Thursday, August 18, 2011

What it means to worship God

Why does God demand our praise?
(Adapted from “Desiring God” by John Piper, The Mission Statement of Bethlehem Baptist Church)
C.S. Lewis, when he was exploring Christianity as an agnostic, found one thing about the Christian faith most disturbing. He found it strange that all religious people should clamor for us to “praise” God; and still more odd that God should demand praise from us. He says we all despise the man who “demands continual assurance of his own virtue, intelligence or delightfulness,” and that we despise even further the crowd of people around such a one who gratify that demand. That was the picture he was getting of Christianity; that of a God who was saying, “what I want most of all is to be told, I am good, I am great.”
What Lewis came to understand is that God’s revealing of Himself to us, accomplished most clearly in our praise and worship of Him, is the most loving act God can do for us. God’s demand that He be praised works toward our highest good; namely, our exposure to His greatness, purity and glory. God is the beautiful, all-satisfying object we all truly need.
Lewis goes on to describe his misunderstanding of God’s desire for praise as likened to a vain woman fishing for compliments, and then offers up this pivotal quote:
But the most obvious fact about praise-whether of God or any thing-strangely escaped me. I thought of it in terms of compliment, approval, or the giving of honor. I had never noticed that all enjoyment spontaneously overflows into praise unless (sometimes even if) shyness or the fear of boring others is deliberately brought in to check it. The world rings with praise-lovers praising their mistresses, readers their favorite poet, walkers praising the countryside, players praising their favorite game-praise of weather, wines, dishes, actors, motors, horses, colleges, countries, historical personages, children, flowers, mountains, rare stamps, rare beetles, even sometimes politicians or scholars. I had not noticed how the humblest, and at the same time most balanced and capacious, minds, praised most, while the cranks, misfits and malcontents praised least . . . I had not noticed either that just as men spontaneously praise what ever they value, so they spontaneously urge us to join them in praising it: "Isn't she lovely? Wasn't it glorious? Don't you think that magnificent?" The Psalmists in telling everyone to praise God are doing what all men do when they speak of what they care about. My whole, more general, difficulty about the praise of God depended on my absurdly denying to us, as regards the supremely Valuable, what we delight to do, what indeed we can't help doing, about everything else we value.
I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed. (C. S. Lewis, Reflections on the Psalms, [New York: Harcourt, Brace and World 1958], pp. 93-95.)
What Lewis is saying is that our delight of God is only partial until it is voiced in praise. Our praise of God deepens, completes, fulfills, and even consummates the joy that we have in Him.
Thus, God’s desire that we praise Him serves to expose to us the most profitable, valuable, desirable and needed object that Humanity can experience. His self-revelation to us and His demand that we interact with Him through praise is the most loving thing God can do for us.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The book that is kicking my ass

My letter to Richard Stearns, President and CEO of World Vision, and author of "The Hole in Our Gospel" (the book I am currently reading).


Friday, August 12, 2011
To: Richard Stearns, President, World Vision, Inc.

Dear Mr. Stearns:

You ruined my lunch today.

I was enjoying a delicious BBQ chicken salad at a cute street side café in Santa Barbara. I decided to bring your book, “The Hole in Our Gospel,” as my lunchtime companion. I chomped on my salad as I read chapter 12, “The Horseman of the Apocalypse.” But I couldn’t even make it past the first three pages of this chapter without completely losing my appetite. “How on earth can I continue to eat this meal when there are children dying every five seconds from starvation?”

I was disgusted (not with the salad of course—frankly, it was quite delectable). I was disgusted with the fact that the world can and does produce enough food to feed everyone on earth, yet 850 million people go hungry every day. I was disgusted and horrified by the statistics I read in your book (which I’ve read many times in newspapers, magazines, and my own research—but for some reason it bothered me more this afternoon). I was disgusted that I wasn’t doing more in that moment to be a part of the solution.

As a mother of two young children (ages 5 and 1 ½), your book hits a soft spot in my heart. As a follower of Christ, your book challenges me to live the kind of faith I have always sought out (but sometimes have not had the courage to put into action). As a journalist, your book reminds me to continue to be a voice for those who don’t have one.

I traveled on an assignment to Lusaka, Zambia during the summer of 2007. I was part of a small team (myself, a filmmaker, a producer, two photographers, and one teacher) sent there to cover the AIDS crisis and its devastating effect on the country’s 1.5 million children. We spent two weeks meeting and interviewing church and community leaders, teachers, and families. But the most profound experience was spending time with some of the 75,000 homeless children that live on the streets of Lusaka.

Reading about your travels to Africa reminds me of the scenes we witnessed in Zambia that summer: hungry and naked children aimlessly wandering about their villages, children rummaging through trash ravines searching for food, mass graves everywhere.

But I also saw great hope and strength amidst the darkness of poverty and disease. There are many people we met (including Rev. Aaron Chilunjika, founder of Full Proof Mission and Chisomo Drop-in Centre in Lusaka) who are changing history every single day.
I came back from Africa a changed person. “How can I return to my life here in the States and not do anything?” When you see that much poverty and despair, it leaves a mark on you. Permanently. 

So I founded a non-profit called Knowledge Empowers (sounds fancy, but it was started on a shoestring budget in my living room). Our goal is to raise $832 annually for a young man we met in Lusaka (his name is Twambo "Chips" Matembo) to attend secondary school. My dream is to someday send many more Zambian children to school. You can check it out, if you’re curious (

Well, back to the story about my salad. I didn’t finish it (my waitress even asked me if there was something wrong with it). I packed up, left the café, and went straight to my computer to do some research. I visited World Vision’s website and found two children from Zambia, both the ages of my children (the baby girl has the EXACT same birthday as my daughter, Isobel!). My husband and I are now sponsors of Lidiya, 1, and Alan, 5.

I must say, Mr. Stearns, thank you for ruining my lunch today. May God continue to use you powerfully for His Kingdom!

Sincerely yours,
Jennifer Cho Salaff