost; Not a man, not a mouse, slips through the cracks.’ (A David Psalm, Ps. 36/MSG) (2)
  • Referring to Jesus, the author of Hebrews writes to messianic believing groups considering retreating to Judaism in order to escape persecution from the Romans: ‘Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days (i.e. Pentecost onwards) he has spoken to us by a (or the) Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high…’ (1:1-3/NRSV). Wow! He goes on to warn against ‘neglecting so great a salvation’ and Saviour! (2:3)
  • The apostle Paul commends Christ’s humility and glory to his readers: ‘He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a self-less, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that: a crucifixion. Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth – even those long ago dead and buried – will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.’ (Phil. 2:6-11/MSG) Small wonder the early Church put these words in hymn form!
  • The evangelist Matthew pictures Jesus and his Kingly reign not only as a ‘hidden treasure in a field’ (13:44) but also as ‘The Pearl of Great Price:’ ‘Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it!’ (13:45-46) My friend, if necessary, in our materialistic world (and Church), sell all you have to possess this unique pearl of inestimable value!
  • The apostle John has ‘the last word’ in the last book of the Bible in his vision of the magnificent, crowned Lamb of God: ‘“Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice ‘”Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ … And the four living creatures said ‘Amen!’ And the elders fell down and worshiped.’ (Rev. 5:11-14/NRSV).
  • As the poet Ora Rowen (1834-1879) wrote long ago: Hast thou heard Him, seen Him, known Him? Is not thine a captured heart? Chief among ten thousand own Him, Joyful choose the better part!’ We’ll come back to the rest of this poem in Part 3…

To be a true worshiper, even with the sight of such divine beauty in view, remains difficult today because of at least two things: the ‘worldliness’ of our world and the worldliness of our hearts. Idolatrous self-love has exploded in our time and remains a colossal threat to our world and even the Church. It is certainly the problem of society at large today, this ugly enthronement of ego instead of the Peerless One. So pervasive is this spirit, that the apostle Paul warned of its seduction 2000 years ago already: he wrote to Timothy and the churches ‘Don’t be naive… As the end approaches, people are going to be self-absorbed, money-hungry, self-promoting, stuck-up, profane, contemptuous of parents, crude, coarse, dog-eat-dog, unbending, slanderers, impulsively wild, savage, cynical, treacherous, ruthless, bloated windbags, addicted to lust, and allergic to God. They’ll make a show of religion, but behind the scenes they’re animals. Stay clear of these people.’ (2 Tim. 3:1-5/MSG). French mystic Francois Fenelon gave sage advice to the believer and the Church amid such ugliness: die to yourself (i.e. sinful self: Mk. 8:34; Gal. 2:20), separate yourself from the unnecessary and restless thoughts which grow out of self-love, accept the Cross and you’ll find peace even in the middle of turmoil. Whatever you do, he says, volunteer for your own death and do not push it away! (3) Centuries later the great George Muller of Bristol put it like this,‘There was a day when George Muller died, utterly died to his own opinions, performances, tastes and will, died to the world, its approval or censure, died to the approval of my brethren and friends, and since then I have studied only to show myself approved unto God.’ Small wonder he lived as he lived and accomplished what he did! Maybe you and I have fallen far short in these critical matters, yet I am encouraged that God knows the intent of our hearts.

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PART 3 coming up in the next few weeks, d.v.


(1) Zahnd argues, ‘To a generation suspicious of truth claims and unconvinced by moral assertions, beauty has a surprising allure. And everything about Jesus Christ is beautiful! His life, his miracles, his teaching – even his death and certainly his resurrection – are all inimitably beautiful. A Christianity that is deeply enchanted by Christ’s beauty and thus formed and fashioned by this beauty has the opportunity to present to a skeptical and jaded world an aspect of the gospel that has been rare for far too long. Where truth and goodness fail to win an audience, beauty may once captivate and draw those it enchants into the kingdom of saving grace… the story of Jesus Christ is breathtakingly beautiful.’ (p. xv)

(2) David has a sense of humour too – see his ref. to the ‘mouse.’ I recall pioneering house churches in slum shanties built with rusted corrugated iron sheets. In one such, while gathering with the family and children at dusk, mice would run over your feet with no-one freaking out! Once in a while the candle in the tiny room would blow out due to the wind-leaks in the iron sheeting walls. But nothing could interrupt the sweet fellowship around the message of Jesus!

(3) Cf. Fenelon’s ‘The Seeking Heart.’ How I have personally struggled, and continue to do so, with these deeply soul-searching issues the past months… I must say they’re a little easier to contemplate as I approach the last lap of my life! My younger readers, don’t waste as much time as I have in this vital matter…